Value adding: How company values can enhance your competitive edge

A period of rapid growth is exciting for companies. It involves the arrival of new colleagues, new customers and new processes. Often there are also a whole bunch of new ideas to grow the business even more.

But something we see time and time again at the Modern Workplace Alliance (MWA) is during these times, something vital can be lost along the way. And that’s a company’s vision, mission and values – the very things that not only drive the way you do business, but also impact how customers perceive your company.

We’ve looked at how companies can ensure their vision doesn’t get diluted during this time of growth and change before. And now we’re taking a look at values – sharing our top 5 tips for how to get your team to live by them to improve customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Why are values important?

Many companies focus only on their technical abilities, or on their products and services. But at MWA, we believe that the essence of a company’s identity springs from its core values.

Values are an organisation or company’s guiding principles. They determine how a company conducts business and treats staff and customers. They set the tone for a company’s culture and help align the company to its vision and mission.

While values are usually top of mind during a company’s early days, they risk being diluted as the company grows. Nathan Belling, General Manager of MWA partner InSync Technology, says “InSync’s founders and first five or six staff members had closely aligned professional values. Those values were intrinsically known, rather than written down. But as we started growing the company, we needed more of a grounding point to enable all staff to be across our values.”

Rather than imposing a list of guiding principles on the growing workforce, InSync involved the entire team in developing its values. “People voted and gave feedback,” explains Nathan. “We talked about values at our monthly TeamSync meeting, asking ‘What are values?’ and ‘Why are they important?’. We set up a discussion thread on Yammer so people could share ideas. If you added a core value, you had to have a reason why, or a relevant example of how this is applied.”

Once the values were agreed, they were written down and can be seen on the company website.

The important thing, though, is to live with those values, says Nathan. “There are plenty of organisations that have their values on their website, but never live by them. At InSync, we openly share them with our customers and weave them into our everyday language.”

Don’t bull$#!t the customer!

The first core value listed on InSync’s website is “Don’t bull$#!t the customer!” Nathan explains how this was recently put in practice.

“A potential customer asked if we could extend the engagement to something else. We knew we didn’t have the capacity at that time to deliver, so we said, no we couldn’t. They wanted to know why not. I told them it would be easy for me to lie and tell them what they wanted to hear, but one of our values was ‘Don’t bull$#!t the customer’, so I was being honest with them. I got a pretty stunned reaction at first, but it set the tone and frame for an honest relationship, and we actually did win their business.”

Values establish the company culture for staff as well as customers. At InSync, values are included in ‘outcome profiles’ (their term for job descriptions), they’re built into the interview process, and the company’s culture, values, mission and vision are presented to new staff as part of the induction process.

Nathan’s top 5 tips to get your team to live and breathe your company values

Through his work with InSync and MWA, Nathan has developed five top tips for helping staff embrace company values. They are:

  1. Lead by example – InSync’s organisational structure is fairly flat, but it’s critical for the leadership team to live the company values. The leadership team should champion those values and recognise and reward staff who adhere to them. “At InSync, staff are encouraged to call us out if they think we’re not living by our values,” says Nathan.
  1. Make values visible – InSync’s values can be seen on desktop screensavers and backgrounds and in all their standard marketing material. They also use Yammer as a visibility tool for values. “We’re exploring how to use Yammer to share our success stories rather than calling people out individually,” Nathan says.
  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate – Don’t just make your values visible – discuss with staff how they are living the value. “One of our values is to go the extra 1.6 kilometres,” says Nathan, “so we ask our staff, ‘how did you go the extra 1.6 kms this week?’. We also communicate our values to potential clients and show them they’re more than just words on a website. If we all honour our company values, potential customers know what kind of company they’ll be doing business with.”
  1. Keep improving – Values should be incorporated into monthly and fortnightly team meetings, with staff having the opportunity to show how they’re living by those values. InSync are also looking at how they can build values into their performance appraisal process for ongoing training and development, along with quarterly check-ins.
  1. Use values to make decisions – When making any decision, however complex, always bring it back to what your company values are and what the effect of the decision would be on those values. “This keeps people focused,” says Nathan. “If something doesn’t align with your values, don’t choose it”

Values are what distinguish one company from another, so the foundation for a modern workplace should be built on company values. During periods of growth, companies can use technology to help staff collaborate on values. Once you have those values in place, they should be your company’s guiding light on how you do business.

Living by your values can set you apart and give you a real competitive edge.

Want to discover how values and your company vision can shape and transform your organisation both internally and externally? Book our Modern Workplace Accelerator.

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