How to create values for your business

October 2021

How do you define the beliefs and spirit of your business to customers and employees? Create company values.

Every business has certain beliefs and behaviours at its core. These beliefs are qualities that are important to leadership and staff, which become an intrinsic part of how your business operates.

Codifying your beliefs into company values keeps them positioned at the heart of everything you do, building consistency and helping people understand the business.

Why is it important to create values?

Taking the time to create values can have a positive impact on how your business works, both internally and externally.

1. Values help staff learn about the business

Defining the core values helps staff understand the business. This will go on to shape their actions, from how long they spend talking to customers to how they interact with colleagues.

2. Values help attract future employees

Many businesses are finding that candidates are increasingly interested in a company’s values.

3. Values differentiate you from competitors

In a competitive market, values can become a key differentiator in the eyes of potential customers.

For example, imagine a customer is looking for a copywriting service in the local area. There are four copywriting services available, all of which have positive reviews and similar prices. How do you choose between them?

The customer will look for the company’s core values; they want to buy from someone who’s approach aligns with their beliefs. Perhaps one business has a value that promotes sustainability, which is something the customer values highly. This helps to build an emotional connection, making them more likely to buy from you.

Examples of company values

The values you create should define what’s important to your company. They should motivate and inspire both the leadership team and encourage employees to exhibit certain behaviours.

Here are some examples of common areas for core values:

  • Honesty

  • Commitment to customer service

  • Efficiency

  • Trust

  • Innovation

  • Fun

  • Teamwork

  • Leadership

  • Diversity

Mistakes you might make with company values

Not all values have the impact you want them to.

If you create values that your employees don’t understand or connect with, it can have a negative impact on staff and customers’ experiences.

Here are some common mistakes to avoid.

Your values aren’t defined properly

Avoid creating values that lack definition. Whether they’re vague or full of jargon, if your employees don’t really understand them, they won’t be able to follow them.

Many businesses choose “integrity” as a value. It’s an important quality of any business, but it could have a number of different meanings: to be honest; to treat customers fairly; to not steal; to hold yourself accountable.

While all of these definitions would lead to positive behaviour, the value of “integrity” won’t result in a clear direction for staff to follow. Your values can’t guide employees if they mean something different to everyone; make sure they are specific to your company.

There’s no employee input

Your company’s core values shouldn’t just come from the top.

To create values that resonate with your employees, it’s crucial to understand what they think. Employees are already practicing your company values on a daily basis, whether it’s going the extra mile for a customer or working closely as a team.

Getting their perspective should help to create values that are realistic and representative – not what one or two people think it should be.

Your values aren’t prioritised

Occasionally, one value might come into conflict with another. This can put your employees in difficult situations and leave them unsure how to move forward. Prioritising your values provides clarity about what’s most important for your company.

For example, two of your values might encourage staff to “Be efficient” and “Provide great customer service”. Depending on how they’re prioritised, a customer service call could go one of two ways:

If “Be efficient” is first, your employee might try to resolve the customer’s query as quickly as possible. If “Provide great customer service” is first, your employee might spend longer on the phone call to ensure the customer is completely satisfied with the service.

Running a workshop to identify core values

Organising a workshop is one of the best ways to create values for your business. By opening the topic up for discussion and debate, you can avoid many of the problems listed above. A workshop can identify and create values that resonate with both leaders and employees.

1. Choose key employees to attend

While it’s important to make sure staff, opinion is represented at the workshop, too many voices can make it difficult to find a resolution. You might also have employees who don’t embody the best qualities of your business.

Choose a number of key employees who have qualities that you admire and would like to see more of at the company in future.

2. Explain why values matter

Start by explaining why company values matter and why it’s important that they’re created collaboratively. It can help to provide some concrete examples of values and how they’ve helped to shape leading companies.

For example, here are Airbnb’s, which appear on their career site:

  • Champion the mission: We’re united with our community to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere.

  • Be a host: We’re caring, open and encouraging to everyone we work with.

  • Embrace the adventure: We’re driven by curiosity, optimism, and the belief that every person can grow.

  • Be a “cereal” entrepreneur: We’re determined and creative in transforming our bold ambitions into reality.

Encourage people to discuss the examples. What values do they connect with? Why?

3. Define what makes your company work

While it’s tempting to come up with values that sound good – communication, excellence, ambition – these phrases won’t make you stand out.

Think realistically about what makes your business work. If you aren’t sure where to start, try looking at feedback from outside of the business. Perhaps customers have praised your staff in the past for being honest or willing to take risks. This feedback can sometimes illuminate natural behaviours you hadn’t considered.

4. Create and vote on values

Split people into small groups and have them discuss values they’d like to see. Each value should have:

  • Meaning: Why does this value mean something to you personally? What makes you excited about it?

  • Relevance: Why is this value relevant to the business?

Explaining the meaning or story behind a value can help other people to understand why it might be a good fit.

Encourage each team to decide on three or four of the best values. The values should then be written down on a post-it note or whiteboard and discussed with the wider group. It’s a chance for everyone to understand the relevance of each value and think about whether anything could be tweaked or improved.

Try a dot system to vote on the best values. Give each person four green dot stickers and have them place the stickers on the most suitable values before taking a tally.

5. Set a follow-up meeting

Allocating one meeting to create your company’s core values won’t necessarily lead to the best results. People will need time to think about them and whether they’re the right fit for your company.

Put everything into a shared document and encourage everyone to add comments or suggestions. Reconvene the following week to discuss any improvements or changes.

Creating values is about taking regular behaviour at your company and setting them out as a goal for everyone to achieve. Be careful that you don’t mix up values with aspirations either – your core values should encompass the best of your business as it is, not as something you’d like to see in future.

How to create values for your business

A set of core company values can help your business to stand out from the crowd.

Creating values is about simplifying the best beliefs and behaviours of your company. They’re a natural part of how your business operates. Why not shout about them?

Dos and don’ts of creating values

✔ Do look at the qualities customers value most about your business

✔ Do involve both leaders and employees in the process

✔ Do prioritise your values to make it clear what’s important

✔ Do provide examples or stories to demonstrate your values in action

X Don’t choose values that are vague or full of jargon

X Don’t confuse values with aspirations

X Don’t involve too many people in your value-setting process

How to run a value-setting workshop

A workshop is a great way to identify values that resonate with people across the business. Here’s one way you could structure it:

1. Choose key leaders and employees to attend.

Attendees should embody qualities that are important to your business and that you’d like to see more of in future.

2. Explain why core values matter and why collaboration is important.

Include examples of values from leading companies like Google, Netflix, or Airbnb.

3. Brainstorm ideas about why your business works and what differentiates it from your competitors.

4. Divide your workshop into small groups to come up with ideas for values.

Make sure each value has context by adding:

  •   Meaning: What does this value mean to you personally?
  •   Relevance: Why is this value relevant to the business?

5. ​Discuss the values as a group and vote on them using a dot system.

Give each person four green dot stickers and have them place the stickers on the most suitable values.

6. Set a follow-up meeting to discuss and finalise your company values.

Creating core values helps staff and customers to understand who the company is and what it believes in. These values can be a key part of setting your business apart from the competition.


This article was written and originally published by The Productivity Group (trading as Be the Business). Be the Business is an independent, not for profit organisation set up to help business owners and leaders improve the performance of their business. © Copyright 2021 The Productivity Group.  All rights reserved.

Everything we publish on Business Talk is provided as general information only. It isn’t advice or an insight into the views of TSB or any of our Partners. This is for information only and should not be relied upon as offering advice for any set of circumstances.

Please think about getting independent financial advice if you want help with your personal situation.

While we make every effort to make sure the content is accurate and up to date, no liability is accepted by TSB Bank for any loss or damage caused by relying on any statement or omission. 

Links to external content are provided for information purposes only and not a TSB recommendation of any brand or service.