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Talent Management

Company Core Values: Why to Have Them and How to Define Them

One Minute Takeaway

  • Defining core values is a worthwhile exercise for all companies
  • Take an employee-centered approach to discovering your company’s values
  • We provide ten great examples of core values with definitions

If you care about creating a winning culture (and you should), you need to care about your company core values. These aren’t just meant to just look good on your website. Values should play a real role throughout your organization, inspiring employees and providing a measure by which performance can be judged.

Why Core Values Matter

When a business is just getting started, core values might not seem all that important. But as time passes, employees need a reason to believe in a company and be inspired by its journey. If employees strongly identify with a company’s core values, they’ll be more likely to stick around long-term. Powerful value systems will also motivate top talent to join your company.

Core values aren’t just helpful for boosting employee recruitment and retention. They should be at the heart of your decision making around performance management. When setting goals, long-term or short-term, company-wide or for individual employees, you should ask: do these targets align with our company values? Then, when assessing performance: does this employee or team embody our core values?

Core Values are Permanent

A common problem is understanding the difference between values that define your company in the long-term and those which are only applicable for a short time. For instance, a startup culture might be defined by a “work hard, play hard” attitude. However, will (and should this) this be a defining feature when the company expands or is hit by an economic downturn? It could, but more likely company culture will change over time. How do you find the real core values of your company? While leadership can certainly influence values, simply deciding on new values is a lost cause. You want to have the “best” values in your industry, but it’s not always a matter of choice. Your company already has values; it’s up to you to discover them.

Identifying Core Values

A great way to discover core values is to ask your employees directly. Not just any employees, but your high performers, who are respected by leadership and their peers. Have them identify what they see as core values. Have them discuss whether these values are truly fundamental, now and for the future.

Here’s the big question: would they continue to believe in these values even if they became a competitive disadvantage? If the answer is no, then they aren’t really core values at all! Values can help your business, but they don’t exist only to help your business. 

Examples of Core Values

Enough theory. Time to take a look at what core values actually look in practice. We’ve collected ten examples of core values, with definitions, common across organizations in different industries:

  • Accountability
    Acknowledging and assuming responsibility for actions, products, decisions and policies. It can be applied on both an individual and company level.

  • Balance
    Taking a proactive stand to create and maintain a healthy work-life balance for workers.

  • Commitment
    Committing to great product, service and other initiatives that impact lives within and outside the organization.

  • Community
    Contributing to society and demonstrating corporate social responsibility.

  • Diversity
    Creating a workplace culture where all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources and can fully contribute to the organization’s success.

  • Empowerment
    Encouraging employees to take initiative and give their best. Adopting an error-embracing environment to empower employees to lead and make decisions.

  • Innovation
    Pursuing new creative ideas that have the potential to change the world.

  • Integrity
    Acting with honesty and honor without compromising the truth.

  • Ownership
    Taking care of the company and customers as if they were one’s own.

  • Safety
    Ensuring the health and safety of employees and going beyond legal requirements to provide an accident-free workplace.

How Paycor Helps

Paycor creates HR software for leaders who want to make a difference. Our Human Capital Management (HCM) platform modernizes every aspect of people management, from the way you recruit, onboard and develop people, to the way you pay and retain them.