Why values are the next evolution in company culture

What are values?

Company values have been around for a long time, but for most of that time they’ve been aimed at the customer as a sales tactic. Things like offering lifetime warranties, boasting about customer service, or holding or sponsoring annual charity events are common values that companies signal to their customers. 

Now there’s a new breed of company values - ones for the internal side of business. 

Values for the workforce of a company help keep employees aligned, guide hiring, and gives the employees an identity as a team. Companies who’ve invested a lot into their values naturally build up a reputation for them, which can help to attract top talent as well as socially conscious customers. 

Companies with clear values tend to hold onto their employees for longer as they have a stronger connection to their work.

What’s an example of company values?

Atlassian are huge advocates of company values and have put a lot of work into cultivating their own. Atlassian have five values;

  • Open company, no bullsh*t 
  • Build with heart and balance
  • Don’t #@!% the customer
  • Play, as a team
  • Be the change you seek

Here at Perkbox, we have six values;

  • Go Above & Beyond
  • Work Hard, Play Harder
  • Redefine What’s Possible
  • Zero Fear
  • Always Be Testing
  • Join the Family

A value can be named absolutely anything, it can be a single word or a sentence. Values are inherently a very personal thing, so you should get creative and find something that resonates strongly in your organisation rather than go for something generic. 

What’s important is that everyone knows the value and feels like it’s genuinely part of the company. If you’re a chocolatier but only sell one chocolate item in your shop, everyone knows it’s not really a chocolate shop - there’s no need to fake or force a value that you don’t really have. 

But I don’t have any values!

Values don’t always jump out at you. Often times, they’re unspoken, unwritten rules that everyone in the organisation abides by even if they’ve never spoken about it. It’s likely that you do have values, you’ve just never thought about them before.

If you’re not sure about what your values are, or you’re a younger business that is just getting rolling and want to start on the right foot, there are some easy exercises you can do to find out what your values are.

How to discover your company values

Contrary to what you might think, company values come from the bottom up - not the top down. So if you decided to say “right, these are our new values, you must abide by them, effective immediately”, it won’t work quite right. 

Instead, it’s best to see what your employees are already doing that you like and encourage that behaviour, while discouraging any behaviours you don’t want to continue. 

Getting your employees involved in deciding on your values will ensure that they are enthusiastic about acting them out when you’re not looking and increase your chances of success! It’s easy to start off with a company wide meeting or email (depending on your size) and letting them know that you’re opening the discussion on company values. 

Ask for submissions (anonymous or named) on suggestions, what people think is already a value, and what people would like to veto. You can request stories on what employees have seen or experienced first hand that made them enjoy working within the organisation, what they’re especially proud of, and what kind of behaviours they’d like to see more of. 

Once you’ve gone through the submissions, start organising them into themes. The themes could be extremely vague or loosely tied together, or they could be strikingly clear - either is fine. 

Present the themes you find to your employees (remember to keep them involved in the whole process) and start brainstorming some names for them. You’ll likely go through a few iterations until you hit the Goldilocks sweet spot and everything feels just right.

At Perkbox we’ve implemented a team of “Culture Guardians”. It’s kind of like a social committee as it’s a volunteer group. Their main job is to monitor company culture, keep everyone excited, celebrate whenever an employee has exhibited one of our values, and collect feedback on the state of the company year round.

Having the Culture Guardians is something we evolved into having, we didn’t have them from day one. We had a group of employees that were particularly passionate about our values and it felt like a natural progression to form the group. 

Everything you do with your values should feel natural, not forced at all. If you stick to this as a principle, you’ll be on your way to strong values in no time.

Do values change?

The short answer is yes. 

The longer answer is yes, because your employees, the business, and society also change. Diversity is a pretty common value in modern and contemporary businesses, but this would not have been the case 20, or even 10, years ago. A great example is ANZ. They’ve been around since 1951 and in recent years have been big supporters of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. 

ANZ evolved with their employees and updated their values to reflect their current state, not who they were 70 years ago when they started. By the way, ANZ’s official values are;

  • Integrity
  • Collaboration
  • Accountability
  • Respect
  • Excellence

As your employees retire or move on to other positions, newer and younger employees will take their place. Each new person will have an influence in your company culture and values, so stay flexible and open minded to changing your values - just don’t do it too often.

Remember your values are formed from the bottom up, so keep listening to your employees on this topic!

How to reinforce your values

Once you’ve got your values established, make sure they don’t get forgotten and all your effort goes to waste. It takes a bit of consistency to get the ball rolling, but once it’s going it should snowball into something that’s second nature to all your employees. 

Here are our suggestions for making your values stick;

  1. Make them visible - create posters to put up on the wall, get company T-shirts made with the values on them, make some screensavers for your computers. Make it big, make it loud!
  2. Tie your values to recognition - every time you say “well done” to someone, link it to one of your company values. This is a feature we built into our Recognition platform!
  3. Instead of “employee of the month”, create awards for each value. It might be a big award at the annual Christmas party, or a different value picked each week to celebrate. 
  4. Elect value ambassadors. Much like our Culture Guardians! Without a doubt you’ll have a few people who’re more than enthusiastic to put their hand up.
  5. Promote your values in your social media, marketing, and create a page on your website for them.
  6. Add your values to your onboarding process so anyone who comes in as a new hire have it as an expectation right from day one.
  7. Whenever you face a difficult situation, and you come to a conclusion by consulting your company values, let your employees know that the values genuinely are guiding the company into the future. 

Showcase your values with Recognition

We threw some subtle (not really) hints that you can showcase and reinforce your values through our Recognition product. 

Here’s a breakdown of how that works!

With Recognition, you can set up a poll which all your employees vote on. The poll could be named “Employee of the Month” (bland, but tried and tested) or something more aligned to your values like “Best Collaborator” if you’re from ANZ, or “Most Balanced Heart” if you’re from Atlassian. 

Then, whoever has embodied that value the most over the last week, month, quarter, or year, wins the recognition they deserve for their hard work. Attach a prize or trophy if it’s for your end of year party. 

For everyday things, like saying thanks to someone who helped you out when you spilled coffee down your shirt, or a customer asked you to pass along a compliment for one of your employees, you can send them a note publicly or privately and link it with one of your values. 

We’re obsessed with company culture and values, so if you’ve got any questions or just want to geek out with us, don’t hesitate to reach out!