Activate Change With Core Values

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I recently read a Recruiterbox article that stated: “Culture can either immunize or infect a company. Good culture can revitalize and motivate. Negative culture increases employee absences and turnover while decreasing their overall productivity while at work. All of which can lead to a loss of income. Employee turnover alone can cost a company anywhere from 30-50 percent of an entry-level employee’s annual salary.”

As you know, culture = core values + behavior. Culture is a favorite topic of mine because it is at the root of any customer experience transformation. It’s also at the root of the experience employees have with the company.

Remember, you get the culture that you design or create – and/or the culture you allow (which is why it can either immunize or infect a company). Core values are at the root of the culture you design; they support and facilitate the culture and the business model you desire, and they support the vision you have for the business, for your employees and their experience, and for your customers and their experience.

So, how do we use core values to transform your culture? How can they activate change? Well, let me answer a few questions for you – and then I’ll pose a few questions that you must answer.

What are core values? I like this definition from “The core values of an organization are those values we hold which form the foundation on which we perform work and conduct ourselves.” They’re the beliefs of the organization, or of the people within the organization.

Why do we need them? As the definition points out, they are the foundation of the culture, the foundation of the way we work and the way we do things. Without them, employees go about their days without a north star or a guiding light to make sure they always know what’s right and what’s wrong. Core values guide them in terms of how to interact with each other and with customers.

What if we don’t have core values, or if we’re not properly socializing and operationalizing them? You may feel how disjointed the workplace is as a result of this. I’ve seen it happen both at companies for which I’ve worked and with client organizations. The culture is a mess. Employees are not aligned.

Besides core values, what else do you need to develop a customer-centric culture? As you know, I believe that customer understanding is the cornerstone of a customer-centric culture. Between having the right values in place and using what you learn in your customer understanding work to ensure the customer voice is woven throughout discussions, decisions, and designs, you’ll have a solid foundation in place.

Let me ask you some questions about your company’s core values. If you don’t know the answers, please reach out to your HR department to get them. If they don’t know the answers, you might be in trouble.

  • Does your company have core values?
  • Do they support the type of culture you want in your organization, e.g., customer-centric, collaborative, innovative, inclusive, etc.
  • Who created the core values in your business?
  • What was the process to identify and to finalize them?
  • Have they ever changed?
    • If so, why?
  • How are they socialized?
    • Are they simply posters on a wall?
    • How are they communicated?
    • Are they taught in orientation?
    • Do leaders in the organization model the values?
    • Is there ongoing core values training?
    • Are core values talked about in meetings?
  • How are they operationalized?
    • Are they used during the interview process?
    • Are they used for hiring decisions?
    • Are they used for firing decisions?
    • Are they a factor in promotion decisions?
    • Are employees recognized for living the values, either by their managers or their peers?
    • How are the values reinforced?
    • Are they part of the performance review?
    • Are policies outlined with the values in mind?
    • Are processes defined with the values in mind?
    • Are decisions made with the values in mind?
    • Do you have a Culture Committee?
  • Have acceptable and unacceptable behaviors for each value been outlined?
  • How do the values support customer-centricity, collaboration, D&I?


I may have more questions that I’ll add as I give this more thought, but I think that’s a good place to start this exercise. See what answers you get. Come back and let me know. I’m curious.

When properly socialized and operationalized, core values can and will activate change within your organization. Left as posters on a wall or cards in a wallet, they will do and mean nothing for employees or the business.

I’ve written a lot about culture, core values, and customer-centricity over the years. If you’re looking for more resources and articles on culture, take a look here and here.

Lasting change is a series of compromises. And compromise is all right, as long your values don’t change. – Jane Goodall

Annette Franz, CCXP is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In September 2019, she published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

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