At Y Scouts, we have the unique opportunity to learn about the cultures and workplaces of the organizations we serve as part of our executive search process.
A core part of any organization is its company values. What are core values, exactly? Core values are simply the beliefs and opinions that inform intentions and actions. For a company, carefully crafted core values can set you apart from the competition. Conversely, ill-conceived values can spell disaster for the organization and its culture, exposing inauthenticity and generating confusion among the rank and file. Core values are not just impressive words. They must be both relevant and salient.
Company Core Values Are True North
At Y Scouts, we aim to share our beliefs and tell a story, and our core values serve as an internal guide for our actions and behaviors. They indicate the direction that is true north. When a company adheres to its core values, these values are reflected in its programs, policies, slogans and operations. They will even manifest themselves in the way employees speak to one another.
One of our core values is “Learning crushes knowing.” We believe the future belongs to the learners, those who continue to lean into learning. Simply relying on what made someone successful in the past is rarely the right recipe for similar success in the future. The relentless pursuit of knowledge is a critical behavior at Y Scouts.
Getting Real about Core Values
Core values must be genuine, reflecting the positive attitudes and beliefs within your company. If, for example, your employees are all female, then, clearly, diversity is not a core value. If you want to be more diverse, or you wish to be more inclusive, these are aspirational goals. When you define your core values through aspirations rather than as they really are, you destroy the credibility and the strength of your actual values.
Should you have aspirational values? Absolutely. Just make sure that they are clearly labeled as such. Then, put in place the programs and the systemic changes needed to convert aspirations into reality.
How Do Companies Instill Their Core Values?
Of course, it’s not enough to simply post your core values on the bulletin board in the employee lounge. Companies must reinforce and reward the behaviors that they wish to promote. There are many levers that you can pull to increase support for your core values. Each new hire, every policy change, the initiatives that you undertake, even the paint color selected for the office walls; these all communicate to your employees what matters most.
The company’s core values should drive every aspect of the business, including the culture and strategic actions you take. They come down to asking the right questions regarding your systems and processes, including during the following procedures, for example:
- Hiring: Are you bringing on board the people who complement and support your values and culture?
- Training: Are you offering sponsored, as well as self-directed, training courses and materials that support your values?
- Leave policies: If you value family life, do your policies support work-life balance or allow time off for caretaking responsibilities?
- Technology: Do your computer systems support work-from-home, autonomous decision-making or collaboration to support the employee empowerment you espouse?
- Rewards and Incentives: If you value innovation, are you rewarding creativity as well as giving permission to take intelligent risks (or even fail)?
- Compensation: If you value customer service, are your bonuses based on excellent customer satisfaction surveys?
- Leadership: If you value leadership development but have limited opportunities, do you encourage leadership outside of the formal organizational structure?
This is just a sampling of the types of questions management could ask. Once you have developed your core values, you and your leadership team will be able to identify relevant ways to integrate these values into everything you do. These values will be especially important to bake into your hiring process and decisions to ensure that you are attracting talent aligned with your mission and vision.
Core Values Examples in Top Companies
What are the top core values typically found in organizations today? There are definitely some common themes. Resist the temptation to cut and paste, however. In order to ensure that your values have meaning, make them unique. It’s one key way your employees can tell the difference between “who we are” and all the other players. Many companies include the core value of collaboration. But how many encourage its employees to “play, as a team” like Atlassian? (See below.)
Every organization finds a different way to express its values. That’s why we decided to take a look at the top core values from 10 companies that are mentioned in lists of best places to work. These lists include, but are not limited to the following:
- Great Places to Work’s World’s Best Workplaces
- Fortune Magazine Best Places to Work
- Forbes’ Best Startup Employers
These companies have successfully integrated their values into all things employee-related. For them, these values go beyond words.
Founded in a dorm room in 2003, SquareSpace now has more than 1,100 employees. Its values continue to center around the company’s intention to foster a culture of creativity, collaboration and design excellence.
Purpose: Giving voice to ideas.
- Be your own customer
- Empower individuals
- Design is not a luxury
- Good work takes time
- Optimize toward ideals
Learn more about the values at SquareSpace at https://www.squarespace.com/about/values.
2. Pinnacle Financial Partners
Pinnacle, a Tennessee-based financial services firm, is so strongly committed to its values that it provides new employees a three-day cultural alignment orientation. The firm facilitates an engaging and rewarding culture that it supports by robust programs and systems even during the past challenging pandemic year.
Purpose: To be the best financial services firm and the best place to work in Tennessee.
Learn more about the values at Pinnacle Financial Partners at https://www.pnfp.com/about-pinnacle/who-we-are/.
With respectful and dignified treatment among its top values, even 93 percent of Hagerty’s employees say it’s a great place to work. The largest provider of specialty insurance for collectible cars, the company consistently earns high marks in Fortune’s Best Workplaces in Financial Services and Insurance.™
Purpose: To protect the physical connections to the best moments in your life.
- Being honest
- Treating everyone with respect and dignity
- Delivering on our promises
- Always exceeding expectations
Learn more about the values at Hagerty at https://www.hagerty.com/corporate/Values.
Atlassian is more than a software company, particularly these days when team collaboration and real-time communication are more important than ever. Its values are among the reasons employees love to come to work each day, although the free treats can’t hurt.
Purpose: Helping teams everywhere change the world through the power of software.
- Open company, no bullshit
- Build with heart and balance
- Don’t #@!% the customer
- Play, as a team
- Be the change you seek
Learn more about the values at Atlassian at https://www.atlassian.com/company/careers.
A global provider of enterprise software for digital advertising companies, Centro’s core values, succinctly stated in its corporate manifesto, drive its key principles. These principles include the cultivation of “raving fans” and the belief that “impact is possible.”
Purpose: Improve the lives of the people behind the campaigns.
- Dedication to growth and well-being of individuals
- Responsibility of employees for improvement of self, corporation and others around them
Learn more about the values at Centro at https://www.centro.net/careers/manifesto.
6. Cirrus Logic
Texas-based semiconductor company Cirrus Logic offers its employees the opportunity to innovate world-class products. The company is globally recognized for its performance-driven culture that promotes excellence and trusted relationships.
Purpose: To be the first choice in signal processing components.
- Continuous improvement
- Job satisfaction
Learn more about the values at Cirrus Logic at https://master-nq.webp2.cirrus.com/careers/culture-of-innovation/.
Keap employees, known as Keapers, share the company’s passion to empower small businesses. Management considers Keap values a part of their everyday processes and these values are reflected in actions, rather than mere words.
Purpose: We help small businesses thrive with sales and marketing software built for them.
- We genuinely care
- We own it
- We learn always
- We build trust
- We check egos
- We dream big
- We win together
Learn more about the values at Keap at https://keap.com/about/culture.
Although this technology solution provider’s operations are entirely remote, TaxJar has garnered awards for culture, leadership, work-life balance and more. They pride themselves on allowing employees to be who they are.
Purpose: Make eCommerce easier for everyone, so business owners can concentrate on growing their businesses.
- We know we’re doing better together.
- We’re always learning and growing.
- We shape our own destiny.
- We build relationships that matter.
Learn more about the values at TaxJar at https://www.taxjar.com/about/.
9. American Transmission Company
American Transmission Company is a multi-state utility provider, the first of its kind in the U.S. The company culture and its values facilitate a team of people who have fun, care about one another, and take pride in the services they provide.
Purpose: To significantly grow our business, provide value to our investors and serve our customers well.
- Community interaction
- Competitive spirit
- Improvement and innovation
Learn more about the values at American Transmission Company at https://www.atcllc.com/careers/our-workplace-culture/.
10. Clif Bar
Clif Bar is a 100 percent employee-owned company with values tied to the sustainability of the environment and the vitality of the community. The company named its first-ever chief innovation office in November 2020 and a plan to grow the brand’s positive impact worldwide.
Purpose: To help create a healthier, more just and sustainable food system.
Learn more about the values at Clif Bar at https://www.clifbar.com/who-we-are/.
What are your company’s top core values? How are your core values different from the ones that exist at some of the best medium-sized workplaces in America? Let Y Scouts know on Facebook, Twitter or our LinkedIn page. Or, reach out to one of our search experts today to discuss how to let your company’s core values lead when making key executive hiring decisions.
This post was originally published in 2015 and updated for clarity and accuracy in 2021