You want to build the best company you can. And one of the best ways to do that is to develop great company values.
Company values aren’t just nice-to-haves—these values actually drive change, increase retention, and boost productivity. But they do take time and energy to develop. Here’s why company values matter—and how to go about building your own.
Company values are the core principles that define how your company approaches work, interpersonal collaboration, and employee well-being. Your company’s core values set the tone for how you collaborate and take ownership of work within your organization. When done right, these philosophies serve as guiding beacons to help employees navigate their time at your organization.
Company values can increase retention and employee satisfaction. They can create purpose, make your employees feel appreciated, and give your team clear guidance on how they should treat one another and expect to be treated. Just like an effective vision statement gives your team a North Star, strong company values can align your team around the way they engage and interact with each other and with your organization.Read: Employee handbook: How to inform and inspire your team (with examples)
Company values aren’t just buzzwords that sound good on your organization’s about page. There are serious benefits to setting—and implementing—clear company values. According to a recent survey, 71% of professionals say they would be willing to take a pay cut to work for a company that has a mission they believe in and shared values.
Strong company values:
Build a healthy company culture
Set the standard for cross-functional collaboration
Increase team buy-in
Increase retention and employee engagement
Give your team members a shared purpose and common goal
Empower decision making
Unlock better teamwork
At Asana, we approach company culture the way we approach our product—recognizing that it takes time, effort, and investment to effectively build. Just like our product, company values aren’t one-and-done either—we’re constantly thinking about how we can update and iterate on them so they’re most relevant for our team. Company values are a huge part of building a healthy company culture, but they aren’t just words we can put on a motivational poster and call it a day.
To create strong company values, you need buy-in from your team members. That’s why, when we refreshed our company values a few years ago, the refresh wasn’t led by the executive team. Instead, individual team members spearheaded efforts to align on the values that mattered to us. In doing so, we landed on the following nine values:
Mission. We are purpose-driven people, dedicated to serving something beyond ourselves. Having mission as a value also allows us to continually ground ourselves in why we’re building Asana.
Do great things, fast. We commit to being great at the things we do and doing them fast, without sacrificing one for the other.
Clarity. Our product and culture aim to ensure that teams know who is doing what, by when, and why, which unlocks the best work experiences and outcomes.
Co-creation. Great achievements are almost always the result of not one, but many. We bring our best, let go of egos, and work with empathy and trust to do great things together.
Give and take responsibility. Having integrity around our commitments means seizing exciting opportunities, and also owning it when we have to deprioritize something. We accept full ownership of our commitments, and empower and trust others to achieve theirs.
Mindfulness. We focus on the present and aim to give ourselves time to reflect and space to integrate what we learn. These practices allow us to collectively learn from and improve all that we do, and to continually evolve our culture.
Reject false tradeoffs. We stay curious, creative, and open to new perspectives. Choosing between two sides of an extreme results in losing the benefits of one, so we commit to searching for a third way that incorporates the truths of both.
Be real (with yourself and others). We know that our best work is tied to authenticity, which allows for growth and teamwork. We bring our whole selves to work and commit to building an inclusive work environment in which all people feel safe and excited about being their full selves.
Heartitude. We embrace what makes us human, take time to play and have fun, and create meaningful experiences for their own sake. Why do we have a unicorn flying across our product when we mark a task complete? The real question is—why not?
If you’re thinking about defining—or updating—your company values, here are five things to keep in mind to ensure you develop successful values:
It can be tempting to see another company’s values and want to copy them. But your company values should be unique to your organization. These aren’t one-size-fits all values—rather, you want your company values to reflect the unique things your organization values.
Your company values ultimately represent a set of core principles that you want your employees to embody. When you go through the process of defining your core values, consider the elements that are most important to your team. These are things like curiosity, honesty, trust, or transparency—just to name a few.
One of our values at Asana is co-creation for a reason. We think the best way to identify your core company values is to come up with them together. Instead of imposing company values, consider holding a team brainstorming event. You’ll find that co-creating values with your entire team is more meaningful than ones that you just pick as a leadership team. By involving your team in the values creation process, you’re automatically gaining buy-in and increasing team morale.Lees: Hoe de teammoraal de prestaties van de werknemers beïnvloedt
In the same vein that you want your company values to be part of your company culture, don’t be afraid to be a little quirky with them. Lean into what makes your company unique and try to bring that out in your values, as well.
We’re definitely guilty of that at Asana—after all, our ninth value, heartitude, isn’t a real word. But it reflects the way we think about having fun while working hard within our organization.
On this note, though, don’t force quirkiness for quirkiness’s sake. If your organization is more straight-laced (and your employees like that about where they work), setting “quirky” values might make team members feel like they don’t quite belong.
Ideally, your company values should be things your employees know off the top of their heads. To make this possible, avoid creating too many values, or making them complex and full of jargon. Aim for 10 values or fewer, and stick to simple, easily understandable language where possible.
Before you get started on writing your own company values, take a look at company values from some of the world’s largest and most successful companies.
We’ve broken these values into three subcategories: unique, bold, and straightforward company values. Your company values don’t necessarily need to fit into one of these categories, but it can be helpful to think about the theme or type of values you want to create before you sit down to write yours.
Unique company values are values that only make sense for one particular company. These could be puns or inside jokes, or values that reference specific product features.
Champion the mission: We’re united with our community to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere.
Be a host: We’re caring, open, and encouraging to everyone we work with.
Embrace the adventure: We’re driven by curiosity, openness, and the belief that every person can grow.
Be a cereal entrepreneur: We’re determined and creative in transforming our bold ambitious into reality
(And, yes, Airbnb spells it “cereal,” not “serial”—a value in line with their unique culture!)
Be open, honest, and constructive
Take intelligent risks
Act like an owner of #OneLinkedIn
Embody diversity, inclusion, and belonging
We fly right
We fly friendly
We fly together
We fly above & beyond
Freedom and open source
Serving every human being
One thing you’ll notice about this second set of values: they’re personal and unique to the company. In fact, some of these might even be controversial if you were to implement it at your own company. That’s actually a key part of what makes them core values to their specific companies, and why we’ve included them on this list.
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.
Thrive on change
Deliver WOW through science
Embrace and drive change
Create fun and a little weirdness
Be adventurous, creative, and open minded
Pursue growth and learning
Build open and honest relationships with communication
Build a positive team and family spirit
Do more with less
Be passionate and determined
More established or traditional companies tend to have straightforward company values. These are simpler values that are less quirky than the ones we’ve seen so far. That doesn’t make them better or worse—these companies are simply defining values that reflect their company culture.
Respect: We recognize that the thoughts, feelings, and backgrounds of others are as important as our own.
Integrity: We are honest, ethical, and trustworthy.
Accountability: We accept full responsibility for our decisions, actions, and results.
Dreams and curiosity
Integrity and sincerity
Setting company values is just the beginning. Company culture is an ongoing investment to establish team and group norms across your organization.
To learn more, read our article on how to build a strong organizational culture.