What are core values?

Distinguish your company and your brand from competitors by using strong core values. Powerful, candid core values will resonate with your staff and your customers.

First published on Thursday, Jun 04, 2020

Last updated on Thursday, Jun 27, 2024

Would they be able to answer the question? And if you asked twenty different employees, would they all give the same reply?

Their answers — even in your imagination — might give you a clue about your company’s core values. It can strengthen your company to have strong values that resonate with its staff, customers and partners, and upon which you consistently act.

What are core values?

The company you work for was set up for a reason, and it continues to operate with specific goals in mind. Its core values help to shape the way it achieves those goals. They help distinguish your brand from competitors.

Core values can also help potential staff decide whether they want to be a part of your company. For example, you might place emphasis on superior customer service or on ethical buying practices.

Defining your values

It’s often helpful to use an external professional to help discover your company values. Input might include market research, internal surveys, brand guidelines and senior staff interviews — all of which can ‘shine a light’ on what your company stands for.

Through this process, you might identify values such as ‘accountability’, ‘innovation’ or ‘community-led’. Often, the answers are uncovered by intuition and experience.

What a core value isn’t

A core value is intrinsic to your company. It cannot be taught or ‘instilled,’ so it’s different from a mission statement or a best practice. It is a way of operating that remains constant regardless of:

  • the time - would it still be a core value in 100 years?
  • external factors affecting your business - would this value still stand during a recession or PR crisis?

Core values at work

Once you’ve defined your core values, you can relate them to staff behaviour within your organisation. Every employee should understand what your core values mean, and most importantly, how they affect daily work.

For example, if one of your core values is ‘adventure,’ you might encourage employees to be bold and try new approaches. If you’ve identified ‘simplicity’ as a value, you might find ways to simplify internal processes and communications.

Maintaining momentum

After first defining and communicating your core values, they can risk getting lost in the routine of daily work. To keep them within reach, you could:

  • Create a brand for core values and make it a prominent part of internal displays, company meetings or visual branding.
  • Reward staff for actions that resonate with your core values. You could implement a points scheme, or give gifts or additional holiday days.
  • Get line managers on board. Ask them to be aware of behaviours that reinforce core values, and acknowledge them positively.

Periodically, you might find it useful to invite feedback. This way, you can make sure that your stated core values are being remembered, and that staff are using and enjoying any reward scheme.

Alan Price

CEO, BrightHR and Group Chief Operating Officer

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