Mention ‘company values’ and brands like Google, Facebook and Twitter instantly spring to mind as shining examples of organisations with deeply ingrained principles which motivate and inspire employees, customers and stakeholders alike. So what’s the key to success when it comes to formulating, defining and embedding organisational values? And what differentiates the Google’s of this world from those who, not for want of trying, fail to instil values with the ability to change behaviours and drive the success of their business?

We recently reviewed and updated our own values, so it is timely that we should share why company values are important and what best practice implementation looks like. Values are defined as the core principles or standards by which organisations do business. They provide a framework for the way organisations engage with employees, customers and stakeholders, as well as shaping business culture and outlining what makes you special - an additional USP which goes beyond your immediate product or service offering. Get them right and values can play a central role in your business growth, from boosting productivity to attracting and retaining the best talent.

Lead from the top

To be effective, company values must be championed by the senior team. In other words, directors need to live and breathe the organisational purpose and values if they want their teams to do the same. Similarly, leaders should be fully involved in the task of putting together what the values should be and how they are going to be rolled out across the business, albeit with an appreciation that employees and stakeholders need to feel a part of the process in order for the values to take hold.

This might sound obvious, but too often initiatives to instil or refresh organisational values are flawed from the outset by a lack of involvement, or dare we say interest, at the top of the tree. Equally, they are sometimes degraded to a tick box exercise by leaders who see the benefit but would rather pass them on to HR or marketing never to be seen again. It’s vital that CEOs and senior executives buy in to the process and implementation of any values for them to have maximum impact.

Make them meaningful

Values are unlikely to be successful unless people understand them in the context of their own relationship with the organisation. With this in mind, defining each value is key and should ensure employees, prospective employees, customers and stakeholders can draw a line between the value, what it means and how it links them personally to the business. For example, one of Criticaleye’s new values is ‘trust’ defined as ‘we provide a trustworthy platform for peers to share knowledge and inspiration openly’. As a community of c-suite executives which often deals with sensitive and highly confidential issues, trust is a fundamental aspect of Criticaleye’s work with Members. Similarly, our internal teams need to exhibit trust when it comes to sharing sensitive information, as well as trusting that various teams and individuals across the business are going to play their role in delivering the Membership to each leader in our Community.

Clearly HR has a key role to play when it comes to putting structure and meaning around organisational values. How employees demonstrate and use the values can be aligned to the company’s competency framework and appraisal processes adding further clarity to how values can be used in practice

The reward

There is a tangible benefit to deeply ingrained principles and values. They should positively change behaviour, motivating loyalty and additional productivity from staff, greater interest from external talent through a desire to be part of your culture and increased demand from customers as your brand becomes synonymous with your well thought out and defined value structure.

We understand that clear and well-implemented values are crucial to a people based business like ours. How we live them, how we performance manage them and how they translate into our products and work with Members and organisations will be a key indicator of their success and ability to resonate.

By Jonathan Lee, business development manager, Criticaleye