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Core company values examples to help shape your culture

Last updated

12 September 2023


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Lara Leganger

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When you start a company with a small team, it’s often relatively easy for everyone to work toward a common goal without formalized core values. Communication flows naturally, collaboration is pretty seamless, and there might even be a strong shared sense of purpose. 

But as the company grows and you hire more people and expand operations, how do you ensure everyone works together toward a common goal? How do you help everyone understand what is most important? And how do you attract the right talent?

You need a set of core company values to establish a cohesive company culture, identity, and mission.

This article is your guide to understanding company values, from what they are to how to shape and implement them. It includes ten examples of companies with inspiring, forward-thinking core values to help you shape your own team culture and values.

What are a company’s core values?

Core values are principles and fundamental beliefs that guide decisions and behavior. Core values integrate into every aspect of the company, from sales, operations, marketing, HR processes, and beyond.

Core values are the cornerstone of a company's culture, fostering a sense of unity and shared purpose among the team and ensuring all decisions and actions align with the company's mission and vision.

Also, company values extend beyond internal dynamics. They shape how investors, customers, and the general public perceive your company. Going beyond what your company does, values explain why you do it. Brands that create lasting positive impressions tend to make decisions and treat people in a way that aligns with their stated values.

Why are company values important?

Articulating your company values is essential to growing a brand because they:

Give employees a purpose

Clearly stated values give employees a sense of purpose by connecting their work to a meaningful mission and shared beliefs. A sense of purpose empowers employees to find fulfillment beyond financial compensation, which enhances job satisfaction, engagement, and motivation.

In a McKinsey & Company survey of over a thousand US employees, 70% of respondents declared that their sense of purpose is “largely defined by work.” 62% reported finding “some purpose” in their work but noted that they seek more purpose derived from their day-to-day work.

Attract and retain talent

Qualtrics surveyed 1,178 US employees to learn more about retention. They found that 54% of respondents were willing to take a pay cut to work at a company with “better values,” and 56% wouldn't consider working at a company with values they disagree with.

These findings suggest that clearly defined values are essential for your talent-retention strategy. Once you identify your business’s core values, you are more likely to attract like-minded individuals who resonate with the mission and culture. These employees are more likely to fit their roles and enjoy their work, increasing retention. 

Conversely, a lack of identifiable or poor values, such as being disrespectful, noninclusive, unethical, cutthroat, or abusive, is a recipe for high attrition, aka “churn and burn.” 

When MIT Sloan Business Review analyzed 34 million online employee profiles in 2021, they found that companies with a healthy company culture had a lower-than-average turnover, even in the first six months of the ongoing phenomenon, dubbed the “Great Resignation.”

Develop a company culture

Company values shape employees' behaviors, attitudes, and interactions, creating a unique cultural identity that defines a company's operations. 

For example, when executive leaders embody valuing teamwork, the entire team may be more likely to collaborate and support each other.

Company values also create a sense of identity and purpose, fostering unity and belonging and strengthening the culture.

Promote consistency

Consistency is the uniformity of actions and decisions across the company. Company values facilitate consistent actions and behaviors by offering behavioral guidelines and a decision-making framework. 

Consistency makes outcomes more predictable, builds trust, strengthens the brand image, streamlines processes, and improves efficiency. Consistent decisions and actions establish a strong foundation for growth, innovation, and sustainable success.

Differentiate your company

Precise values are crucial to attracting like-minded employees and customers while distinguishing your company from competitors. Pairing core values with ethical and socially responsible guidelines can significantly boost your company's reputation, positioning it as a moral leader and a valuable contributor to society. You’ll also likely draw socially conscientious talent to your organization and generate positive word-of-mouth and media coverage, further solidifying your brand's unique identity.

10 companies with inspiring core values

Several companies have created successful cultures with their inspiring core values. Here are ten example companies with well-thought-out core values to help inspire your brainstorming session:

1. Google

Google calls their core values “Ten things we know to be true.” They wrote their values when the company was just a few years old and revisit them regularly to ensure they stay relevant.

Their inspiring company values are:

  • Focus on the user, and all else will follow

  • It's best to do one thing really, really well

  • Fast is better than slow

  • Democracy on the Web works

  • You don't need to be at your desk to need an answer

  • You can make money without doing evil

  • There's always more information out there

  • The need for information crosses all borders

  • You can be serious without a suit

  • Great just isn't good enough

2. Gusto

Gusto is a popular payroll application that supports hundreds of thousands of businesses in the US.

They have six core company values that aim to support the needs of employees and customers:

  • Embody a service mindset

  • Dream big, then make it real

  • Be proud of the how

  • Embrace an ownership mentality

  • Debate, then commit

  • Build with humility

3. Bayhealth

Bayhealth’s mission is to deliver the nation's best healthcare to its communities. This not-for-profit healthcare system accurately reflects its strategic objectives in its five core values:

  • Compassion

  • Accountability

  • Respect

  • Integrity

  • Teamwork

4. Salesforce

Inspired by Hawaiian culture, Salesforce refers to its entire community (employees, partners, and customers) as "Ohana," which means family. They assert that business is the greatest platform for change. Their core values are: They have unique core company values that heavily focus on the customer and employee experience.

5. Adidas

Adidas' core values are known as the 3Cs. They are a set of behaviors that the company wants to see in its people.

  • Confidence

  • Collaboration

  • Creativity 

6. Apple

Apple has four simple but effective core values that are part of everything they build, including careers. Each core value on their website has a link to related resources to improve comprehension.

  • Accessibility

  • Environment

  • Privacy

  • Supplier responsibility

7. Unilever

Unilever's core values aim to create a sustainable and successful business to benefit all its stakeholders and the environment. They include:

  • Integrity

  • Respect

  • Responsibility

  • Pioneering

8. 3M

3Ms core values represent how deeply they appreciate investors, the environment, and their employees, enabling the company to succeed for over a century:

  • Curiosity

  • Creativity

  • Collaboration

  • Passion for making an impact

9. Patagonia

Patagonia regularly updates its core values to reflect the company they want to be in the future. They have five core values:

  • Quality

  • Integrity

  • Environmentalism

  • Justice

  • Not bound by convention

10. Buffer

The social media management software company’s CEO gives a hat tip to renowned “How to Win Friends and Influence People” author Dale Carnegie, crediting his principles for heavily inspiring their core values, which are:

  • Default to transparency

  • Improve consistently

  • Be a no-ego doer

  • Show gratitude

  • Choose optimism

  • Reflect to unblock

The different types of values

There are many values companies can adopt. However, your values should reflect your unique mission, industry, and organizational culture. They should also accurately represent your company's identity and aspirations.

To make your core business values well-rounded, you might group them according to the following five categories:

  1. Ethics  Equality, respect, diversity, and sustainability are examples of ethical values. These core values might be ideal for your company if you strongly support paying a living wage or other forms of corporate social responsibility, such as environmental stewardship.

  2. Customer-centricity Customer-centric values include service excellence, quality, and responsiveness. These values are likely a strong fit if your customers are at the heart of your operations.

  3. Internal Collaboration, respect, flexibility, and communication are internal values that focus on employee well-being and internal processes. 

  4. Financial These values guide the company's money management and may serve as a roadmap for impact investing (philanthropy).

  5. Employee-centricity Work-life balance, diversity and inclusion, and employee development are all employee-centric values. These principles aim to create an engaged and motivated workforce by prioritizing their well-being, growth, and satisfaction.

Common elements of excellent core values

Specific core values will vary from company to company. Still, the most compelling ones are always:

  • Brief, memorable, and clearly stated: Concise statements are understandable and easy to retain, helping to keep core values top of mind with all stakeholders.

  • Aligned with the company mission: Values should be consistent with strategic objectives.

  • Forward-thinking and adaptable: Responding to change and routinely assessing your company’s core values (with input from all team members) is a way to stay principled yet adaptable.

  • Action-oriented: Values that guide employees through day-to-day work are usually more helpful than abstract concepts. For example, “excellence” is a theoretically great value but doesn’t indicate what steps or actions are necessary to achieve it.

How to establish your company's core value statements

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you define your company's core values. The process of defining a company's core values may differ slightly depending on whether you are a startup or an established company. 

Gather insights

The first step is to gather insights from stakeholders representing different departments, levels, and perspectives in your company. This collaborative approach will help you understand the company's culture and guiding principles. 

Review mission and vision

Your mission and vision statements outline the purpose and aspirations of your organization. Assess whether they accurately reflect your company's purpose and goals. This analysis will ensure that the core values align well with them.

Identify fundamental beliefs

Fundamental beliefs are the convictions that shape a company's decisions and actions. Identifying them uncovers the core philosophies and principles integral to your company's existence and growth. 

Draft and prioritize values

With the identified fundamental beliefs in mind, list potential core values and prioritize them based on how well they resonate with your company's mission, vision, and culture. 

Create clear definitions for each core value

Descriptions should explain how each core value applies to your company's environment, goals, and culture to ensure employees understand how to adopt and use them in their daily decisions and actions.

Solicit stakeholder feedback

Share the core values with relevant parties like employees and leadership and ask them for feedback. Soliciting their feedback enables you to create meaningful, relevant, and impactful core values that represent the collective ethos of your company. 

How to implement core values

After building the core values, the next step is integrating them into your company's day-to-day decisions and actions.

Here are five ways to get started:

  1. Check-in with your team:  Discuss your proposed core values with employees, ensuring they align with the company's identity and resonate with the team. This initial dialogue fosters a sense of ownership.

  2. Solicit feedback:  Actively seek feedback from various levels of the organization. Encourage open conversations about the proposed core values and their potential impact. Feedback helps refine and shape the values to reflect the diverse viewpoints within the company, making it easier for the employees to embody the values after implementation.

  3. Implement feedback:  Use the feedback to fine-tune the core values. Incorporate suggestions and address concerns to create a final set of values that captures the essence of your organization. By including team input, you enhance the core values and cultivate a sense of unity and shared responsibility for their adoption.

  4. Make your core values unique to your brand: While drawing inspiration from example companies is valuable, tailor your core values to authentically represent your brand's distinct identity, mission, and culture. Doing so gives your core values a genuine, memorable quality.

  5. Continue to evolve when necessary:  Company dynamics change over time, and core values should remain adaptable to ensure relevance. Regularly revisit and refine the core values as your company grows so that they continue to guide behavior and decisions effectively

Core company values are influential blueprints for organizations striving to cultivate a robust and positive workplace culture. By embracing core values such as transparency, innovation, and diversity, businesses can foster an environment where employees feel inspired, motivated, and connected to a shared purpose. Ultimately, aligning your company with genuine, well-defined values enhances employee satisfaction and contributes to long-term success and sustainability in today's dynamic business landscape.


How can I measure the success of my core company values implementation?

You can measure success by conducting employee engagement and customer feedback surveys. When employees actively embody the values and contribute to a positive work environment (and customer satisfaction), that indicates a team that walks the talk.

What happens if I don’t create core values?

Suppose you don't explicitly define your core values. In that case, they will evolve independently and could shape your culture in ways that hurt your business.

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