Why it's so important to establish and defend your values

Charlie Spargo's picture
Samm Green

Samm Green is Co-founder of recently rebranded Few & Far, a product talent consultancy that helps companies of all sizes grow their product development teams. Having recently defined and refined their own values, he explains why it's vital to establish and reinforce the values of your business.

Establishing brand values is something every company should do, especially when entering a period of growth. Your team is about to increase in size, so the time is right to work out what that team stands for.

Once it’s done, you must be prepared to stand by it, and the benefits will come. At Few&Far we've been doing just that. 

We’ve worked with everyone from Babylon Health to HSBC, but we’ve not always been the best at turning the tables back on ourselves. We recently went through the process of redefining our values as part of a rebrand.

For a lot of businesses, it’s too easy to rush people through the doors and forget what makes your team what it is. If you do this, you will lose sight of your culture before you even realise it. Given that 34% of people end up leaving their jobs due to poor culture, it’s not something to ignore. 

Walk the walk - How to find out who ‘you’ are

Everyone is different, but my first recommendation is to work out what is great about your team, get your leadership together, and work out what it is that your best colleagues represent. Hold workshops and define the behavioural traits demonstrated by your highest performing employees.

Your values will likely be pre-coded in the system, you just need to uncover them!

But it’s easy for values to become lines on a piece of paper, and if they’re not kept alive within the system, what’s the point? Culture will alter in some way with every hire and exit, but core values can stick with you if respected, and shape your company forever.

Once you have your key values worked out, do everything you can to make them the team’s raison d'etre. You need to embody those values at all times. 

But how?

There are a few different ways you can ensure your values are at the core of the company.

Implement them into the hiring process

We realised what we were testing for in interviews could actually be grouped together and fall under specific values.

Get people together and work out what it is they look for in an interview situation, group the core messages and values, and create a company-wide interview score sheet. Having a structure that everyone uses when talking to new applicants will help create that company-wide unison that so many lose when growing. Hiring will become less fragmented overnight. 

Everyone’s will be different, but here are our values. This is what we look for in new hires, scoring them from one to four:

  1. Be the few: We have an opportunity to stand apart - demonstrate honesty, humility and integrity in all that you do
  2. Go far: Being complacent is easy - be ambitious, challenge yourself and always strive for more
  3. Find the why: Curiosity is key - take the time to understand, empathise and uncover the purpose
  4. Immerse yourself: It’s boring to stand on the sidelines - get involved, speak up and build genuine relationships
  5. Own it: It’s on you! Find solutions, seek responsibility and don’t be afraid to make mistakes along the way

We encourage everyone, from founders down to the latest junior hire, to respect and try to adhere to these day-to-day. After some time, this will make the values such second nature to your colleagues, that you'll wonder why they even had to be written down. 

Create an internal peer-to-peer feedback process

We created a biannual p2p feedback process - a face-to-face session with a group of peers. Each employee rates to which extent they exemplify each value prior to the session.

By getting people to then deliver self-reflection to the group using ‘good’, ‘difficult’ and ‘different’ on each value, you will be able to bond the team, and there is always a little fun. Self-reflection will help people grow over the next period, be it quarterly, biannually or longer. 

Tangible rewards

Further to having them written on the wall for all to see; depending on your structure or industry, could it be feasible to build your values into your reward structure?

When speaking to people across the tech landscape, we found that people often draft their values then go back to focusing on the task at hand and leave them dead in a ditch - rendering the process pointless. 

Results

It’s early days, and having written these values as a reflection of our people as they are now, it is no surprise to see that they fit fairly well.

What is encouraging however, is talking to colleagues when they finish interviewing new candidates. They tell me how they feel the person in question would or wouldn’t fit the values, whether they are worth investing time into or not. This is more valuable than knowing if they will hit targets from week one. A real test will be to see how our team looks and feels a year or ten years from now, but things are looking good.

Thanks to our efforts of establishing the values, we have seen a steady shift with culture and peoples’ work drive and excitement. As an example, community and events have been a space in which we have had great successes over the years, founding The Hacker Games, Tech Leaders North and Product Breakfasts as well as sponsoring Mind The Product, React Advanced and UX Live. 

Now, we see members of the team wanting to set their own events up or asking to attend ones we hadn’t considered before. People look at the guides and are seeing ways in which they can excel further. They grow and the company does too. 

After six years of living by a rough code of conduct that equated to respecting people and not being a d**k, we have grown and now have set our values in stone.

There will always be things to develop and test, but I would recommend you try it. See what you are now and how that can create the basis for the future as a company, and more importantly, as people.