The core values of an organization are those values we hold which form the foundation on which we perform work and conduct ourselves. We have an entire universe of values, but some of them are so primary, so important to us that through out the changes in society, government, politics, and technology they are STILL the core values we will abide by. In an ever-changing world, core values are constant. Core values are not descriptions of the work we do or the strategies we employ to accomplish our mission. The values underlie our work, how interact with each other, and which strategies we employ to fulfill our mission. The core values are the basic elements of how we go about our work. They are the practices we use (or should be using) every day in everything we do.
Core Values About Life
Often, when you hear someone discuss why they fell in love with a spouse, they will mention that they have the same values. In this case, they are often talking about core values, or internal beliefs that dictate how life is to be lived.
Some examples of core values people might have about life include:
- A belief, or lack thereof, in God and/or an affiliation with a religious institution
- A belief in being a good steward of resources and in exercising frugality
- A belief that family is of fundamental importance
- A belief that honesty is always the best policy and that trust has to be earned
- A belief in maintaining a healthy work/life balance
Parents also try to instill these types of positive core values in children.
Of course, core values don't always have to be positive. Some people may be driven by self-interest or greed, and these are core values too if they dictate the way the people live their lives.
Corporate Core Values
Companies can have core values as well. These are the guiding principles that help to define how the corporation would behave. They are usually expressed in the corporation's mission statement.
Some examples of core values for a company might include:
- A commitment to sustainability and to acting in an environmentally friendly way. Companies like Patagonia and Ben & Jerry's have environmental sustainability as a core value.
- A commitment to innovation and excellence. Apple Computer is perhaps best known for having a commitment to innovation as a core value. This is embodied by their "Think Different" motto.
- A commitment to doing good for the whole. Google, for example, believes in making a great search engine and building a great company without being evil.
As you can see, many of the core values that companies have are similar to those that individuals might choose as guiding principles as well.
Companies may also have negative core values as well. Companies that are solely motivated by profit, such as tobacco companies who lied to their customers about the dangers of smoking, may have been driven by core values of self-interest and an overly strong profit motive.
Some Types of Core Values
There are countless types of core values, as you can see, so you will need to choose the ones that are right for you or your organization.
Here are some examples of core values from which you may wish to choose:
Identifying Core Values
While some people or companies might expressly publish their core values, often the best way to identify these values is to which how they act and behave. A core value is only a true core value if it has an active influence and if the people or company manage to live by it, at least most of the time.
We have discussed why core values are important and some strategies for setting core values. You may be wondering: what do core values look like? Below is a list of 10 core values that are common across organizations in different industries:
- Accountability – Acknowledging and assuming responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies. It can be applied to both individual accountability on the part of employees and accountability of the company as a whole.
- Balance – Taking a proactive stand to create and maintain a healthy work-life balance for workers.
- Commitment – Committing to great product, service, and other initiatives that impact lives within and outside the organization.
- Community –Contributing to society and demonstrating corporate social responsibility.
- Diversity – respecting the diversity and giving the best of composition. Establishing an employee equity program.
- Empowerment – Encouraging employees to take initiative and give the best. Adopting an error-embracing environment to empower employees to lead and make decisions.
- Innovation – Pursuing new creative ideas that have the potential to change the world.
- Integrity – Acting with honesty and honor without compromising the truth
- Ownership – Taking care of the company and customers as they were one’s own.
- Safety – ensuring the health and safety of employees and going beyond the legal requirements to provide an accident-free workplace.