Setting core values
Written by: Renée LeMoine
Photo by: Vojtěch Vlk
“My company has been in business for several years now, but as a new employee I am confused about its real corporate values. What I read and what I witness have two different meanings.
Pick up a copy of Enron’s annual report for 2000. You will find respect, integrity, and excellence listed as the firm’s highest regarded corporate values. Yet, we all know its business activities led to one of the biggest corporate failures in history. All too often, CEOs define corporate values that reflect popular buzzwords, what’s politically correct, or those values that they wishes their people held. If employees are complacent and missing deadlines, defining “urgency” as a core value won’t necessarily change behaviors.
A company’s core values are deep-rooted principles that guide all internal actions and cultural foundation, and therefore should not be compromised.
- Be aggressively bona fide when defining core values. Avoid cooking-cutter values. Integrity and hard work are the core values held by 55% of all Fortune 100 companies. With these statistics, your company will just fade into the crowd.
- CEOs and top management must embrace value initiatives. Don’t hand this over to HR to implement through consensus building programs. The CEO and his executives drive the best value crusade. Building a good values program is like crafting a fine wine: it needs careful attention to detail, and is never rushed.
- Make core values ubiquitous. Once the core values are nailed down, they must be integrated into every hiring, training, performance, and reward management system. From the first interview to the last day of work, employees should be reminded that core values form the basis for every company decision.
Be careful, there are other types of values that may enhance core values, but are patently different. These short-term values should be thoughtfully integrated to avoid diluting fundamental values. For example, a company may need to develop a new value to support a new strategy, or to meet changing marketing needs. Often new values arise spontaneously without being cultivated by leadership, and they may reflect the common interests and personalities of the employees.
Article prepared by Renée LeMoine, Executive Director, LeMoine & Associates