Company values help you direct every person on your team toward a common goal. They remind you that you share a bigger purpose.

Businesses often look to each other to figure out how to refine their values, habits, and ideas into a set of values. To keep growing, companies need something their teams can get behind and understand.

This search has led many people to HubSpot’s culture code — and the original 2013 deck has almost 6 million views online.

In this post, we’ll explore why company values are important. We’ll show you how to create your core values and serve up some industry favorites for inspiration. And we’ll talk about how HubSpot created our culture code and work to grow better.

Keeping these common values top of mind will help you make business decisions that are in line with your core principles and stay true to the company vision.

This is why it’s important your core values are embraced at every level, not just by the executive team. Purpose doesn’t just improve employee satisfaction — it also increases your bottom line and builds trust with customers.

Ultimately, core values are critical if you want to create a long-lasting, successful, and motivating place to work.

Whether you work for a new company in need of core-value inspiration, or an older company in need of a value revamp, you’re in luck — below, we’ve cultivated a list of some of the best company values. Additionally, we’ll examine how some companies truly honor their values.

For Patagonia, company values aren’t just a few feel-good statements to put on the “About Us” page. When founder Yvon Chouinard’s first venture, Chouinard Equipment, found that their pitons were damaging natural rock, they developed an environmentally-friendly alternative — aluminum chocks.

“While we’re doing our best to address the environmental crisis, it’s not enough. We needed to find a way to put more money into fighting the crisis while keeping the company’s values intact…

Truth be told, there were no good options available. So, we created our own.”

This move is a clear reflection of the company’s core values above.

For instance, consider their value, “You can make money without doing evil.” While many companies likely tout the benefits of integrity, Google references strategic efforts it has made to avoid “evil” business, including — “We don’t allow ads to be displayed on our results pages unless they are relevant where they are shown … We don’t accept pop–up advertising, which interferes with your ability to see the content you’ve requested … [and] Advertising on Google is always clearly identified as a ‘Sponsored Link,’ so it does not compromise the integrity of our search results.”

Additionally, Coca-Cola’s Sustainability page exemplifies its commitment to climate, as well. This page includes charts and statistics about water usage, recycling, and more. By acknowledging both its efforts and its shortcomings, Coca-Cola is able to show its desire to live up to its values, while taking responsibility for any mismatch between its ideals and reality.

Underneath each of its values on its core value page, Whole Foods provides a link, such as, “Learn more about how we care about our communities and the environment.”

If you’ve ever been to Whole Foods, you know they’re serious about their efforts to reduce waste and help the local community. In fact, it’s part of the reason so many customers are brand loyalists — because they support those efforts, too.

“I would spend hours dyeing my tights and ‘pancaking’ my shoes [applying pancake foundation to shoes with a sponge to mattify and change their color], and had many friends and colleagues who were doing the same to meet the industry’s requirement of nude undergarments.”

These frustrations didn’t just lead her to solve a problem that she struggled with for years. They helped her create a set of company values that emphasize empathy, access, representation, and awareness.

This popular payroll app supports 200,000+ businesses in the United States. Gusto doesn’t just talk about supporting the needs of employees and customers. Leaders at this company make it happen with radical transparency.

“Many organizations espouse transparency as a core value, but it typically doesn’t extend to performance reviews. While leaders are often privy to our teams’ reviews, it’s rarely a two-way street. The result is that for many people, it’s uncomfortable to give and receive constructive feedback at work.

When I first shared my review, the Google Doc…broke because hundreds of people—nearly 30% of our workforce—tried to read it that same day. Similarly, almost 40% of employees read our co-founder and CTO’s review the day he first shared it.”

This simple approach to company values shows their team how their leaders hold each other accountable, and that “it’s okay to fall short sometimes as long as we commit to growth.”

American Express doesn’t just hit the bare minimum when it comes to polite, helpful customer service. They go above and beyond to solve for their customers, even when there’s no protocol in place.

“The important point here,” Joabar noted, “other than that everybody ended up safe and sound — is that there isn’t a script for every situation, so we empower our care professionals to do what’s right for the customer. And we recognize what they do with this empowerment as well. We give awards to employees who go above and beyond to help customers and we share their stories across the company.”

This anecdote exemplifies American Express employees’ commitment to their customers even when it’s not easy, and demonstrates the company’s dedication to living by its values.

At Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) we believe a life outdoors is a life well-lived!

We believe that it’s in the wild, untamed and natural places that we find our best selves, so our purpose is to awaken a lifelong love of the outdoors, for all.

Since 1938, we have been your local outdoor co-op, working to help you experience the transformational power of nature. We bring you top-quality gear and apparel, expert advice, rental equipment, inspiring stories of life outside and outdoor experiences to enjoy alone or share with your friends and family. And because we have no shareholders, with every purchase you make with REI, you are choosing to steward the outdoors, support sustainable business and help the fight for life outside.

So whether you’re new to the outdoors or a seasoned pro, we hope you’ll join us.

Recreational equipment co-op REI has remained true to its values since its founding in 1938. The co-op model allows them to invest a significant portion of profits back into their community through employee profit sharing and donations to nonprofits dedicated to the outdoors.

Since 2015, all REI stores close on Black Friday — perhaps the biggest shopping day of the year — so employees can enjoy time outdoors with friends and family.

The company states “We give all our employees a day off to #OptOutside with family and friends on the busiest retail day of the year. We continue this tradition because we believe in putting purpose before profits.”

Company values are more than a page on the website. They need to be a plan for what your company stands for over time. Let’s talk about how you can create authentic company values for your business.

Now that you’ve seen what core values look like at other companies, you may be wondering how to create and implement your own. While defining your core values may be a hefty task, there are a few simple steps that will help you develop and iterate your own.

If not, you may want to set up a few brainstorming sessions with your team. Company values can also come up as your team solves problems together.

As you start your business, jot down ideas as they come up, and keep them somewhere that’s easy to find. This way you have an easy place to go for inspiration when you draw a blank or get stuck.

Once you have that framework, you can work on fleshing out your organization’s core values.

This took several rounds because one of the common themes was that employees love working at HubSpot because of the people. It took more time and effort to discover why and how that feeling could translate to a set of company values.

The level of feedback you need for a project like this isn’t a one-time and done sort of effort. While the responses to a question like “Why do you love working here?” may feel good to hear, they may not be specific or honest enough to build your core values on.

It’s also important to key into informal conversations and non-verbal signals. Let your team know what you’re doing and why. Then, practice active listening. It may be tempting to argue or defend your point of view during these conversations. But interrupting in this way could mean that you’ll lose valuable insights.

These are some useful resources for gathering feedback from your team:

In response, Shah proposed replacing “Effective” with “Empathy” and encouraged employees to submit feedback via an internal wiki page.

Part of creating a set of company values is ensuring that employees buy into those ideas. So, if collecting feedback is an essential step, the next step has to be putting that feedback into action.

While not every piece of feedback will be useful, it’s important to recognize these contributions. As you review updates from your team, you’ll want to compare these insights and start to look for patterns. Once you have some clear ideas of what you want to add or update, outline your next steps to put these changes into place.

Then, share the plan with your team and thank them for their insights.

How HubSpot completed this step: In HubSpot’s case, the team decided to update our culture code and the HEART acronym changed to Humble, Empathetic, Adaptable, Remarkable, and Transparent.

This process took several years of refining. After this change and many rounds of feedback, the culture code was shared globally.

Many industries have catchy phrases or jargon that are central to your business. But those phrases probably aren’t the best way to communicate the unique values of your brand.

Your company values aren’t just a blueprint for what your business does and what your employees believe in. It’s about what separates your team from everything else out there.

You learn from each other and develop tactics and strategies every day. These habits come from a foundation of shared values. So, your goal during this step is to bring those distinct values to light.

This may mean collecting quotes that inspire your team. It could arise from offsite meetings or impromptu conversations.

No matter what your creative process is, to make your company values unique, you’ll want to think about what you want those values to do.

Ask yourself:

As you refine your core values, make sure that they embody the spirit of your business and team.

How HubSpot completed this step: Core values often relate to the problems your business wants to solve and how that relates to your personal values.

For example, in a talk at Stanford University, Dharmesh Shah shared the quote, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” He told a story of how he interpreted this Louis Brandeis quote and then explained how it came into conversations that he and co-founder Brian Halligan were having about transparency.

You can hear the full story in the video below:

Company values often use short sentences and declarative phrases. Because of this, it can also be useful to explain how your team interprets a simple phrase within your values. For example, the culture code explains what transparency is and what it isn’t at HubSpot.

Change is the only constant. Your business will change over time. Societal norms, values, and trends will change too. To keep your company culture in line with the times, you’ll want to revisit your values regularly.

First, spend some time with your core values. These will often stay the same. That said, the way your business applies or interprets these values may have shifted.

Next, add or remove values in line with changes to your culture. Take care to make thoughtful updates and bring in a group of engaged employees to offer early feedback.

Once the group feels satisfied with your updates, share them with the full team for another round of feedback. Staying open throughout the process is important for keeping your team engaged.

Your company values should consistently reflect the core of your business. This means that the way you write and edit them will impact every single person connected to the company.

How HubSpot completed this step: As HubSpot continues to grow there are new ideas to consider. For example, the culture code covers concerns about time off, remote work, and more with a simple phrase – use good judgment. Leaders at HubSpot talk constantly about the culture and HEART comes up in both tactical and strategic conversations.

In many ways, the team built HubSpot’s culture code in the same way they create HubSpot’s products — thoughtful updates, regular feedback, and continuous investment.

This slide from the culture code deck emphasizes the importance of updates to company values:

As of this writing, HubSpot’s culture code has seen over 33 revisions. Updates go through a beta testing process that collects both quantitative and qualitative data. And HubSpot employees work with HEART & SOUL.

Ultimately, good core values can help an audience identify with, and stay loyal to, your brand, rather than flipping between you and competitors. To ensure long-term success and long-term employee retention, it’s critical you create — and live by — certain non-negotiable company values.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in November 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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