Ask a room full of employees if they know the core values of their company. The answer you receive will likely be a resounding, “No.” In many workplaces, core values are largely meaningless principles outlined somewhere near the beginning of the employee handbook, but are never celebrated -- or even followed -- on the average business day. In truth, dusting off such core values as honesty, selflessness and innovation, and sharing them with your workers can be a valuable tool to establish a well-organized, tight-knit workplace.
All too often, core values are written hastily in an altruistic effort to improve the workplace dynamic and are abandoned as soon as another important project comes up. The truth about your company's core values is that if no one knows them, they aren’t worth the paper they're written on. The first step in promoting your core values is making sure all employees know what they are. Develop a detailed and multi-faceted plan for sharing these with long-term workers. This plan can include the typical wall posters or some similarly static communication device, but this shouldn’t be the only piece to your communication puzzle. Try more creative methods like having a weekly theme song that in some way relates to one of the core values and playing the song at start of the morning meetings for that week.
Setting an Example
Your core values shouldn’t be principles that you ignore, but are thrust upon your workers. As a business leader, you above everyone need to walk the talk. Keep your core values in the forefront, and when the opportunity presents itself to embody one, do so. This gives you ground to stand on should you have to speak to an employee violating a core principle of the organization.
Employee Recognition Opportunity
To effectively promote your company's core values, you must provide a means by which employees can be recognized for following them. For instance, Starbucks does this by placing “Green Apron Boards” in the backrooms of all its coffee stores. On these boards, workers can recognize their co-coffee creators by choosing from an array of cards, each featuring one of the company’s core values. The worker writes on the back of the card what her co-worker did to embody this value. After penning this inspiring description, the employee slides the card into a pocket featuring the name of the individual she is recognizing. By taking a page out of the Starbucks book and setting up your own recognition board, you can allow your workers an avenue to be equally kind to their peers while constantly reflecting on the core values of the company.
Reinventing Core Values
If the company has made efforts to communicate its core values but the employees aren’t adopting the principles with the zeal they should, it’s possible that it’s not that the workers who have the problem, but the values are antiquated. As a loyal employee, show your flexibility and willingness to adapt to your employer's needs by suggesting that the old values be pitched and that you and your co-workers would like to have a hand in writing the new ones. When workers take part in composing their own guiding principles, they will likely be more dedicated to embodying them.
Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.