Organizational Core Values, What Are They Good For?

As CEO I had this conversation too often, but we all learn new lessons over time.

“We had to terminate Wild Willie’s employment today.”

“Why?” I would ask.

“He wasn’t a core value fit” was the response.

Of course I was thinking to myself why did we hire him in the first place and why aren’t we hiring the right people? That’s right we, not you. The answer was right there in the mirror. We had not defined and communicated our company’s core values much less incorporate them into our hiring process. To get on the same page let’s define core values in simple terms.

There is no such thing as a right set of core values or the perfect hiring process. You need to discover the values that represent your firm or organization. The discovery process can be as simple as asking this question. What are the good things that your employees do, through their actions which best represent your team? They are more than a list of words as eventually as a leader you will be tasked to bring them to life through the actions, decisions and behaviors of your company.

So what are core values good for? First they are the filter you should be using for hiring the right people (including employees, consultants and vendors). Once hired they provide a decision making framework, or set of rules, for the people who work for you. Essentially a road map for the right thing to do when there is no other guidance available. Lastly they will assist you in assessing performance against a clear set of expected behaviors (a little more later about the impact of failing to do this correctly).

So where do you start, how do you know the people you have on your team are aligned with your core values? Ask this question. Would I hire them again, without hesitation, to be my employee, vendor, or consultant? If the answer is yes you are on the right track to having high performers with a core value match. You will be able to grow your business much more successfully than having to deal with the fallout of having to clean up after a few core value mismatches like Wild Willie.

This post is about emphasizing the value of utilizing core values as a filter in the hiring process. As a first step in the candidate screening process look for core value fits or misfits before you look at experience, capabilities or competencies. If they don’t pass the first test do not consider adding them to your team.

One last thought, you will make mistakes in hiring or contracting. When you realize someone is not a core value fit end the relationship immediately and admit your mistake. Even if the person or firm is a top contributor, cut the ties as the potential down side will always be greater than the perceived lost benefit. There are far too many examples of the potential damage when an organization fails to eliminate core value misfits.

Can you name other core value misfits in your organization or community? Do you agree core values should be the first filter in the hiring process?

Core values, what else are they good for?

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