So while you might gather input from a wide range of people in the company, including leadership and employees, try to avoid writing as a group. You want your values to speak person to person, not committee to employee.
Let a gifted writer take that input and turn it into language employees will find relevant and remember. Then you can bring that extended committee back together to approve the language or offer suggestions for small tweaks.
Here are five tips for articulating company values:
Let’s assume honesty is a given
Values like honesty, integrity and respect don’t set your culture apart from any other. Hopefully, you can assume employees know that basic decency is just table stakes. Look for values that are unique to your company. Are your people especially good at solving customer problems? Is there a strong bias towards action? Is there a passion for coming up with the next big thing?
Give your nouns a verb
Your list of values probably includes a handful of nouns, like
Passion or Adaptability or Collaboration. But nouns don’t help employees know how to use the value. For instance, if you say that one of your values is Transparency, maybe it’s more helpful if you describe it as Be transparent. Or even Communicate honestly or Tell it like it is.
Speak in the brand voice
Your values are some of the most important words you’ll
communicate about your brand, so make sure you express them in language that matches your brand personality. If you’re describing the value of Innovation, for example, the language will probably be very different if you work at Tesla than if you’re at Wells Fargo.
Avoid writing by committee
Committees tend to make things more complex rather than
simplifying. Everyone has something they think is important to include. When writing values is up to a committee, the result is usually a lot more words than any employee would ever remember in a million years. Use the committee for input in the beginning and approval at the end, not for the writing itself.
If it needs a comma, it’s too long
One sure sign that values were written by committee is that they’re composed of several clauses strung together. If it’s long enough that it needs a comma, rethink the language. Look for one strong stand-alone statement that employees can use for guidance in a range of situations. You don’t need to explain every possible scenario to which the value might apply.