How to Identify Your Company Core Values (and Leverage Them to Your Advantage)

Illustration of people spouting out company core values

In today’s competitive employer landscape, your company core values carry more weight than ever.

company core values


When it comes to recruiting new employees and retaining the awesome ones you already have, your values manifest themselves in your culture—and there’s no denying that your culture matters almost more than anything else.

But, when “company culture” has become such a buzzword and things like “values” seem so intangible and impossible to wrap your arms around, landing on exactly what sets your company apart can be challenging.

How can you zone in on what matters most to your organization in a way that’s authentic, impactful, and resonates with the talent you most want to have on your team—and then spread that message far and wide?

It sounds like an overwhelming undertaking.

But, you’re in luck, because we’re diving into everything you need to know to identify your company core values and lean on them as a key piece of your employer brand.

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Why Your Company Core Values Matter

You’ve been told that emphasizing the core values of your company is important.

But, why?

What does turning the spotlight on those values actually get you?

As it turns out, those values play a significant role in the success of two things that matter to your company: hiring and employee retention.

Core Values Matter for Hiring

Hiring is a two-way street. While you’re trying to find candidates who are the best fits for your organization, talent is also looking at various work options with a discerning eye.

They want to find a place that checks the boxes on what they’re looking for.

One of the key things they’ll consider when evaluating whether or not a particular workplace is somewhere they could see themselves?

Company culture.

This is especially true for the Millennial generation. In fact, one study indicates that nearly 80% of Millennials look for people and culture fit with their employers, followed by career potential—proving that culture is top of mind for many candidates.

By focusing on your core values and then sharing those with prospective employees, you empower talent to know whether or not your company is a place where they could truly be satisfied—even before they submit an application.

Core Values Matter for Employee Retention

Culture fit and your core values don’t just carry importance when you’re hiring—they also matter greatly to your existing employees.

How well employees feel that they fit with a company’s culture is often a determining factor of how long they’ll stay with that company.

According to another study, employees who felt they fit well with their organization, co-workers, and supervisor had greater job satisfaction, showed superior job performance, and were more likely to stick with the company.

But, despite the fact that your values and culture are of such high importance, few employers dedicate the time and attention that these things they deserve.

For that reason, only a reported 27% of U.S. employees actually believe in their companies values.

How to Find Your Core Values: 3 Key Tips

In order to find and then retain employees who are aligned with your core values, you first need to understand what those values are.

Identifying those might seem overwhelming and challenging.

However, don’t allow your frustration to inspire you to pick a few buzzwords, plaster them on your conference room wall, and call it a day.

Finding your core values is all about zoning in on those things that are authentic to your organization—those things that help your company stand out from everybody else out there.

That means there isn’t a one-size-fits-all process for identifying these values. But, fortunately, there are a few tips you can put to work to cut through the noise and find what sets you apart.

1. List the Traits of Your Ideal Candidate

You want candidates who fit within your culture and are passionate about your values, right? So, when you’re feeling confused as to what your values actually are, reverse engineering this can be helpful.

Ask yourself:

  • What does our ideal candidate look like?
  • What qualities will they possess?

For example, maybe you’re looking for someone who doesn’t view working with others as a chore and instead relishes the opportunity to learn from other people’s approaches and viewpoints.

That could indicate that teamwork and collaboration are important values within your organization.

Go through this exercise for a few different types of positions on your team and then pull out any common threads. It’s a simple way for you to identify themes and values that pop up again and again.

2. Ask Yourself What’s Important

Remember, figuring out your values doesn’t need to be that complicated. In many cases, it’s as simple as taking a step back and finding those core pieces that carry a lot of weight within your company.

To do so, ask yourself this one question:

What’s important to us as an organization?

Perhaps you place a lot of emphasis on serving your community and have tons of different office-wide programs and initiatives to support that. Or, maybe you’re always hammering away on the importance of excellent customer service.

Make no mistake—those are values that could serve as foundational pieces of your culture.

So, resist the urge to get wrapped up in all of the buzzwordy terms and trends and instead look at things through this lens. That will help you land on values that are truly authentic to you and your culture.

3. Survey Your Employees

When it comes to figuring out exactly what makes your company tick, you have an awesome resource right at your fingertips: your existing employees.

They’re the ones who are “in the trenches” day in and day out, which means they have awesome insight into exactly what it’s like to work for your organization.

Needless to say, if you aren’t already relying on the stories, voices, and opinions of your current team members to identify and refine your culture and values, you should be.

There are plenty of different options to pull these key company attributes out of your employees. It could be something as simple as facilitating a small, casual sit-down with a select group of team members where you can all discuss what they love most about working for your company.

Or, you could put together something more structured where employees actually fill out a survey to help you identify those core things that make up your company’s culture.

Regardless of how exactly you choose to go about this, your employees are a deep well of information that you don’t want to leave untapped during this process.

Involve them in uncovering your core values, and you’ll lay the foundation for a culture and employer brand that’s completely authentic—rather than forced and fabricated.

Spreading Your Message: Showcasing Your Core Values

Your core values are essential for recruiting and retaining talent that’s the best fit for your organization. However, those values accomplish little for you if you don’t weave them in and promote them as an integral part of your employer brand.

No, it’s not enough to put them on a poster in your meeting room or include them on your company’s stationery. There’s a little more to it than that.

1. Speak With Action, Not Just Words

You’ve heard that old, “Action speaks louder than words” cliché. But, before you just roll your eyes, you need to realize that sentiment actually holds some water—particularly when it comes to your company values.

Think about this: You can say that your company values community service until you’re blue in the face.

However, what do you think is going to happen when a candidate does some searching to see how you and your team have been active in the community—and finds absolutely nothing?

If you say that your organization places a lot of emphasis on serving your community, then you better be able to showcase several examples of when your team went out there and got their hands dirty to better the lives of others.

It’s not enough to just talk about your values. You need to live them.

2. Use Multimedia to Tell Your Story

Even if your team is living your values, how will you showcase that to people outside of your organization?

Multimedia—like photos and videos—is a great way to do so in a highly compelling way.

Perhaps on your careers page you’ll have photos of that park cleanup that your team participated in to emphasize your commitment to community service.

Or, maybe you’ll post photos of your soup kitchen volunteer group to your company social media outlets.

Need another example?

If your company believes strongly in employee growth and development, you could showcase short video interviews with your employees who have climbed the ladder within your company.

This type of visual content is not only far more engaging than text, it also helps you accomplish the first tip of showing rather than just telling other people about your values.

3. Create Ambassadors

Remember when we mentioned that your employees are an excellent asset that shouldn’t be ignored? Well, they’re not only helpful for identifying your values, but also for spreading that message to other people.

Throughout those value-centered conversations, find some employees who are particularly passionate or enthusiastic about what you’re doing within your company.

These particular employees can serve as great ambassadors for your employer brand. Whether it’s something as simple as bragging about your company on social media or to their friends or something that’s a little more involved—such as heading out to a recruiting event to speak on your behalf—it’s great to have these cultural beacons in your corner.

When candidates trust current employees three times more than the company itself to provide accurate information about what it’s like to work for your organization, they’re a resource that you should be leaning on.

Ready to Get Started?

Your company core values should be at the center of your culture and your employer brand. Zoning on on these key elements will help you both retain your existing employees and recruit new ones who are a seamless fit for your organization.

If you’ve previously been intimidated by the process of finding your core values, rest assured that it doesn’t need to be all that complicated. Within this post, we touched on a few different tactics for finding your values, including:

  • Listing the traits of your ideal candidate
  • Analyzing what’s important to you as a company
  • Talking to your current employees to get their own opinions

Those three steps alone will help you pull out some common threads that probably carry a lot of importance within your company.

After that?

It’s time to live and then actively promote those values through photos and video content and by encouraging your employees to talk about why your company is such a great place to work.

Do that, and you’ll foster a value-centered culture that appeals to the best-fit talent—and then keeps them around for the long haul.

May 11, 2018