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The importance of defining and reinforcing your company values every day.

Company Culture
Hiring
Fairness

6 December, 2017

Nikhil compares his experience in a company where the culture was not well defined with a company that took the time to define real company values.

Problem

Most startups know that culture is important. However, not everyone knows what actions they need to take given they care about their company's culture. I have often come across companies where people say "We value culture and want to make it fun and exciting". When asked about company culture, they describe the perks offered by the company. However, company culture and values are more than that. Some companies define their values, but the values end up being nice posters on walls, rather than being reinforced in people's day-to-day work.

Actions taken

After joining Clever, I got to see a good example of defining company values and making them a part of people's everyday work. At Clever, the early employees had defined a few culture tenets. They also created simple ways to recognize employees when they did an especially good job of displaying these culture tenets, thus reinforcing those values. Here are a few thoughts I have based on what I have seen at Clever and other places that do a good job of defining and reinforcing their culture:

  • Spend time figuring out what you really value, and then write it down. Make sure to get input from your team, since culture is not something you can impose from the top-down.
  • Use simple, easy to remember sentences to define your culture and values. This makes it easy to make them part of your daily vocabulary.
  • Have a way of recognizing people who demonstrate the values. This helps reinforce the values and makes them more than posters on walls.
  • Having a clear vocabulary for culture allows you to point to it in various decision-making scenarios. This includes hiring. You don't want interviewers rejecting candidates using vague language like "not a cultural fit". Instead, if the interviewer believes that the candidate is not a good cultural fit, they need to articulate why using specific examples and need to point to specific company values.

Lessons learned

I believe that taking the time to define your company's values carefully is necessary. If you don't define the values yourself, they will define themselves organically. And the organic version is not always the best one.


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