Choosing Strategic Core Values and Assigning Qualities (4 Simple Steps)

Integrity. Collaboration. Respect.

These are some of the most popular corporate values, according to a recent MIT study. But what’s the intention behind choosing those common values (and others)? Do they matter? Are they essential?

In short - yes.

Corporate values are a powerful tool and should be top of mind for HR professionals and Leaders. The right values have the power to connect your entire workforce and drive everyone toward a shared goal. But to get there, you must align your corporate values to your strategy and into daily life within your organization. That’s why values are such an integral part of the Kudos® employee engagement and recognition platform.

When values are distilled down from broad, aspirational statements to clear behaviors or qualities, employees are equipped with clear expectations of which behaviors will enable them to do their jobs in a meaningful and valued way. 

 Why Should HR Professionals Care about Values?

  • Values define your employer brand, or “what it’s like” to work for your company to prospective employees.
  • Clear values help HR and hiring managers understand who will be a good fit for the company.
  • Values and associated behaviors allow for simpler performance management and measurement – employees and managers are all working toward the same goals.

Why Should Organizational Leaders Care about Values? 

  • Values can put your business strategy into action and align employee efforts to business goals, improving productivity and results.
  • Values also serve as a roadmap, guiding employees in making decisions in day-to-day tasks. This can be especially helpful in organizations where employees work remotely, with less supervision or guidance readily available.
  • Values can drive and align decision-making, hiring, communication, and other business processes.

Whether you're preparing to launch the Kudos® platform in your organization, or simply looking for a way to improve and align your culture toward your business goals, these four steps will guide you in optimizing your corporate value strategy:

Hint: Depending on your situation, you may already have your values established and can start at step 3, but taking the time to revisit and refresh values periodically is always a good idea.

"MIT found a strong correlation between financial performance and the degree to which employees believed their company’s values were being practiced."

STEP 1: Understand and Define Your Business Strategy and Goals

Every business has a strategy. It’s how your organization plans to achieve success. Do you know what your organization is trying to achieve and how?

Google’s strategy is, for example, based on differentiation, specifically developing unique capabilities fueled by constant cutting edge innovation - basically doing things no one else does. Alternatively, shoe retailer Zappos’ strategy is to be the company with the best customer service - it would make sense for their values to differ from Google’s.

Strategic planning at the highest level should always include a conversation about values and culture strategy. On average, 50-60% of Fortune 500 companies' business spending is allocated to labor – that human capital has to be aligned with your organization’s strategy and goals – and the right values can do that. MIT found a strong correlation between financial performance and the degree to which employees believed their company’s values were being practiced.


STEP 2: Determine Which Values Align with Your Business Goals

Chances are, you already have a set of corporate values described on your company website. But do they truly align to your business strategy and goals?

When outlining values, they should be simple and easy to understand versus overly general or aspirational. Unfortunately, according to research by Gallup, only 23% of employees strongly agree that they can apply their organization's values to their work every day.

Hopefully, your values align with your goals, strategy, and mission, but if they don’t, it might be time to coordinate a strategic initiative to update them. Here’s a comprehensive list of core values for inspiration.

Some companies choose to ignore the title of values altogether. Google refers to its values as “Ten things we know to be true,” which includes statements like “focus on the user and all else will follow.” and “fast is better than slow.” Zappos in turn refers to their values as a “way of life,” with strategically aligned values including “deliver WOW through service” and “create fun and a little weirdness.”

Take the time to choose values that make sense – that's the only way employees will adopt them in a sustainable way and create the culture you’re striving for to achieve your goals.

"23% of employees strongly agree that they can apply their organization's values to their work every day."

STEP 3: Assign Specific Behaviors/Qualities to Each Value

With your strategic core values in hand, the third step is defining what those values look like in action through distinct behaviors or qualities.

Identifying specific behaviors tied to each value allows your team to see your values as their “North Star,” guiding them in making decisions in day-to-day tasks. This can be especially helpful in organizations where employees work remotely, with less supervision or guidance readily available.

In the Kudos® platform, every recognition message sent includes the specific qualities the person being recognized has displayed – all of which are tied back to your corporate strategy (Step 1.)

In continuing with our examples of Google and Zappos, the qualities associated with the value “fast is better than slow” in Kudos® could be “fearlessness,” “bravery,” and “urgency,” and the qualities associated with “delivering WOW through service” at Zappos could be “humility,” “attention to detail,” and “understanding.”

Here are some more examples with more traditional values:

company core values chart


STEP 4: Implement Your Values Strategy Through Recognition

Finally, having strategically aligned values and corresponding behaviors won’t serve you unless you have a plan of action. One straightforward and incredibly effective way to do this is through recognition. Simply put, when employees are recognized for a specific action, they’re more likely to repeat it in the future. Explicitly tying recognition to company values helps sync company and employee principles even further.

But how?

That’s where the Kudos® platform can help.

Tying performance measurement and recognition to your corporate values enables you to build a resilient workforce with a robust culture, laser-focused on what matters most to your organization. What’s more, relating all actions and decisions to your core corporate can improve your business performance.

With Kudos®, specific value-tied qualities must be associated with each recognition message, keeping them top of mind and eventually leading to a culture that supports the behaviors and qualities that drive better performance. If an employee is recognized on Kudos® every time they perform well, they will continue to operate this way. Likewise, when colleagues see that recognition on the Kudos® platform, they will understand what they need to do to be successful at work and grow in their role, and receive public recognition along the way. A culture of recognition built through Kudos® will lead to a high-performing culture. Aligning your values to recognition is a simple, but powerful tool to achieve your results.

Here’s what this looks like in action, using the Google and Zappos examples:

Google Values Alignment

Zappos Values Alignment


Moving Forward with Strategic Values

One benefit of rolling out your values strategy with Kudos® is that if your business strategy changes or you notice issues with your culture, you can easily update your values and begin recognizing employees who are living the new values to quickly affect change.

Identifying values and assigning behaviors and qualities can help you create a happy, focused, and performance-oriented culture. When company culture aligns with core values, remarkable things can happen.


Schedule a call with Kudos today to discover how we can help! Kudos is an employee engagement, culture, and analytics platform, that harnesses the power of peer-to-peer recognition, values reinforcement, and open communication to help organizations boost employee engagement, reduce turnover, improve culture, and drive productivity and performance. Kudos uses unique proprietary methodologies to deliver essential people analytics on culture, performance, equity, and inclusion, providing organizations with deep insights and a clear understanding of their workforce.

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