10 Tangible Ways to Bring Workplace Core Values to Life

10 Tangible Ways to Bring Workplace Core Values to Life

More than half of employees are motivated by their company’s mission, and 64% attribute their company’s mission to the main reason they stay in their current jobs. Learn how to bring these to the forefront for your team.

10 Tangible Ways to Bring Workplace Core Values to Life

Core values matter. Your workplace core values tell the world who you are, what you believe in, and who you aspire to be.

Your company core values are also a key part of attracting and retaining top talent. More than half of employees are motivated by their company’s mission, and 64% attribute their company’s mission to the main reason they stay in their current jobs.

But your core values only work if they're embraced and championed by your team members and how your company guides its decision-making.

“Values are verbs, things we do.”Simon Sinek.

According to a recent report by Right Management and Globoforce’s Workforce Mood Tracker study:

  • Among a group of 91 possible factors, personal commitment to an employer’s core values is the top driver of employee engagement.
  • 54% of respondents who didn’t know their company’s core values reported being engaged while 88% of those that did know the core values reported engagement.
  • 65% of workers who could name their values say they had a strong grasp on company objectives versus only 23% of respondents who say they didn’t know any of their company values

So how can you revitalize your company’s core values initiatives and get your entire company to live them?

Here are our 10 tips to help create an exceptional employee experience that promotes your workplace core values.

core values team building guide

1. Ask for feedback on your workplace core values

Many companies believe that core values are permanent and should never change. But the truth is that as your company grows and evolves, you may need to adjust your company core values. Otherwise, your core values could be at risk of becoming empty jargon that doesn't reflect your organizational culture.

To keep your core values aligned with your company’s mission and goals, frequently reevaluate them. The easiest way to do this is by asking your employees for feedback on how to define your core values.

After all, who should know your values better than your people?

When speaking to author and President of Jackson Healthcare, Shane Jackson during The Great Retention podcast, Shane tied everything back to culture. “My definition of culture is that it’s the atmosphere that results from all the decisions that a group makes,” he said. “Every group is trying to accomplish something and they’re trying to figure out how they’ll do it.”

From what an organization sets out to do to how they’re going to accomplish it, Shane pointed out that two organizations in the same industry answer these questions differently, which sets each apart.

“These all come from a set of core values and beliefs that the people in the group have,” Shane told Cooleaf’s own John Duisberg. “That rolls up to the atmosphere. What does it feel like to be part of this group based on the way we do things?”

Your leadership team can answer these questions, but including your employees through routine pulse surveys is a powerful way to give them a voice.

woman looking down at her phone, screenshots of cooleaf's pulse survey feature on two mobile devices overlay the image

2. Keep your company values top of mind

Stakeholders need to clearly understand your organization’s values, from what they are, what they mean, and how to demonstrate them. When individual and organization-wide values don't match up, your productivity will stall and growth will be more difficult to achieve.

Make sure to regularly remind employees of your core values and why they matter. Whenever possible, share specific examples of actions that team members have taken that demonstrated your values. You can do this by highlighting stories of team members demonstrating your core values, adding your core values to your communication on your Team Page, or creating interactive campaigns focused on your core values.

With Cooleaf, you can create core value challenges to regularly encourage employee to reflect on core values and highlight core value examples.

Cooleaf core value challenge examples:

  • Recognize Our Values Challenge: Team members share a story of when they or someone else on their team demonstrated one of your values.
  • Video Storytelling Challenge: Team members record a video of themselves sharing what your core values mean to them. (These are great for sharing your organization's mission across social media.)
  • Giving Back Challenge: If your workplace core values include "compassion" or "integrity," you can put those words into action with a giving back challenge. Virtual giving challenges make it easy to connect distributed teams and reward team members for demonstrating those values.

Another good way to keep company core values top of mind is through open discussion and huddles.

Are you a manager or team leader that needs help starting discussions on core values? This huddle guide is for you.

Downloadable Huddle Guide

Download our Huddle Guide PDF by filling out the form below. You'll get a printable huddle guide resource to assist in discussions around the organization’s mission, vision, and values with your teams.

huddle guide

3. Recognize employees for living your workplace core values

Let's face it: everyone wants to be recognized and appreciated for their hard work. An employee recognition program is a powerful way to inspire team collaboration and highlight your workplace core values. It also gives your employees a clear, real-world example of your core values in action.

Make sure your recognition program enables employees to "recognize" other team members for demonstrating your values. It’s important to keep these recognitions publicly visible as well so team members can comment and interact with the story.

To make the recognition even more effective, include special prizes or incentives, such as reward points that can be redeemed for gift cards or company merchandise.

The Cooleaf platform makes it easier for team members to recognize one another tied back to core values, like this organization below:

White desk with laptop and a plant. Screenshot of Cooleaf's peer-to-peer recognition feature overlays the image. The recognition is about someone demonstrating company core values.

4. Enliven core values

There is no reason to choose values just because you need to set them. Empty value statements create cynical and dispirited employees, alienate customers, and undermine managerial credibility. In fact, 80% of the Fortune 100 tout their values publicly — values that too often stand for nothing but a desire to be familiar or politically correct. It must go beyond just a list of values that sits on the website.

Meaningful values can set a company apart from the competition by clarifying its identity and serving as a rallying point for employees. But coming up with strong values and sticking to them—requires real guts.

Understanding the values contribute to the performance of the company. Companies, therefore, should establish some basic definitions to ensure that people know what they’re talking about and what they’re trying to accomplish.

There are 4 categories of organizing values.

  • Core values – the ‘soul’ of the company or the main constant beliefs that an organization’s corporate culture is based on.
  • Aspirational values – values that are opposite to practiced values, these are values that a company wants to fulfill in the future to be successful.
  • Permission-to-play values – values of life (e.g. honesty, reliability, commitment) that need to be understandable to any employee.
  • Accidental values – values that splash out spontaneously in the working process when a company generates new ideas, start a new strategy, etc.

5. Implement a real-time peer-to-peer recognition system

Values-based rewards should be a key component of your core values. This empowers employees to translate your cultural values into behaviors through real-time peer recognition. Knowing you're doing a great job is one thing, hearing others say it out loud adds a different meaning.

By offering the opportunity for employees to associate cultural values with the “cheers” they send, you're emphasizing organizational values by recognizing behaviors that align with them. This way, your employees understand what each value entails.

6. Have your company values go visual

Company “culture decks” are buzzing through the human resources world right now. They are a visual representation of your values — the things your company holds as most important.

Your culture deck should be a breeze to read and understand, and be written in a conversational language with examples. We like to think of it as a handbook in deck form. So make it clear but also a solid representation of your work culture.

You can keep it visual in other ways too:

  • At your quarterly or monthly all-hands, ask the leadership team to share a real-life examples of company values in action.
  • Include core values in your onboarding deck, so new employees have a deeper understanding right off the bat.
  • Tie back wins or initiatives to how they support all facets from business goals to CSR.

7. Use values as a tool for handling interpersonal conflict.

One of the great things about a set of values is that they help employees arrive at a consensus on how to treat one another. If there’s a dispute between employees, you can always point them back to the core value instead of putting yourself in the undesirable position of being a judge or mediator.

For example, let’s say two of your employees both feel as though they’ve been treated unfairly by the other. Communication has broken down and trust is at an all-time low, but both want to be heard. Point them back to your corporate values and have them explain to their colleague what it would be like if those values were put into action in their interactions with each other.

You can ask each of them:

  • How would they like to be treated?
  • What does teamwork look like to them?
  • How would they like to be communicated with?

This helps to create a more positive environment, re-build trust, and give employees a plan of action to which you can hold them accountable. Remember those core values aren’t just words on a page. They’re how your organization conducts business, pursues goals, and works together.

8. Lean on your values during challenges.

The real test for your company values happens when things aren’t going well. Do you stick to your core company values even when you’re not hitting those company goals? Even when external pressures may weigh you down?

Or do you fall prey to this type of thinking: “This is what we have to do to get ahead. I don’t care how you do it – I want to see results.”

Prioritizing the bottomline only (the ends) over values (the means) sends a clear message to employees that values don’t matter as long as you’re getting the results you want. Even the best companies fall prey to this thinking when times are hard.

However, Zappos put it best: “Core values are more than just words. They’re a way of life.”

This is why during the Pandemic, Zappos pivoted their approach. A top value was customers first, so when the Pandemic and uncertain times hit, Zappos leaned on their core value of customer satisfaction first. This meant:

  • Campaign for customers to nominate a “Hero” to win a $250 every day.
  • Partnership with Crocs for healthcare workers
  • Revamping their website to put comfort “Home Essentials” like slippers and such primarily on their page.
  • Refocusing their customer support team to help with “Anything”— that went beyond Zappos products.

Embodying their value first kept people working, supported causes their organization felt passionate about, and kept their site and presence active in the market.

9. Coach using the values.

Provide all feedback – positive and negative – in the language of your values. This is especially crucial for new hires during the onboarding process. Tying those first 30-60-90 days to your core values is a great way to cement understanding.

If you’re meeting with a member of your team about their performance, use the opportunity to highlight how they’re exhibiting behavior tied to the organization’s values or give examples how they can embody core values. It spotlights their individual contribution and strengthens that sense of purpose, which does feed into retention and happier work culture.

"Leaders have an outside influence on culture. Leaders get to determine what actions, behaviors are rewarded, punished, or recognized. So as a leader influence the way your team does things which drives the culture,” said Shane during The Great Retention podcast. “So then as an organization, you step back and rethink the way you do everything, from training and development, and how that ties back into your core values.”

Leading with those core values gives examples of how employees can embody them on a daly basis. Bark uses Cooleaf to showcase examples of core values so employees can recognize (and reward) it when they see it on their team. It celebrates the people being recognized and helps the recognizer embrace it too.

10. Use your values to make hiring decisions.

The best way to do this is to create a set of questions based around your core values and rate candidates based on their answers.

For example, if one of your core values is “Life-long Learning”, then stakeholders should ask candidates about their biggest mistake. You should want to hear them demonstrate the recovery and learning that came from it.

Share your core values during the hiring process too and ask how potential hires embrace it or interpret it themselves. It’ll help you see how they work best and if they could compliment your organization too!

How Cooleaf's employee experience platform keeps core values front and center

At Cooleaf, we create a recognition and engagement strategy focused on your workplace core values. By listening to your employees, living your core values through your actions, and highlighting positive examples, you can drive a company culture that aligns with your organization’s mission and purpose.

If you’d like to learn more about how our employee experience platform can help promote your company values, watch the video below.

How Cooleaf's employee experience platform keeps core values front and center

At Cooleaf, we create a recognition and engagement strategy focused on your workplace core values. By listening to your employees, living your core values through your actions, and highlighting positive examples, you can drive a team culture that aligns with your company's mission and purpose.

If you’d like to learn more about how our employee experience platform can help promote your company values, watch the video below.

Interested in learning more about how to bring company core values to life? Cooleaf can help — let's chat!


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