Having core company values can help you ensure each of your employees, from top leadership to entry-level, are working towards the same common goal, and share a bigger purpose.
Take a look at one of Google’s values — “Focus on the user and all else will follow.”
Any Google search will show you they stand by their purpose to serve the user. Undoubtedly, you find most answers to your common questions on page one of Google, and more recently, it’s likely separated in its own featured snippet, as well.
In this post we’ll explore why company values are important, how you can create your own, and serve up some industry favorites for inspiration.
What are company values?
Company values (sometimes called core values) are the beliefs and principles that drive your business. They help your team work better together and distinguish your brand from the competition.
Keeping these common values top of mind will help you make business decisions that are in line with your core principles and stay true to the company vision.
Why are company values important?
Core company values give employees purpose. Purpose is undeniably critical for employee satisfaction. In fact, a McKinsey & Company survey of employees found 70% of employees said their sense of purpose was largely defined by work. However that number drops significantly to 15% when non executive participants were asked if they are living their purpose at work. This is why it’s important your core values are embraced at every level, not just by the executive team. Purpose doesn’t just improve employee satisfaction — it also increases your bottom line and builds trust with customers.
Professor and author Ranjay Gulati explains in his book Deep Purpose that “To get purpose right, leaders must fundamentally change not only how they execute it but also how they conceive of and relate to it.” Gulati calls this process deep purpose, which furthers an organization’s reason for being in a more intense, thoughtful, and comprehensive way.
Ultimately, core values are critical if you want to create a long-lasting, successful, and motivating place to work.
Whether you work for a new company in need of core-value inspiration, or an older company in need of a value revamp, you’re in luck — below, we’ve cultivated a list of some of the best company values. Additionally, we’ll examine how some companies truly honor their values.
Examples of Companies with Inspiring Core Values
- Creative Leadership: We inspire growth and innovation through learning and bold action
- Passion for Progress: We have an uncompromising focus on impact and excellence.
- Responsibility: We act with honesty, integrity, and thoughtfulness.
For Gravity Payments, core values aren’t just a few feel-good statements to put on the company “About Us” page. Spearheaded by their outspoken CEO Dan Price, Gravity Payments is widely known for introducing a $70k minimum salary for all employees. The move created a media firestorm, especially when outlets learned he had cut his own salary to fund it.
This bold act guided by Price’s sense of responsibility to his employees and ethics is also reflected in the company’s core values above. Price admits staying true to the company’s values puts them at a competitive disadvantage, but it’s worth the sacrifice.
“Staying true to our values gives us purpose. It brings clarity to difficult decisions, and it attracts a strong community of individuals who value authenticity, rather than deceit,” states Price. What values would you uphold even if they put you at a competitive disadvantage? Follow those values, embrace the obstacles they cause, and watch your company thrive.”
Gravity Payments’ core values go against the industry grain but the company has thrived despite the naysayers.
- Focus on the user and all else will follow.
- It’s best to do one thing really, really well.
- Fast is better than slow.
- Democracy on the web works.
- You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.
- You can make money without doing evil.
- There’s always more information out there.
- The need for information crosses all borders.
- You can be serious without a suit.
- Great just isn’t good enough.
On Google’s philosophy page, they don’t just list their core values — they also provide examples.
For instance, consider their value, “You can make money without doing evil.” While many companies likely tout the benefits of integrity, Google references strategic efforts it has made to avoid “evil” business, including — “We don’t allow ads to be displayed on our results pages unless they are relevant where they are shown … We don’t accept pop–up advertising, which interferes with your ability to see the content you’ve requested … [and] Advertising on Google is always clearly identified as a ‘Sponsored Link,’ so it does not compromise the integrity of our search results.”
Ultimately, a core value doesn’t have much power if your company can’t list intentional, calculated decisions it’s made to put values ahead of profit.
3. Coca Cola
- Leadership: The courage to shape a better future.
- Collaboration: Leverage collective genius.
- Integrity: Be real.
- Accountability: If it is to be, it’s up to me.
- Passion: Committed in heart and mind.
- Diversity: As inclusive as our brands.
- Quality: What we do, we do well.
Coca Cola demonstrates its diversity core value with its public Global Diversity Mission page, which lists the company’s diversity-related efforts, such as, “[collecting employee] feedback through formal surveys and informally through their participation in our business resource groups, various diversity education programs and our Resolution Resources Program, where associates can work to resolve issues they face in our Company.”
Additionally, Coca Cola’s Global Diversity Mission page exemplifies their commitment to accountability, as well — they’ve publicly included pie charts with statistics regarding their global employee gender and race ratios. By acknowledging both their efforts and their shortcomings, Coca Cola is able to show its desire to live up to their values, while taking responsibility for any mismatch between its ideals and reality.
4. Whole Foods
- We Satisfy And Delight Our Customers — Our customers are the lifeblood of our business and our most important stakeholder. We strive to meet or exceed their expectations on every shopping experience.
- We Promote Team Member Growth And Happiness — Our success is dependent upon the collective energy, intelligence, and contributions of all of our Team Members.
- We Care About Our Communities And The Environment — We serve and support a local experience. The unique character of each store is a direct reflection of a community’s people, culture, and cuisine.
- We Practice Win-Win Partnerships With Our Suppliers — We view our trade partners as allies in serving our stakeholders. We treat them with respect, fairness and integrity – expecting the same in return.
Underneath each of its values on its core value page, Whole Foods provides a link, such as, “Learn more about how we care about our communities and the environment.”
Ultimately, their page demonstrates their ability to walk the walk. For instance, to exemplify their commitment to local communities, Whole Foods created a Local Producer Loan Program, which provides up to $25 million in low-interest loans to independent local farmers and food artisans.
Additionally, Whole Foods provides a list of environmentally-friendly efforts they’ve practiced since 1980, including “Printing and packaging using recycled paper and water- or vegetable-based, composting to decrease landfill waste, and no single-use plastic bags at checkout since 2008”.
If you’ve ever been to Whole Foods, you know they’re serious about their efforts to reduce waste and help the local community. In fact, it’s part of the reason so many customers are brand loyalists — because they support those efforts, too.
- Customer Commitment: We develop relationships that make a positive difference in our customers’ lives.
- Quality: We provide outstanding products and unsurpassed service that, together, deliver premium value to our customers.
- Integrity: We uphold the highest standards of integrity in all of our actions.
- Teamwork: We work together, across boundaries, to meet the needs of our customers and to help our Company win.
- Respect for People: We value our people, encourage their development and reward their performance.
- Good Citizenship: We are good citizens in the communities in which we live and work.
- A Will to Win: We exhibit a strong will to win in the marketplace and in every aspect of our business.
- Personal Accountability: We are personally accountable for delivering on our commitments.
American Express doesn’t just hit the bare minimum when it comes to polite, helpful customer service — they go above-and-beyond to solve for their customers, even when there’s no protocol in place.
For instance, Raymond Joabar, the Executive Vice President at American Express, recently told this story in a Forbes interview: “One time, a hotel café manager [an Amex merchant] alerted my team that he had accidentally sold a display cake with harmful chemicals and needed to find the customers before they ate it. Obviously, there’s no procedure for that, but our team took ownership of the problem. They gathered all the information they could from the record of charge, identified 21 Card Members who used their cards at the café during that time frame, reviewed the accounts to find the right match, and then called the Card Member in time before they served the cake at an anniversary party.”
“The important point here,” Joabar noted, “other than that everybody ended up safe and sound — is that there isn’t a script for every situation, so we empower our care professionals to do what’s right for the customer. And we recognize what they do with this empowerment as well. We give awards to employees who go above and beyond to help customers and we share their stories across the company.”
This anecdote exemplifies American Express employees’ commitment to their customers even when it’s not easy, and demonstrates the company’s dedication to living by its values.
REI’s core purpose is to inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship…We believe that it’s in the wild, untamed and natural places that we find our best selves, so our purpose is to awaken a lifelong love of the outdoors, for all.
Recreational equipment co-op REI has remained true to its values since its founding in 1938. The co-op model allows them to invest a significant portion of profits back into their employees and community through employee profit sharing and donations to nonprofits dedicated to the outdoors.
Since 2015, all REI stores close on Black Friday — perhaps the biggest shopping day of the year — so employees can enjoy time outdoors with friends and family.
The company states “We give all our employees a day off to #OptOutside with family and friends on the busiest retail day of the year. We continue this tradition because we believe in putting purpose before profits.”
Staying true to their core beliefs has made REI not only a great place to work, but has also made them a favorite brand of both new and experienced outdoor enthusiasts.
How to Implement Core Values
Now that you’ve seen what core values look like at other companies, you may be wondering how to create and implement your own. While defining your core values may be a hefty task, there are a few simple steps that will help you develop and iterate your own.
1. Check in with your team.
A quick way to get started is to consult your founders or executive team. They’ll often already have a vision for the company, its values and how they would ideally like everyone to work together. Once you have that framework, you can work on fleshing out your organization’s core values.
2. Solicit feedback.
HubSpot’s core employee values were initially outlined in the acronym HEART:
While getting feedback for HubSpot’s culture code update, co-founder Dharmesh Shah realized that something was a bit off. He found that the acronym was missing one integral part of how HubSpot does business: empathy.
In response Shah proposed replacing “Effective” with “Empathy” and encouraged employees to submit feedback via an internal wiki page.
3. Implement feedback.
Once you’ve solicited feedback from your team and stakeholders, it’s time to implement what you’ve learned. In HubSpot’s case, our culture code was updated and the HEART acronym changed to Humble, Empathetic, Adaptable, Remarkable, and Transparent.
4. Make your core values unique to your brand.
It’s easy to hop on trends or use certain generic buzzwords, but it’s important that your company values are specific to your brand. For example, if you choose integrity as one of your values, define what that looks like for your company. How will you demonstrate it to customers? How does it inform your business practices?
5. Continue to evolve when necessary.
Don’t be afraid to adjust your values as your company grows. What you originally created in the early days of your brand may no longer work for your current business. Enlist the help of your employees to reevaluate your values and guide any changes you decide to make.
Strong Company Values are Good for Business
Ultimately, good core values can help an audience identify with, and stay loyal to, your brand, rather than flipping between you and competitors. To ensure long-term success and long-termemployee retention, it’s critical you create — and live by — certain non-negotiable company values.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in November 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.