Corporate Values & Culture

A company’s values and its culture are interlinked. Some would say they are the same thing, but I disagree. Values are what you begin with; culture is what you end up with.

For example, honesty may be a core value to you and your company, but if enough people in an organization act in a dishonest way, eventually the company’s culture will be one of dishonesty.

A company’s culture should be the enactment of the core values. While values typically come from the top, the culture will develop through the actions of the people within the company. The only way to control these actions is through a process of communicating and reinforcing the values.

One can state what the values of the company should be, but if enough people – and key people – do not act in alignment with the stated values, the culture will be driven by these actions. Action and behavior drive culture more than words.

This is why it is critical that a company define, communicate and consistently reinforce its values. If not, don’t be surprised if the company’s actual culture is not what you want – and not in alignment with the desired values.

The process that best enables an organization to control and develop its values and culture is as follows:

  1. Identify – List the company’s values – what is important to the leader(s) and key people in the organization.
  2. Communicate – Tell employees what the values are… often. An organization cannot over-communicate their values.
  3. Hire – Hire people that best fit the stated values – that have personal values that are in alignment with the company’s.
  4. Train – As part of the onboarding process for new employees, and ongoing training for existing employees, explain why the company’s values are what they are, and why they are important.
  5. Model – Act in ways that support and demonstrate the stated values. Actions are more powerful than words, so back up the verbal communication with behavior that supports the values.
  6. Reinforce – Positively reinforce employees for acting inline with the company values.

When an organization follows these six steps, it will develop a culture in alignment with the desired values.

Why are Values and Culture Important? Values drive decisions, from who to hire to strategic business decisions.

An employee whose personal values are not in alignment with the organization’s will eventually make decisions incongruent with these values. They will do something that is not in alignment with the company’s strategic plan, and/or hire the wrong person. Hiring the wrong person – someone else that does not have the same core values as the company, and often the same as the person doing the hiring – will reinforce a value that does not match the company’s. This will develop the wrong culture – one not in alignment with the organization’s desired and stated values. A critical mass of people with values incongruent with the company’s will impact the culture more than any amount of communication.

When hiring, it is best to hire for values fit before skills, experience or knowledge. Skills and knowledge can be trained and experience acquired. A person’s core values are something deep inside them, and not something that changes over time, if ever. A person with core values that do not match the company’s they work in will ultimately be unhappy, and less than highly-productive. And those are the least of the company’s worries. This person will eventually do things that are not in alignment with the company’s values, likely causing a negative situation.

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2 Responses to “Corporate Values & Culture”

  1. […] build it, but since I’ve done that – including a list of steps – in a previous blog post (Corporate Values & Culture), I want to look at how you destroy it (for entertainment value […]

  2. Godwin Edemumoh says:

    what are those common values that can be enforce in an organisation that will represent a corporate culture?