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An Exercise in Defining Corporate Culture

Diane has a master's degree in Human Resources Development (HRD) from Villanova University and is a SHRM Certified Practicioner.

What are the core values of your corporation or team? Learn how to identify them.

What are the core values of your corporation or team? Learn how to identify them.

At the heart of corporate culture are the core values that guide a firm’s actions, unite its employees, and define its brand. These values align teams, direct hiring decisions, and guide future decisions.

Core values should be revisited often, integrated into daily operations, and used as a guide to continuously speak to where the organization wants to go in the future. These values should be the foundation that unifies the corporation and provides a definition of what it means to succeed.

Core values aren’t just about lists for recognition; they’re your brand, your guiding light, and your purpose

How to Identify Your Corporation or Team’s Core Values

  1. Have your employees define their own personal core values. These are the values that they hold true and bring to work every day: how they treat their coworkers and customers, their attitude toward work and productivity, etc.
  2. Provide your team with a list of adjectives (core values). Have them circle any words that resonate with them as it relates to your team or corporation. Is there is a word missing from the list? Have them add their own.
  3. In small groups, have each team member discuss which words they choose and why. Have each group select their top 12 core values.
  4. As a large group, have each team share their top 12 core values. Narrow that list down to six. These six words should represent the values that your company or team will never compromise on. These six words should represent your company or team’s guiding light and its purpose.
  5. Now, define these six words. What do these values look like in the workplace when they are being upheld? What do they look like when they are not being upheld?
  6. Remember, core values should be an integral part of a team or organization—not something that you “set and forget.” Brainstorm ideas on how these core values will be incorporated into existing practices or define new ways to incorporate them into the daily workflow. Examples include recognition programs, performance reviews, and 1-on-1s.
  7. Your core values are the foundation of your brand and culture. Ensure that practices reflect these values. If one of your core values is “teamwork,” yet your organization works in silos with little room for openness, communication, or cooperation, your organization is operating in direct opposition to what it is espousing.
  8. Revisit your core values often. If your organization or team’s vision changes, make sure your core values still represent your priorities.

© 2019 Diane Abramson