The creation and documentation of company core values is a prerequisite to building a strong workplace culture. Core values are the rule book, the set of standards by which an organization makes its decisions. Without core values, the culture is rudderless. It’s how companies end up with “culture by default” instead of a “culture by design.”
Management cannot assume that core values by themselves are enough. Like any critical message, your core values must be taught and reinforced multiple times each year. To harness the power of core values, leaders must ensure that new hires are exposed to them during the onboarding process.
It’s one thing to hand someone a glossy 8 1/2 x 11 with the company’s core values listed and wish them luck. It’s another thing to really teach them. Do your new hires truly understand each value? Do they know why they’re a core value in the first place?
The very first thing the founding team did at Hireology was define our company’s core values. It happened before any discussion of product, or market, or pricing, or strategy. It’s the most important exercise our leadership team has ever undertaken. But, for the first three years, we didn’t do anything formal to drive these values into the organization as the company started to scale. We counted on the founders and early employees being able to maintain the culture as we grew.
We were leaving a lot of opportunities on the table. Most importantly, we failed to take advantage of a new hire’s first few days with us to indoctrinate them into the value system of the company. We assumed that they’d acquire the values system via osmosis and daily company life. In most cases, they did. But as with any business outcome you’re trying to achieve – in this case, company core values that are known, understood and followed by all – hoping for the outcome isn’t a plan. The process of teaching core values to new hires has to be owned and actively managed.
Now we do three things to ensure that our new hires are immersed in the culture and core values of our business from day one:
Senior leadership involvement. Culture starts with the CEO and the senior leadership team. If the leadership team feels like training core values is a waste of their time, the culture will never be what it could or should be. While our People Team (we much prefer that term to “HR”) is more than capable of delivering the message, there is just no substitute for the message being delivered by a founder or a member of the senior leadership team. With involvement from the top, the message is not only delivered, it’s also punctuated with an exclamation point. The point is made: We take this stuff very seriously. These values are more than words.
Tell Core Values stories. While core values are critical, they’re also just…words. They’re words on a page until someone tells the story about why that particular core value exists. For each of Hireology’s core values, we’ve created a corresponding description of that value, along with a “from the trenches” story that brings that particular core value to life. New hires learn about the core value, why it exists, and what it looks like to put that core value into practice in their day-to-day at Hireology.
I’ve made Hireology’s Core Values One-Pager available to newsletter subscribers for free. Click here to download a copy, which I hope can serve as a template for you to get started.
Treat Core Values training like a customer presentation. Imagine that you’re about to pitch your product or service to the most important prospect in the history of the company and you’ll be in the mental zone required to deliver Core Values training. Your new hires are the lifeblood of your company. Through them, you’ll either scale up and flourish, or you’ll churn them out and flounder. This training quite literally sets the stage for their entire tenure with your company, and they’ll touch millions (maybe hundreds of millions, even billions) of dollars worth of customer interactions. In the meantime, you’ll be paying them hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars of company money to work for you. How important to you is maximizing the chance for a positive outcome?
Make core values training a component of your new hire onboarding process.