Why We Should Remember Company Values (And Write Them Down)

Summary: Companies often write down their values on websites. When a potential employee spots them, they can never be sure if these are just plain words. We will infer what it takes to build a legitimate set of company values.

The session here is reserved for philosophy flowing into business, logic influencing understanding, and language building our truths. We’ve been contemplating on psychological safety earlier; here we will explore its tentacles in company values.

The topic is an eternal Hamlet conundrum, and a chicken-and-an-egg question: to write or not to write company values? What came first – values in action or on paper, and how is this interconnected? A session of linguistic philosophy is about to start.

Company Values, Philosophy of Language And a Muse

The logic and philosophy of language have always been my mental romantic affair. Ultimately, it all comes down to being and existence, the terms popular among philosophy students and professors alike, and the sources of many puns.

A late professor of mine would refer to lazy students as sitting on a branch, playing harp, and waiting for their being to come along. Being is crucial for establishing our truths, so we should be more proactive about it, however.

The reason why we are discussing all this with company values in the backdrop is because we want to feel out the connection between values being written on company websites and values being lived.

To be completely honest, we found inspiration in a LinkedIn post from Jonas Molbech-Kuskner on company values being forced onto employees. There.

Name It to Make It Real

Inevitably, we have to establish some guidelines in our line of thinking, although I will try not to make this a deep philosophical discussion.

When we name something (or attribute a word to a reference), then it definitely exists. You can think about it, perhaps detect it in real life (in other words, the idea is actualized in the material form); it definitely ‘is’. To take it a bit further, you have to experience something, recognize that experience, and this act of recognition can be naming that experience.

If we don’t name it, how can we know it’s there? Well, because it isn’t. Try to think of yourself on your first days at a new job. You’ve been enticed to ask any questions you have, but at some point you’re at the pitfall: a thing you never knew occurred, because you had no previous experience of it and didn’t actually know the job well enough to ask those questions in advance. How can you ask about something you don’t know is even there, right?

Now back to company values.

What Is The Best Practice for Developing Company Values?

If you as an individual set company culture and values high on your priority list when looking for a new job, you will most likely raid the company website searching for this section. Most likely, you will find it, read it and, if they hit the bullseye with you, then you’ll think, “wow, this workplace must be great!”

This is probably the only segment in which we slightly part ways with our muse Jonas. He asks: “But who thinks that a couple of buzzwords actually push a collective feeling?”

At the point when your company values have already been identified, we do believe that they set the direction for any new employee, presenting the expected framework for them to operate in. When you welcome new team members, as an employer (and an employee likewise!) you probably wish them to accept and respect the culture set by the team that’s already there.

A note to all of us: clients also tend to scan company values, and this is something our Operations Manager Sara discussed in her podcast with the eLearning Industry.
What is important here is the collective awareness that company culture is a living organism.

Values Are Fluid

With each new team member, and different time contexts in the company, perspectives are widened in additional directions, or the old ones reinforced.

One may compare it to their shadow throughout a day. In the morning, your shadow falls long behind you, while around noon time it is shorter. You, the core, are always there, but the projection of the shadow adapts to the sun’s position.

Basically, you want to make sure that your identified values follow the track of time and reflect what’s actually real in your company. This is the segment in which we see eye to eye with Jonas.

Take Time to Periodically Revise And Refresh Company Values

Thinking from the perspective of a 100% remote team, values may seem as distant ideas to outsiders. What we at eWyse know and can confirm is the utter and complete nonsense of the latter proposition. Values are so deeply inscribed in our every “how” and “what”, that they transcend wireless emissions and are felt as completely real. And even if you’re not entirely certain about your colleagues’ vibes, ultimately you will feel them when we meet in person :).

To build upon the previous section, values are fluid. As a new member joins our team, they will inevitably contribute to our culture by adding or reinforcing a segment to it. This is why it’s important to constantly think about values and culture and their impact on the work environment. And vice versa.

Additionally, we believe in updates. Periodical conversations and workshops on the topic have a tendency to strengthen teams from several perspectives:

  • Overall morale: Let’s be honest, nothing can be more inspirational than being in the same room and direct interaction with a bunch of hyped, optimistic, creative individuals who discover common experiences and conclusions.
  • Cohesiveness: Once real values are extracted, you have a glue that sticks all team members together.
  • Respect: When employees witness that the topic of values and company culture is fundamental to company leadership, they will foster respect for the leadership, the entire company, and the work they (the employees) do for the company.

Such workshops are great team-building activities. Even more importantly, they provide amazing insights into how employees perceive their working environment and how real the proposed values actually are. The content collected from those workshops can then serve as the basis for the revision of the existing values and, potentially, the forming of new ones.

How To Detoxify Toxic Company Culture?

Shoot, that’s a hard one.

We believe that leading by example is the best way to transfer leadership’s care for culture and value to the company. Not only care, for that matter, but application as well. Everyone’s active contribution, transparent communication, and accountability would be the tools to help the teams detect the weak points and invest all efforts into improving them. It takes a lot of bravery on a personal level, too, but if everyone’s mindset is set to this course, and reinforced by positive experiences, it will be easier to accept this way of doing things.

As our muse, Jonas, said, “‘Togetherness’ written on mouse pads won’t make up for a divided and toxic culture.”

Ultimately, we all strive to connect with others, and shared values present a fertile ground for establishing meaningful relationships. Only teams that are connected can reach amazing results, so we think that every employer should be thinking about company values all the time with all their energy. And – to be crystal clear – not only words, but their presence in references (again with the language philosophy :)).

Conclusion: Live Values, Write Values, This Is an Infinite Loop

As a conclusion, allow me to answer my questions from the introduction:

  • A Hamlet conundrum: to write or not to write company values? We vote for “write”. They will serve as guidance for all potential employees and clients. Just not from the top of your head, though, that’s unethical.
  • A chicken-and-an-egg question: What came first – values in action or on paper? We could try to argue that this depends on one’s position – are they a newbie or an established team member. However, in their deepest core, they had to be lived first. And then named. That’s it then.

Living by set values is instrumental in maintaining a healthy company culture. Values are fluid and can be deepened or expanded to additional values with time, in different contexts. The most important thing is to be aware of their fluidity. Then, act accordingly: communicate to your team members, employees, and you’ll get the real picture, your integrity and your authenticity.

P.S. Thanks, Jonas.

Author: Tamara Tomek
Images: Ivan Blažević

Sources: Molbech-Kuskner, Jonas. (2024, January). I hate when employees are forced to remember company values. In my world, it’s totally upside down. I get that [Post]. LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/posts/jonas-molbech-kuskner_i-hate-when-employees-are-forced-to-remember-activity-7155528205557260289-PJ07/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=member_desktop

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