What’s The Secret To A Great Company Culture? Values.


In our last post, we discussed how brands have distinct personalities that resonate differently with people depending on their values. Well, many companies also have distinct cultures that permeate all facets of the organization, and these cultures will appeal to people of different value types. Successful organizations need to create a unique culture and mission statement that defines them, and only them, in order to attract and retain the most loyal employees and customers.

But in order for a company culture to be compelling enough to galvanize its best employees and customers, it needs to speak loudly and clearly not only about what the company stands for, but also what it doesn’t stand for. For a company to find its true voice, it needs to risk turning off some people who likely wouldn’t be a good organizational fit anyway. Ask yourself the following questions about your company values to ensure they are meaningful:

- Are your values polarizing? Values for a company, just like for individuals, are necessarily polarizing to be meaningful. Values-based companies know you can’t be all things to all people. As Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen said, “You have to have some values, they can’t just be milquetoast, namby-pamby middle-of-the-road . You need to stand for something, so customers who believe the same thing can glom onto your brand."

- Are they unique to your company? Values have to be unique to a company, rather than something that any company would agree to. Tony Hsieh from Zappo’s often talks about how if you can Google your mission statement and find others who have the same statement, it likely isn’t a good mission statement.

- Are they authentic? Values need to be authentic, embodied by employees and not just a marketing technique. Again Zappo’s is a good example, as their goal is to make their employees, not their customers, happy…but in doing so, their employees naturally end up making their customers happy. It can’t just be a marketing tool that isn’t reflected in day-to-day corporate life.

While every values statement should be unique, there are some similarities that tie certain types of organizations together. Below are six organizational focuses that Zenzi has identified and uses to categorize company cultures, along with examples of organizations who have successfully integrated the principles outlined above into their mission statements:

As with brand personality, each of these company cultures reflects a unique set of values that should be targeted when seeking out employees that will be a good fit, and customers who will become brand ambassadors. To demonstrate, you can see below how a Family and Meaning company culture resonated with individuals that value Purpose, Tradition and Security rather than those that value Achievement, Pleasure and Freedom in a recent Zenzi survey:

And here are the company cultures that appealed the most and least to each values driver:

These results demonstrate how important it is for companies to properly target their marketing and recruiting efforts to the right values segments. For example, a Pleasure Seeking company like Redbull may be tempted to create performance based incentives for its employees, but our data shows that a fun, stimulating environment will likely result in higher employee retention than a reward based system. Conversely, a Security or Tradition Seeking organization may do well to implement a generous family leave policy for employees, as opposed to motivating them toward such individualistic pursuits as exploring their creativity or being at the forefront of cutting-edge initiatives.

The better a company understands and can clearly state its unique values-based mission, the better it can instill that culture throughout the entire organization. And in doing so, it can attract the employees and customers that will feel the most connected to the brand, creating the win-win scenario every company dreams about.

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