Company culture is built on behaviors and values which we encounter every day—often without even realizing it.
There’s Rachel on the Dev team who always goes out of her way to carefully explain complex coding issues to her Marketing colleagues. And then there’s Marco the lead designer who clearly takes pride in his work and always welcomes feedback. Finally there’s Max, VP of QA, who organizes coffee chats once a day with people outside of his department.
Although they’re small gestures, these are the kinds of actions and behaviors that imbue an organization with a certain kind of culture, which culminate to create an organization’s unique personality. And each of them stems from individual values.
Most organizations nowadays have a list of values, usually on their website: a declaration of what they stand for and the type of organization they’re striving to be. A statement of core values is fine, but I thought it might be helpful to break down a few examples to show what values actually look like in practice.
6 examples of company values in action
OK, I’ll admit it: this is a company value here at Jostle, and it just so happens to be one of my favorites. I had to include it on this list. The full value actually goes like this: “Love your craft: create elegant solutions, care about the details, and enjoy the process.”
This is one of those core values that really applies to all aspects of what people do in any organization. It’s about taking pride in your work, honing your craft, improving your skills, growing your career, but also enjoying that process of self-improvement, too. Even if you don’t think of what you do as a “craft” per se, it’s worth remembering that the skills you bring to that role can be improved upon and nurtured.
So what form does this take in a workplace? It’s a product designer taking the time to carefully craft a new feature, paying close attention to the small details. It’s a writer (ahem) going the extra mile to craft a compelling story. It’s a people manager learning how to best support her team.
Fundamentally, it’s about caring about the work each of us produces, and paying attention to how that work brings us all together.
Which brings me to the next value on this list: connection. A sense of connectedness in the workplace is the basic building block of both teamwork and trust. It’s the acknowledgment that we’re all in this together in order to make something we all believe in.
Connection can mean a lot of different things for organizations, but it’s also about relating: to people, ideas, objectives, perspectives, backgrounds, and values. If you can get your people to relate to each other even a little bit better, you’re already on the way to creating a more connected workplace.
What does connection look like in practice? A team member might really connect with a particular concept or project, and their increased enthusiasm might rub off on others. Another team member might emotionally connect with their organization’s values or purpose, and find another level of meaning in their role that previously didn’t exist for them.
Connection might be as simple as a strong workplace friendship between colleagues. More on this later.
3) Personal responsibility
This one kind of speaks for itself, but I wanted to include it on this list because I think it’s often taken for granted. Sometimes in the workplace people default to autopilot and begin to lose track of how their work impacts others. This is where personal responsibility is most important.
In the workplace this means taking ownership of projects while remaining accountable and trustworthy. It’s about embodying self-discipline both in your work and your day-to-day interactions. Practically, this is about keeping people in the loop and remaining open, honest, and dependable.
You might practice personal responsibility in your 1:1s with your manager, in status update meetings, or encouraging your people to huddle every morning.
A recent study of workplace empathy by Businessolver found that 96 percent of employees surveyed believed it was important for their employers to demonstrate empathy. Interestingly, 92 percent thought that empathy is undervalued by their employer.
It’s interesting because, for a lot of people, empathy is an extremely big deal. It’s one of those values we’re taught at a very young age (and rightfully so), but for whatever reason employers don’t seem to be elevating it to the status of a company-wide value.
It’s funny because acts of empathy are so common in the workplace throughout the course of a typical day. For instance, a coworker might express some frustration with their work, and you’ll offer to take them out for a coffee to chat. They’re not looking for solutions; they just need to be heard. That’s a subtle act of empathy. Another example might be offering support to a team member who’s falling behind or overworked.
Empathy is one of those values that, if given the status it deserves, could completely transform an organization’s culture.
5) Relish challenge
Don’t worry, this one’s not about a side-competition at a hot dog eating contest. This is all about embracing, overcoming, and ultimately learning from challenges. It just so happens to be another Jostle value, too! Here’s the full core value: “Relish challenge: find better ways, debate the knotty problems, and grow your skills.”
The key to successfully facing challenging problems is to come together as a team and co-create. Co-creation is all about optimization through respectful debate: of an idea, a strategy, and a means for achieving a shared goal. And overcoming challenges is no different. When there are multiple stakeholders involved, the project is going to benefit from their perspectives, opinions, and critiques.
In other words, relishing challenge means taking a problem to the wider group, putting it through the ringer, and coming out on top.
Yes, fun! Let’s face it: we spend a third of our lives at work. And what’s the point if it’s not an enjoyable experience?
A fun-loving work environment may not work for all organizations. In a lot of ways, though, it’s the glue that keeps teams together and workplaces functioning. Think of all the in-jokes, laughter, and silliness you share with colleagues on a typical work day. When you’re having fun with colleagues you’re effectively creating lasting bonds which form the foundation for a strong, connected culture.
When you make fun a core value, you’re intentionally creating a more relaxed atmosphere at work, which can go a long way towards making people feel more comfortable, too.
As Chris Hendrixson of Astronomer.io explains, “There’s no one-size-fits-all version of fun, but each day presents us with a new opportunity to find some way to bring joy to ourselves, our team and, ultimately, our customers.”
It’s important to remember that core values can't be foisted upon people in order to change their behavior. Core values shouldn’t come from the top. Instead, pay attention to what your people value, and the ways in which they interact with one another every day. People are constantly performing small acts of kindness, respect, collaboration, and empathy. Pay attention to those gestures and elevate them whenever you can. After all, the most impactful core values are a result of simply listening to your people.
Want to learn more about how values create culture?