Let’s be honest: keeping remote teams engaged is tough. Sure, there are methods to boost employee engagement, like regular check-ins, team-building activities, and using collaboration apps – and while all of these are good tactics, none of them will matter if employees aren’t aligned with your core values.
One of the biggest mistakes organizations make is considering core values a nicety, rather than a necessity. The truth is that core values are vital to retaining employees and keeping your business afloat during difficult times.
What are core values?
Best-selling author and speaker Gino Wickham defines core values as “a small set of essential, enduring principles that define your culture.” This translates to guiding principles that define your culture, demonstrate what sets you apart as a company, and sets how everyone in your organization is to operate in order to succeed.
Examples of core values
Bring your Core Values to life by putting a spotlight on your employees for their incredible work!
The Importance of Core Values
Why are core values so important right now?
Corporate culture is hard to manufacture. It’s formed over time through company traditions, events, and daily interactions between people on your team. Those well-worn paths eventually create what becomes company culture, and they play a part in motivating people to do their best work. This builds a positive, engaging employee experience for everyone on your team.
Traditionally, your company culture might revolve around in-person engagement activities: happy hours, office lunches, impromptu coffee chats, etc. But in a virtual workplace, it’s harder for those well-worn paths to form. The fun activities, serendipitous interactions, and idle non-work related chatter that serve to boost morale and keep people moving together are often absent on a remote team (though it is possible with the right strategy!).
That’s why core values being clearly articulated as a values statement are even more critical for virtual teams.
Company core values light the way for your team. They tell employees, prospects, and customers who you are as a company. And if your team doesn’t know who you are or what you’re about, then they’re not going to be able to effectively represent your brand.
Employees want to see their values reflected in their work.
Without in-person interactions, employees can lose their sense of belonging. Strong core values give employees a shared sense of commitment, allowing them to rally behind a united cause.
Integrity. Compassion. Teamwork. Drive. It’s important to remember that core company values are about collective behaviors, as well as individual behaviors. In a virtual environment, shared core values are a powerful reminder that no one person can achieve everything on their own. In this way, a set of values fosters connection and trust between employees.
Learn how Cooleaf helps promote your company's core values
By nature, core values distill. You have to limit your values to a few keywords that define your culture, and how your employees should operate to achieve your vision. You’re forced to decide what matters most in that journey. Remove things that you don’t require of everyone in your organization, including those involved in decision-making.
When everyone operates under the same set of standards towards a common goal, they create a sense of unity for team members, stakeholders, and leadership. Your core values should weave seamlessly into your business strategy. Articulating your organization’s set of values will unify your team by empowering everyone to hold themselves accountable to the values.
You need a tribe of customers and employees who are attracted to your organization because of your values. How can that happen if your values aren’t articulated?
Clear values set the standard for what is acceptable in your organization. If that standard isn’t documented, championed, and followed, you will not get consistent actions or results from your team. Without clear values, the way to behave is up to each person to decide, and at that point, inconsistency is unavoidable.
Core values are standards, and standards create repeatable behaviors.
Businesses need repeatable, scalable processes to rise from one level of success to another. Core values help create a repeatable, scalable system. They allow people in your organization to make good decisions on their own, by simply applying values to new challenges that come along.
Your set of values will remove bottlenecks and empower individual growth across your organization. That type of engagement raises the capacity of your entire company, which will positively impact the business on every level.
Clarity creates movement and energy. When you get everyone in your organization thinking about the same goal and doing it the same way, momentum is inevitable. That’s what clearly defined core values will deliver. It takes work, and if you’re willing to put in the work consistently, it will change your culture for the better.
By embracing core values, your team can overcome difficult situations and achieve positive results, even while working remotely. But it’s important to live your core values, not just talk about them. Here’s how.
How can you reinforce your core values with a distributed team?
Every company is different, and the way you choose to promote and reinforce your values should reflect your own unique culture and brand. But there are a few proven ways to bring core values to life:
1. Recognize employees for demonstrating core values.
When you empower employees to reward and recognize others for living your company’s core values, those values will become more tangible. Recognition allows you to highlight your values in terms of real, everyday behaviors – not aspirational concepts.
Employee recognition is a powerful performance management tool that empowers workplace leaders and peers to recognize one another for embodying your organization’s values.
For example, if “tenacity” is one of your core values, you can highlight that value by recognizing an employee who goes above and beyond to make a difficult customer happy. This gives employees a positive example of what it looks like to demonstrate that core value during an ordinary work experience. And including a small reward with this recognition can reinforce the value even further.
Implement a recognition program so employees can easily recognize, spotlight and reward examples to put your values in action. Studies show that recognition is powerful, especially when it’s tied to specific behaviors. Platforms like Cooleaf make it easy to create a custom recognition platform based on your values.
Organizations like medical software organization Net Health utilizes Cooleaf for showcasing company values with recognition. It not only strengthens their people’s understanding of their values but it builds their company culture.
“When you recognize someone by giving them that ‘attaboy’ on Cooleaf, it helps them find grace in difficult situations. When you know people you give grace, you create space for collaboration," says Carol P. Lewis, VP of Human Resources, NetHealth.
2. Frequently communicate your core values to current employees.
In a physical office environment, core values usually appear on the walls around the office. But in a virtual environment, it’s important to find other ways to keep the values top-of-mind. Whether you post your values on your company intranet page or share them in your weekly newsletter, keep your core values front and center by bringing them into your day-to-day communication.
You can also bring core values into your meetings. For example, in your next all-hands meeting, try inviting your leadership team to share business updates in terms of the values. Or, start the meeting by having team members shout out examples of recent actions that align with company core values. By being transparent about the way that your company lives up to your values, along with the ways you’re working to improve, you will help build employees’ trust and understanding.
Software development and IT staffing organization SOLTECH uses Cooleaf to build trust and clear communication with their teams. With 6 core values, SOLTECH relies on Cooleaf’s recognition and consistent online initiatives to guide its people. This can be anywhere from online challenges to recognition prompts.
“Everyone knows the core values in part because of Cooleaf,” Veanne Smith, Co-CEO, SOLTECH notes. “At the end of the year, we give a special recognition to the top 10 people living out the core values most consistently.”
Are you a manager or team leader that needs help starting discussions on core values? This huddle guide is for you.
3. Bring core values into employee hiring, onboarding, ongoing development, and retention.
Hiring managers should always list company values on career pages and evaluate new job candidates based on their company values. The goal here is to attract job seekers who share your values and deter those who don’t. In addition, by evaluating candidates along the lines of company core values, it’s easier to qualify whether candidates are a “culture fit” or not.
After hiring a new employee, be sure to introduce the core values early and demonstrate their importance in the company’s identity. Share videos, flyers, and resources to help them get to know your values.
And remember: even if employees know what your core values are, they also need to understand what they mean. From hiring to ongoing employee development, core values need to be reinforced and repeated through training and development.
The good news is that there are lots of creative and fun ways to engage team members with your values. For example, you could choose one value to focus on each month and ask team members to submit examples of this value in action. Then, share these stories at your next all-hands meeting. Or, host a virtual trivia party and include questions about your core values. Answering trivia questions can help employees expand and deepen their knowledge without much effort required.
Downloadable Core Values Huddle Guide
Looking for ways to empower your team managers to lead discussions on core values? This huddle guide is for you.
Download our Core Values Huddle Guide 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.
Final Thoughts on Core Values
Don't just give lip service to core values. Every successful company uses core values to drive the lived, everyday experience of their team. Remember– living out core values means holding people accountable for achieving them. And this is where many companies fall short.
For your organization‘s core values to be successful, everyone must be responsible for putting them in action. Senior managers should consistently model the values and use them to support their vision, and employees need to carry them out as they perform their work. If your core values are the foundation of your culture, your entire company must share the responsibility of bringing core values to life. This creates the foundation for your organizational culture.
In a remote work environment, where people aren’t able to easily “see” what their peers are doing, accountability around core values is especially important. By clearly defining your values and building accountability into them, you can start to build a culture of trust, integrity, and honesty. And this, in turn, will lead to higher business results.
And core values aren‘t just for employees - they impact profitability as well. According to Forbes, 63 percent of consumers say they want to buy products and services from companies that have a purpose that resonates with their values and belief systems.
When you bring your core values to life through recognition, communication, and ongoing development, your team will be more passionate and committed to your business growth. And when everyone on your team lives by your core values, you can take on just about anything.