Companies & Universities, Inspiration

Why you should explicitly state your company values

Did you know that 80% of Fortune 100 companies tout their values publicly?

When I say “company values,” you might picture hokey corporate team-building exercises. But for many successful companies, values—or professed, enduring beliefs—go beyond words on a T-shirt or mug. They serve as a behavioral compass that guide the entire company from day to day. 

As Skylar and I, the content developers behind the Developing a Corporate Philosophy course, were researching this topic, we asked a values-driven company for its insights: meet Buffer, a social media management company that not only boasts a compelling values statement, but strives to uphold it. Here’s Courtney Seiter, a Content Crafter at Buffer, on the company’s values:

Have Buffer’s values contributed to its success? If so, how?

I believe Buffer’s values have contributed greatly to our success. Our values guide the way we communicate, the way we honor customers, the way we build our product and culture. We’re really lucky that our founders realized at the beginning, when Buffer was fewer than ten people, that values were a pivotal element of success and created them early on.

What motivated Buffer to feature its values on its website? 

Our values are the backbone of who we are as a company, so it feels important for us to be really open about them and share them widely. They’re a North Star for all of us in every action we take, and we’re always looking for more ways we can keep them top of mind. They’re also a key element of how we hire, so we hope making them prominent helps potential candidates see themselves at Buffer and choose to join us!

Your website states that Buffer’s founders were influenced by Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Did Joel and Leo consult any other materials when compiling this list of values?

I know that Zappos’ values and philosophy were a big influence as well.

What was the process behind creating the values statement?

This post on the “untold story of Buffer’s values” goes through the process in some detail; I think it might be the best resource [on “how Buffer’s values formed and evolved” through team surveys and reading Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness].

Does Buffer distribute its values statement to employees? How does the company ensure that its values are upheld?

Yes, teammates have our values in a variety of formats! Many of us have stickers on our laptops with them (they look like this) and some of us use this Chrome extension made by a teammate that replaces Google’s new tab page with one of our values. We each work on upholding the values in many ways, like sharing gratitude in our Slack gratitude room or encouraging a teammates’ self-improvement progress before starting a meeting. We’ve written a bit about how we act on our values here, [such as Buffer’s decision to make its salaries and metrics public to uphold its value of transparency].

How often do people talk about the values statement at work?

“Daily” doesn’t even come close to expressing it. Maybe hourly?🙂 They’re a constant source of conversation, sharing and aspiration.

How often does Buffer revisit and revise its values statement?

Quite often! We have had six revisions thus far, and we’ve tried to uphold our value of transparency by sharing each iteration (you can find them all on Slideshare). Often we’ll write in-depth blog posts about what we changed and why. We’re undergoing another values revision right now and will of course share it all!

Thanks again to Buffer for sharing their story with us! This is a fantastic example of how a strong public values statement can enhance a company’s culture and operations.

For more information on creating values statements, as well as crafting mission and vision statements, check out Smartly’s Developing a Corporate Philosophy course.

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