How to Operationalize Core Values in an Organization

The development of a strong foundational culture and clarity around core values go hand-in-hand in the modern-day organization. There are many examples of businesses displaying their core values on large screens or signage in their offices but what do they truly mean when you look through the organization? If you were to ask a cross-section of employees, even middle and upper managers, would they even know what they were? This is a common concern of business owners and leaders, as fundamentally they will strive to embody a predetermined set of values they want their company to demonstrate and live by, but how do you operationalize company core values and allow them to live and breathe among your people?

Refer to them consistently

Whether there is explicit referral to your core values at the start of company meetings, they appear on performance review documentation or used to guide decision-making processes throughout the company, constantly referring to your core values shows all employees how they, too, can epitomize them in their day-to-day employment.

Recognize behaviors that align with them

Another effective way to operationalize your core values is to highlight observed behaviors of staff throughout the organization that align with specific values.

It could be a simple 1-on-1 conversation or highlighting them in front of others. Either way, you will be solidifying positive behaviors that align with the values you wish to demonstrate. An example could be a company with a core value such as “community” and celebrating an employee representing the organization on a local non-profit board or as a coach on a little league team. Whatever examples you may have, celebrate them!

Use them in coaching conversations

Sometimes managers find it difficult to coach undesirable behaviors as they may struggle to contextualize them. Using core values to frame these coaching conversations helps to provide context for employees and managers to have meaningful discussions and move forward with confidence. An example of this could be with a core value such as “teamwork.” If an employee has refused to work in a team to achieve a certain goal and friction is being caused, having a conversation around the core value of teamwork will help to re-frame the behavior and provide context for why working alone is not how the company chooses to operate.

While defining your company core values is a rewarding exercise to go through for any leadership team, displaying them in an eye-catching way may not be enough to get them to live and breathe in the organization.

Always strive to provide context and real-life examples to your people that demonstrate their positive effect on the organization and the customers you serve; this way your core values will surely come to life.