6 Steps to Defining Your Organizational Values

Anne Loehr

Leadership Consultant

Organizational culture can be seen as a "personality" created by the organization's values, attitudes and behaviors. This "personality" attracts and keeps great talent, creates a positive public image and helps build long-lasting relationships with stakeholders, vendors and customers.

But a good organizational culture doesn't spring up out of serendipity. It requires intentional and thoughtful identification of the core values the organization is built upon. Last month, I discussed how strong personal values can direct your organization in a positive direction, but it's also important to identify values for the whole team .

Here, six steps to identifying those organizational values and building a strong company culture:

1) Assess Your Current Organizational Culture

First, take a benchmark of your current culture. To do this, you need to truly assess where your company stands—not what you think it represents or what you want it to represent, but what impression the current brand truly gives off. What do people say about your organization, both externally and internally?

To figure out your organizational identity, interview vendors, clients, employees and your leadership team—either in focus groups or via an online survey. Ask them what words they would use to describe what's important to the organization and how effective the organization is at putting those values into action.

2) Review Your Strategic Business Plan

Next, think about your company's future. Where does your organization want to be in one, three or five years?

Since your corporate culture is closely tied to your business strategy, it's important to define where you're headed early on the values process . Meet with your executive team to figure out a plan for revenue, growth, staff, productions and expansion.

3) Determine the Culture Needed to Achieve Your Plan

Now that you have a clear picture of what your organizational culture is today, and where you want your organization to be in the next one to five years, it's time to look at your organizational values in this context.

Review your strategic plan and answer this question: "In order for us to get from point A to point B, what organizational culture do we need to achieve?" Consider the variety of personalities, backgrounds, skills and education you want to have on your team.

For example, some of Starbucks' core values are diversity, customer service and quality products. When you walk into a Starbucks store, you know you can expect a diverse staff, happy clientele and delicious drinks.

4) Decide If Your Values Need to Shift

Now that you know the culture and the talent you need, you can start to finalize your new—or revised—set of values. Take a look at your initial survey or focus group results, and decide if those are the values needed to reach your strategic goals. One tool that can be tremendously helpful is a pack of Values Cards.

You can put them on a conference table, and let the executive team start picking the ones they identify with the company. Or you can pick a few values, and explain why you think they are the most relevant to your organization's mission.

5) Define What Your Chosen Values Really Mean

An organizational value is not just a word painted on the wall. It must be clear what specific behaviors and processes the employee is supposed to do at work to honor this value.

For example, if your organization values loyalty, who does this loyalty refer to? Does "loyalty" mean the client comes first? Does it mean your team comes first? What about loyalty to your boss? Members of the organization should have a clear understanding of how to put each value into action.

6) Incorporate These Values into Organizational Processes

Finally, your newly defined values will need to be integrated in all operational areas, including the talent lifecycle. During recruiting and hiring, ask candidates about their own values and reiterate values in employee contracts. Within on-boarding and employee development, align your values with performance reviews and compensation.

A solid foundation of values for your organization will not only help you hire the right people, but also build an organization culture that's engaging, genuine and most of all, impactful.

Take your organizational values to the next level by aligning them with your team’s core competencies. Learn how here.

Photo: Creative Commons

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