Company Values with Teeth: What High Performers Really Want

by Kris Dunn | Posted | Culture

Company Values with Teeth: What High Performers Really Want

It used to be you didn't have to talk about your company values. You got a job, did your time and presto – it was time to retire with the security of a fat, defined benefit plan. Everybody in the employment world had the same values. We all watched the same ten channels of TV.

Then in the 1970s, changes started to happen. Globalization. Offshoring. Downsizing. Companies were taught to rethink their cost structure. Quarter-to-quarter profitability became the mantra.

A cynic might say corporate values only became important once it was clear that so many companies had lost them.

Company values: Round up the usual suspects

Enter the empty war of values now playing on every corporate website near you. It's an arms race of thousands of companies saying exactly the same thing. Which values appear the most on corporate websites? Some quick research uncovers the ones you expect:

  • Integrity
  • Teamwork
  • Communication

You know the drill. Who could argue with that? It's like arguing against Santa Claus: You could make the argument, but you look like a total jerk.

I'm here today to tell you there's a better way. If you're really looking to stand out to candidates in the market for talent, you might want to “zig” while everyone else “zags.”

The corporate values that attract high performers

It's not that high performers don't think things like integrity, teamwork and communication are important – they do. It's just that if that's all that’s required to get the corporate seal of approval, high performers know that their best weapon – their talent – will be undervalued at your company.

High performers would rather see some of the following descriptors in your corporate values statement:

  • Drive
  • Innovation
  • Competition
  • Smart

Why do high performers want to see some version of these descriptors in your value statements? Because they're looking for some proof that your culture doesn't treat everyone as equals. High performers don’t want to be treated equally; they want to be recognized for going above and beyond expectations.

Some of you who have the first set of values displayed above (the safe ones) are wagging the finger at me now and saying, "Kris, it's a part of our culture to reward high performers."

Awesome – but why doesn’t your corporate values set show that? If you're not willing to put some teeth in your values statement, than I have to assume one of two things:

1. You don't really treat high performers differently, or

2. Your safe value statements are a sham. Your company is a freak show that looks nothing like your values. Which is A LOT OF US.

Reassess your corporate values

Why not be more transparent? If your values had some teeth, what's the worst thing that could happen? You lose some low-to-average performers?

Get some language in your core values set that will appeal to high performers. If you market it correctly, it will make a difference in your ability to attract strong talent.

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