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3 Steps to Defining Your Corporate Values


Fierce CEO, Halley Bock, wrote a piece on how to define your corporate values for the Human Capital Institute and we wanted to share it with you.  Published Wednesday, July 2nd.

Defining your company’s corporate values can seem like a daunting task given its importance in setting your corporate culture. After all, your culture determines how your employees will achieve all those lofty goals you made. While it isn’t an exercise to be taken lightly, it doesn’t need to be weighed down in process. Follow these 3 steps to uncover your values while fully engaging your team.

Answer 3 Questions. As a warm-up and to get the juices flowing, present your employees with the following 3 questions: Why does {insert your company’s name here} exist? What difference do you want to make here? And, finally, who is your customer(s) and how would you want them to describe their relationship with you? With the company?

Ask them to write down their responses and then report them aloud to the team. Be sure to emphasize there are no right or wrong answers. This exercise provides a wonderful opportunity to re-ground everyone in your mission and vision while introducing differing perspectives on why your company and its employees are essential.

Choose 5 Words. Next, distribute to each person a deck of cards containing 15-20 words. Each word should represent a potential value. Some examples could be: Collaborative, Fun, Innovative, Determined, Passionate. Include a couple of blank ones for people to write in their own. Your instructions should be fairly light. Simply ask that they choose 5 values that they have either already experienced as a strong asset to the existing culture or identify one that is lacking and could effect positive change. Allow 5-10 minutes for this exercise.

For larger groups, an alternative would be to set-up an online survey. There are many free or next-to-free resources available such as Survey Monkey and Poll Everywhere.

Share 1 Story. In tandem with the above or immediately after, ask each person to recall a specific experience at work that illustrates one of his or her values. The powerful act of storytelling cements what is often intangible while galvanizing a team. When everyone has their cards and story prepared, have them stand up and present them. I like to create a large grid with all the values on a whiteboard so folks can clearly see which words are resonating with the group.

There should be a lot of laughter (and maybe a few tears) at this point given the emotions this tends to draw out. If you don’t see any emotions, worry. As a leader, you want your employees to be as emotionally connected with the company as you are. After all, it’s their company too and it is through them that you will be successful.

From here you can craft your final list based on which words dominated. And when you’re ready to share, don’t just put the words up. Create some context around your values and make them your own. As an example, here is what Fierce did with our corporate value of “authentic”.

Be Real. There is no “faking it” at Fierce. We present ourselves, our capabilities, and our knowledge for exactly what it is and we don’t pretend to be anything we are not. We are transparent with each other and our clients and embrace what makes each of us unique.

For a great example of a company who has fully embodied and personalized their values, look no further than Zappos. You can tell they had fun during their process. And so should you!

To learn more about employee engagement, join Halley Bock and the Human Capital Summit for a webinar: Employee Engagement in the 21st Century: Building a Connected and Prosperous Workforce, click here for details.


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