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How do you drive a culture based on Values?

Values-based culture concept talentsmoothie
Reading Time: 6 minutes

So, you have your company Values – but now what?

How do you use your Values to drive an amazing company culture*?

If your Values are going to take hold in your organisation, they must be woven into all your people processes. It’s not enough to launch them at an ‘all hands call’ or create glossy videos and marketing materials. The value of Values isn’t that they’re represented by styled icons, look good on your website or in a document, or can be recited by rote. Their real value is that they guide the behaviours that set how you do business apart from others.

Here’s how to maximise the value of your Values, in five steps:

Step 1. Create a framework of behaviours that support your Values

Let’s kick off with an example value, Innovation.

What springs to mind when you see the value, Innovation? Being forward thinking. Looking for fresh ways to do things. Breaking new ground… These are good general ideas, but what is really important is to clearly define what you mean by Innovation in your organisation and give guidance (a framework) around the specific behaviours you expect to see. Behaviours such as being curious and open minded when problem solving, proactively staying up to date on new developments, or being flexible, adaptable and open to change.

Setting reasonable expectations for all your people across all levels of leadership – whether they are leading themself as a single contributor, leading a team directly or leading through others at a more senior leadership level – is essential.

Sharing examples of what the desired behaviours look like in practice is also important because it helps people to understand them further. In support of Innovation, you might want to encourage people to regularly talk to a colleague from a different area of the business, so they better understand others’ perspectives and become more open to alternative solutions.

Step 2. Weave your Values into everything

Look at the processes and interactions across the candidate and employee lifecycle where the desired behaviours need to be very present. For your Values to positively support your employer reputation they must be authentic – you must be consistent in what you do internally and what you say externally.

Employee Life Cycle diagram talentsmoothie

Start with your recruitment and selection process. Candidates deserve to know what’s expected of them when they join and whether their personal values align. You want people that can live with your expectations. You don’t want those that can’t. Be open about your Values from the outset and talk about them during your selection process – use a values-led interview.

Reiterate your Values and expectations with new employees during on-boarding. Measure how effectively they are being lived through your performance management process. Support their consistency through development opportunities. Demonstrate their importance through your performance process and reward and celebrate their impact with individuals and teams.

From the first interview to the last day of work, employees should be reminded about how the Values form the basis for every decision that is made, whether it’s a popular decision or not.

Step 3. Own your Values

Who owns your Values?


There are numerous methodologies proposed (and arguments put forward) about the best way to develop Values. They might have been created top down, bottom up or a via a mix of both. But – once you’ve agreed them – they are everyone’s to own. And everyone’s to call out.

If one of your Values is Transparency or Authenticity, then the expectation must be that anyone should be able to call out moments when any Value isn’t being role modelled – whoever they may be in the organisation. That’s the tough part. You have to be prepared to be called to account and to respond to criticism, if you are to be taken seriously, otherwise it’s better not to have Values in the first instance.

Coming up with Values and sticking to them requires real strength. They can cause pain and tough conversations, but assuming you’ve chosen the right Values for your organisation, they are there as a force for good and are your guide to ensure the right decisions are made for the benefit of your business and your customers, suppliers, partners and employees.

Step 4. Tell your story in the language of your Values

Make your Values part of your everyday language. Connect your successes and smaller day-to-day triumphs to them – where it’s authentic to do so – then communicate your Values-infused stories to everyone, internally and externally.

Remind people of the impact that living your Values brings to the business, departments, teams and individuals. Celebrate and reward those who demonstrate your Values, through awards at company gatherings and regular team meetings. Create stories around what was done, what was involved, and which Values were demonstrated. Involve people across functions, departments and teams, at all levels of seniority.

Tell stories that join you together through your Values.

Step 5. Stand by your Values

It’s vital to be clear about what isn’t acceptable as well as what is. It’s easy to praise success, but it’s equally important to act on behaviours that are not what you want. It can take real guts to stand by your Values, because it can mean making unpopular decisions. It can be uncomfortable and challenging to call out senior colleagues who are not walking the talk. But, it’s necessary.

Take the war in Ukraine. Businesses that didn’t pull their operations out of Russia quickly enough were called out by their customers and employees for not doing the right thing. In some cases, they were specially rebuked for not living their Values. These organisations ran the risk of perceived inauthenticity, and the pressure led to many being forced to close their operations. For businesses who did act fast, their employees and customers have witnessed what it means, in practice, to stand by your Values. Although profitability may have been affected in the short term, authentic behaviour has preserved reputation.

Employees, consumers and clients are ever more intolerant of inauthenticity. Constant vigilance is needed to ensure right action is taken. 

How talentsmoothie can help

We invite you to read about our recent work at Pulsant –  identifying, articulating and designing the Values and Employee Value Proposition (EVP) right for Pulsant employees and clients, and implementing them across all areas of the business.

Click HERE to read our Case Study: Values and EVP at Pulsant

Whatever your Values challenge, talk to us. We can help.

*Included in our report Generation Z What They Want from Work (2022) are six questions to help you shape your Gen Z strategy. ‘How do you drive a culture based on Values?’ is the third of these. The full report is free to download here. Or read our blog post ‘How do you stand for something as an organisation?’ which tackled the first of the six questions.

Make even better connections with your people. We are talentsmoothie, organisational development consultants and the employee experience experts. We can help.

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