Crafting your organization’s brand values, whether you’re an established company going through an identity shift or a brand new startup, can be a painstaking process. To convey what your organization is all about in an age of unique challenges and global movements has become more than a branding or marketing initiative.
On a number of levels, finalising your brand’s core values is just the beginning. Your values define the soul of your organization and should guide your business decisions as well as help to define interactions with all stakeholders (employees, customers, service partners, local communities and investors).
It can also take time and ongoing effort for your brand’s values to be transfused into the beliefs and actions of your employees. This is not a one off ‘communications project’ to update your team and ask them to get on board. Instead, leaders need to lead by example with tangible actions and implement a supporting infrastructure designed to maximize involvement and active participation.
Have you noticed how many companies use similar phrases and statements to define their company values? Sometimes, this is well intentioned. However, what is far more effective is a deeper consideration of what the organization stands for and believes in, what sets it apart from others, it’s unique essence. . If you are considering a commonly used value ‘label’ like ‘diversity’ or ‘integrity’,, ask yourself what this actually means to your company and whether it could be described more uniquely.
Brand values are most congruent when they are adapted specifically for each organization and offer more relevance to the way in which the organization operates or the kind of services and products it offers. For example, if you are providing customers with luxury products or high-end services, the term Customer First might convey the approach more appropriately than Customer Service or Service Excellence.
From Principles into Actions
Values that are too general or lacking individual relevance to a company simply won’t be actionable. To make your values mean something, you’ll need to bring them to life through specific behaviour and activities within your organization.
Let’s say one of your values is open communication. How can your employees actually put this into practice? Do you imagine that your employees will build two-way conversations with your online communities and regularly engage in communications with your loyal followers? Or perhaps communication should symbolise the way you expect your teams to work with each other, encouraging feedback and constructive criticism on each other’s work. One way to do this would be to open up regular forums, gatherings and feedback loops from company-wide communication.
Employees need to understand what behaviors and actions support your values. And by giving the specific examples, you place a road map in the hands of everybody who will help to truly realise your brand values and make them a reality day-to-day.
Your Values Language
When values are embedded, the vocabulary will be used naturally in conversations, written communication and meetings. However, it’s also important to consciously reference the values as part of your planning and development activities.
For example, you can ask team members to share ways they can integrate the values more into daily activities, or highlight instances where values have been upheld or overlooked in the organization.
Meetings with leadership teams could also involve specific conversations about how your brand values are being integrated into your company structure, and reflections on how your business is positioned to different stakeholders.
The more people talk about your values, the more they will engage with them and bring them to life through your organization activities and interactions, both internally and with other stakeholders.
Reinforce Desired Behaviour
Encouraging and recognising people to uphold your values is a huge driving force for making sure you are actually bringing your values to life. If employees are not rewarded for behavior that taps into your brand’s core values then what’s to stop them from behaving in a different way?
If you already have a employee recognition program, alignthe requirements to reflect your values and make sure everyone is aware of how their performance will be measured and rewarded.
Lead by Example
Believing in your values and behaving in line with the image you aspire to is by far the best way for leadership to implement your values. The behaviour of the leadership team is disproportionately important and we refer to this concept as the Leadership Shadow. The more senior the leader, the longer the shadow and this can be positive or negative. Leaders who model the organization’s values are easy to follow and employees welcome the alignment and consistency. On the other side of the coin, leaders who do not model the organization’s values create uncertainty, doubt and confusion..
If you want to know more about how to develop a set of values for your organization or advice on bringing them to life once you’ve chosen the core principles that define who you are, get in touch with us at SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL.
Transitioning your company values from words to action requires ongoing effort well beyond the initial rollout. But as you see your employees embrace and demonstrate the values in their interactions with customers, clients and each other, you’ll find it an investment worth making. One of our clients said “Why would we pay any employee a salary each month if they are not living the organization’s values every day?”