How to develop company values

Developing company values isn’t just important from a staff engagement perspective. It will affect how customers see the company, how it manages its processes, who it recruits into the business and how staff are managed once they are in.  However, it can be difficult to plan out how you intend to develop company values within your team so how do you go about doing this?

I have a client who has just gone through this exercise. The business is a social enterprise, selling new and used furniture, designing office space and recycling old furniture. It employs about 12 staff and the CEO is a values driven person and she wanted to find out if her staff shared these values and if so what they were. To do this she asked staff, customers, suppliers, any other stakeholders; to say in one word what summed up her business. She then put these into a “wordle” (an app that puts words in size order according to their importance) and she got this:

company values

After much contemplating and discussing with staff, customers and suppliers the values that came out of the exercise are:

  • Do things the right way
  • Stand out
  • Help people
  • Have fun

These are the values that reflect the CEO and the business and can now be used in all the processes from Recruitment to Performance Management to help drive the business. More information on this can be found at

That is a great example of how to develop company values from the bottom up by asking key stakeholders to sum up the business.

There is no single right way to develop your company values, each business will be different and have different values. If you are a small business, any values are bound to reflect you, your vision for the business, what is important in your business to make it great and the image you want to project. You may develop these values yourself or like the example I used, ask others who have been exposed to the business.

Questions you could ask of trusted stakeholders are:

  • How would you describe the organisation and the way it does business in three words or phrases?
  • What do you see as the core values that underpin the way this organisation does business?
  • How do you experience those values in action – can you give examples?
  • Are there any gaps between what the business says and what it does – are there any specific examples?
  • Does your experience of working with the business vary depending on the people you deal with?


Share these answers with your employees and come up with words or phrases that everyone or most can agree on which best reflect the company. If it is a larger business, perhaps use focus groups to develop the values from the information you’ve got.

If employees are involved in the development of the values, the more likely they are to be engaged with them and reflect those values.

Perhaps more importantly, is once developed, how these values are used. If they are just words on a poster or on a website then they are meaningless. A CEO at a company I worked at which was a global US-based company, would always say he wanted the values to “live” and be used in everything we did. He never wasted an opportunity to say this and when developing policies the values were always something to draw on and point to.

In the “Best Places to Work” survey, 97% of the 100 best places to work had value statements put their values at the heart of everything they do and put their business success down to them.

So having developed your values, it is important to make sure that these are communicated properly and the behaviour of everyone in the business, including you, reflect those values. If employees see that only lip service is paid to the values, cynicism will prevail and business performance will reflect this.

Make the focus of all your people processes from recruitment to exiting the business around these values and build your business around them and maybe you will be in the top 100 best places to work.

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