How We Discovered Our Company’s Core Values

by Ilona Radu

Core values are the foundation on which any company makes business decisions and solidifies long and successful relationships. You might think that you don’t need them or that you don’t have them, yet the beliefs and motivations that drive you and your team are already there and they exist, you just need the right strategy to identify and delineate them. Here is what worked for us.

Trust the process, don’t rush the process

First of all, don’t expect that this is an easy ride. The process of discovering and developing the core values of a company can be a long and difficult process, and it should be done together, as a team. Depending on how big your team is, you can do brainstorm sessions or one-on-one interviews that would help in pointing out what is important for team members, as well as the qualities that they believe the company and themselves embody best.

For us, the one-on-one interview process was the best approach, where we could work from the bottom up to discover what was relevant for the team, as well as build on that research to find the common goals. Fair warning, a research of this magnitude will leave you with a lot of data, so you will need the proper time to analyze it and make sure you do not deviate from the path.

Core values are all about people

We’ve talked so far about how important are core values for your company and business, yet you always have to keep in mind the fact that these values, as they are drafted, represent the people within your company and the way they work and interact.

Thus, after we finalized the one-on-one interview process and gathered the intelligence we needed to draw a picture of the company that best represented us, we did another exercise that was immensely helpful in our path of core value definition. Along with team managers and leads, we asked everyone to think of 3 people in the company that they admire, and then state the qualities that make these people exemplary. This is a step that helped us in discovering the values and beliefs that were already deeply grounded within our teams and colleagues, and provided the right information we needed to head to the next step.

Revisit and grow

Once you manage to centralize all your data, you will see points converging towards what will become your core values. Now the process of finding the right wording begins. And just like a living organism, it will grow together with your company. Remember, the core values that you will build at this point will not only reflect where you are now, but also where you and your team will stand in the future as well.

Start drafting, ask for feedback, and start rewriting and refining. Also, try to look at your core values as a key differentiator for your company, for both sales and recruiting. Try to ask yourself, and your team, “what are the qualities that a new employee would look for in a new team?”, as well as “do these core values fit our overall purpose as a company?”

It’s ok if the first draft does not feel perfect. It is also ok if the second and third and the next few do not hit the mark either. Try to combine values, try to elaborate them and play with different versions until you can find the one that best exemplifies your team. The list is not static – some companies change one or two of their core values months or even years in the process. It took us almost a year to reach a point where we feel we have embraced our core values, and even at this point we are open to any changes as our company and teams grow and need new motivation.

Core values are not just words

Which leads us to the last part. Acknowledging that core values are not just words on a wall, a list of items in an e-mail, or a stick we can use to beat each other with when some goals are not realized. Core values represent us, our essence and our culture, and the point that we want to reach, together. Part of growth is realizing that change is imminent, as well as adapting and updating your core to fit where your team is at every turn.

In addition, as tempting it might be to search online for the top core values used by companies worldwide, then adopt 5 random words and make them your team’s new commandments, try to resist that urge. Those words will soon be ignored, forgotten, and arise frustrations out of hard working colleagues who are told to “be honest”, without the proper context.

Lastly, why it is me writing this article? In my work as People Manager, as well as when interviewing new applicants to join our company, I found that beyond skills, projects and growth opportunities lies the company code, our culture. Finding a group of people where you fit, where you feel you can communicate openly, and where you know you know you have the same beliefs, that is more than just a job and a workplace, that is becoming part of a community.

If you want to check out our core values, we created a fun video that details each of them, and if you want to learn how our values fit with your own personal goals and if Maxcode would be a great place for you to work, please contact me and we can have a chat.

Madalina Nechifor, Team Manager at Maxcode

About Ilona Radu

Ilona’s experience of over 13 years began in human resources, in recent years deepening the fields of organizational development, team management and coordination, training, and performance management. What motivates her the most is everything about working with and for people, the leaps of faith they take together, and the results and effects we can see when guiding others to their true potential.

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