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Cat Lewis-Robert Hicks-values

6 min read

It’s Friday afternoon, and a small team in your company has just returned from lunch. A member of your staff – let’s call her Rebecca – decides she wants a coffee. 

Does she:

A) Quickly make herself one?

B) Offer to make a pot for her team? After all, she’s back from lunch early and everyone looks like they could use a pick-me-up.

While she’s there, she bumps into a cleaner mopping up a spill. Does Rebecca:

A) Smile at the cleaner and move carefully around the mess?

B) Grab a spare mop and join in?

Back in the office, it’s time for a meeting, but it turns out the room has been double-booked. Does she:

A) Call reception to deal with it?

B) Talk it through with other members of staff and come up with an alternative solution that suits them both?

Let’s say Rebecca does A. This would be fair enough. Making coffee, cleaning the kitchen and managing room booking isn’t in her job description, and she has other responsibilities.

But what about option B? This speaks to a friendly, flexible personality that fosters a healthy and happy working environment. In our office, Rebecca would have adopted “Own It” – one of our eight company values.

What are company values?

They’re the things you want your staff to do when you aren’t looking.

Company values are the ethos, feel, attitude and mindset you want your staff to have.

They are a point of reference that allow them to understand the kind of company they are working for, and what is expected of them on both a micro and macro level. All-in-all, they allow employees of all seniority levels to hold themselves and their colleagues accountable.

Five years ago, Reward Gateway established our second set of values via a staff-led initiative. As companies mature and change, values need to stay relevant, but also need to continue to change as the company does. We were expanding, and so our original set of values – Innovate, Work Smart, Be Bold and Deliver – became:


The importance of company values

A solid set of values doesn’t just support your company and employers in the present, but in the years to come.

When it comes to recruiting with company values, candidates will use them as guidelines to discover where they fit in, and if their own personal values align with your organisation’s. Those who admire your values, and see their qualities reflected in them, will come forward. Those who do not will self-select out of working for you (and that’s OK!).

Accuracy and honesty is critical. If you are a conservative, steady company, don’t use the word “dynamic.” You will be attracting the wrong kind of candidates – those who crave change, not stability.

It’s a bit like a dating profile. It’s misleading to say you have good sense of humor if you never crack a smile!

Describe your company not as what you want to be perceived as, but as the reality of who you are.

OK, so how do you create company values?

Company values are not to be taken lightly, and it’s not a “set it and forget” tactic either. The right company values are critical to developing an engaged workforce  and increasing employee engagement to attract and retain your best people.


Step 1: Talk and frame

Creating company values should never be up to one person, or limited to the consensus of just a small group either. Avoid quickly hashing values together, say, through a couple of senior figures in a boardroom, at all costs!

Instead, conduct employee focus groups with individuals from various departments and geographical locations, and encourage them to talk about life at the company. What do they like and dislike? What is working at its best and what could be improved? Alongside your survey groups, I suggest asking the same questions company-wide via employee surveys in case some people who wanted to be involved were unable or unaware of the focus groups.

Download our eBook to learn how to create an open and honest culture through  communications »

Then begin to frame what you’ve got. Are words coming across positively or negatively? Are they understood differently across locations and departments? Is it the descriptions people are happy with, or the ideas behind them?

Every value needs to have a call-to-action. Make sure you have an anchor value, one that people have as their North Star. Secondly, make sure each aligns to your mission as a company, which means assessing every value through that lens too. Which brings us neatly to our next point…

Step 2: Refine and organise

It’s now time to bring in your leaders, managers and other senior figures. Ask which of the values resonate the most and which are most reflective of the company? Is there coherence between what the leaders understand of the company and the reality of the company?

You can then get organising. Find points of reference with staff and from your company history. Dig out examples of times when your values have been demonstrated. Each need to tell a story and describe life at the company. “Tell me about a time when…” is an easy way to get conversations flowing.

Reward Gateway Values Wall - Lego-1

Step 3: Write and communicate

Stage three is to codify your values in a way that everyone can comprehend. Ensure each can be expressed in an elevator pitch of no more than 30 seconds.

Then you need to communicate your values to your entire workforce. You can do this within written or digital channels, and they should be a fixture in your daily environment. How about wall decals in the office, or naming your meeting rooms after each of your values? Make sure they are present in your general thought leadership, and the day-to-day running of your business.

We even put together a video to talk about how our values link together. Have a look below:



Step 4: Remind and reward

Make your values an everyday part of what you do, and ensure they stay relevant. Further down the line, don’t be afraid to adjust them and evolve them as your company grows, too.

Finally, embed your values into your reward and recognition program too, and your overall approach to recognition. Our clients link eCards to values, to encourage values-based behaviour. It’s great to be able to articulate how someone demonstrates our Own It value with just a quick look at our Wow Wall, where we display all our eCards via social recognition.

Selecting the right values will embed the right kind of behaviors among employees. In turn this will drive engagement, productivity and innovation.

Ask yourself this. If values drive behaviours, what behaviours do you wish to have your staff aspire too?

We think the ideal team looks a lot less like Rebecca A, and a lot more like Rebecca B.

Robert Hicks

Robert is the Group HR Director at Reward Gateway. While running is his top way to unwind, he also loves going to gigs, watching football and cricket, and is known to enjoy the odd ski weekend.

Group HR Director

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