As an entrepreneur, you likely have a set of core values you want your company to have. These values give your startup direction and help make sure that your company stays true to your vision. The problem is making those values matter on a daily basis.
Values are, by nature, immutable. They can, however, be expressed. They are more than ideals, they’re something you can use to develop your company culture and guide employees behaviorally. Managers can use them to judge and measure the value of each employee, while potential partners and investors can use them to see if your company aligns with them philosophically.
Use Your Values to Rate Potential Hires
If you want your company to embody a specific set of values, you’re going to have to start from the ground up. That means hiring people who fit with the startup philosophically. Have human resources develop a set of questions that will help determine a candidate’s character and how they’ll fit.
Let’s say your company holds among its values the idea that professionalism and friendliness are not mutually exclusive. Pay attention to how a candidate behaves during the interview and talk to their former employers to see how they got along with both customers and co-workers.
Finding people who already share your company’s values will help ease them into the startup. This will also help make sure that each and every employee you have embodies the company you founded.
Help People Remember
Entrepreneurs live busy lives and startups are busy places. There is much to handle, from customer complaints to product development. It’s understandable that your values may take a backseat in your thoughts, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There is a way to make values stick.
Make it prominent in the workplace. Have your website and employee handbook detail the company’s values and the reasoning behind each one. Post it in places where employees gather. You can even get creative and have an artist paint it on the walls. What’s important is that you and your employees are reminded daily of the values that should guide each and every action related to the startup.
You and management can also help. Whenever you talk to employees or give speeches, find a way to involve your company values. When an employee is being reprimanded for example, you can state how they breached the rules and how that would be contrary to the startup’s goals and philosophy.
Reward and Recognize Value Demonstration
The best way to encourage employees to embody your company’s values is with feedback, and rewards and recognition work well as feedback. When an employee makes a decision with the company’s values in mind, recognize them. Not only will this guide the employee’s future actions and thought process, it’ll encourage others to do the same.
Recognition can come in a number of ways. You can feature them on the company website, or make them employees of the month. Company newsletters are also a great option. What’s important is that their actions don’t go unnoticed. Let them know that you’re paying attention and that the startup appreciates their philosophical adherence.
Use Those Values to Determine Workplace Activities and Policies
One of the best ways to encourage employees to embody company values is by making part of the company. It’s not enough to have the words on the wall or to talk about it every now and then. Make your values a part of the company by using them to determine workplace activities and policies.
For example, if your company holds superior customer service among its core values, offer free seminars to your employees to improve their interpersonal skills. If your startup embodies the pursuit of passion, give employees a paid hour off each day to work on something personal, something unrelated to the business.
You can also lead by example. If you give employees to time to work on side-projects, do so as well. Go to those interpersonal skill development seminars and see where you can improve.
Profit isn’t the only measure of success as an entrepreneur. You could have a great profit margin, but you may end up feeling empty inside if your company has mutated into something you don’t like. Keep that from happening by using your values to determine workplace policies. Recognize and reward employees who embody those values. Remind yourself and your employees that those values exist. Keep it up and your startup will grow into the company you’ve always envisioned.
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