​The Age of the Corporate Value

In the past, Uber was the poster child for a superb customer experience. But now, with its recent slew of controversies, like “Greyballing” and one female ex-employee’s account of mistreatment, Uber represents a cautionary tale. A great product or experience isn’t enough. A company needs a set of values to be a compass that guides the company, its employees, and its culture. Because consumers are paying attention. They care about how a company acts, how leadership treats its employees, and how sincere it is about living up to the values it creates.

Often, corporate values end up as little more than platitudes. A memo from HR. Big, bold words painted on walls. Or a hollow promise from the CEO. “We respect each other.” “Believe in greatness.” “Do amazing things.” Employees aren’t buying these empty statements, and you can rest assured that customers aren’t, either.

What’s the point of this? They’re only worth creating in the first place if they are going to change your culture for the better or reinforce the behaviors that make your company special. In 2017, values – with meaning – are vital. Companies need them now more than ever. And I’d argue there’s never been another period of time when consumers demand that companies stand for something.

So, it’s time to put renewed focus on values. If you already have values in place maybe it’s time to revisit them. That’s exactly what we did at C Space. We looked at our existing values and asked ourselves, “Do these statements reflect who we are today, and who we strive to be tomorrow?” The answer was “sort of.” As companies do, we have evolved over the years since they were crafted. So it was time to update our core values to reflect that.

It was a fun and fascinating process. Along the way, we learned a lot of valuable lessons about our company and ourselves. One important lesson; employees take corporate values seriously when they see leadership changing and actively living up to the set values. At C Space, the top 50 leaders were charged to pledge at least one value to work harder on where they felt uncomfortable, and one value to amplify in a comfort area. By encouraging leadership to take the issue so personally, we’ve found the company feels more united and democratic as a result.

Here’s a simple list to help keep you honest and on-track when deciding who your company is, what it stands for, and how to communicate that to everyone.

  1. Co-create them with your employees: A company’s values should be created by your employees, not by the leadership team in a bubble. We worked with a core team that included people from different offices, departments, tenures and levels.
  2. Keep it real: Values should reflect how your people actually talk, not jargon-y and buzzword-y. Doing the latter just heightens insincerity. Phrase your values in simple, clear statements that sound like a real person said them. The final wording of our values were determined by our younger staff members because they told us that the early ones sounded like they were written by their parents! They crafted values like “Do what scares you”, “Only accept awesome”, and “I got this”. And we started to hear people using these phrases in emails and meetings from the start because they resonated and felt natural.
  3. Make them actionable: A company’s values should permeate the everyday life of employees and customers, so that they can see them, hear them, feel them, and live them. Meaningful corporate values contain calls to action that will empower employees to leave their mark. We wrote ours in the form of active behaviors which we wanted our teams to exhibit every day. And, they do!
  4. Show the love: Companies should celebrate and reward not just great work, but great behaviors. Corporate values should reflect that. We reward great behaviors regularly both from an internal perspective as well as when these behaviors are exhibited in our client work.
  5. Build them into the day-to-day: Don’t just put them up on the wall or in a corporate document – live them! We now use our values in everything we do from initial interviews to reviews and promotions. This has meant that not only are they something we think of every now and then, but they’re integral in everything we do.
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