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Crafting company values that stick

The team at Disco is in the process of refreshing our company values. It's a daunting task where I found myself worrying:

  • What if the values don't capture the essence of the company we're building?
  • What if existing employees have a hard time connecting with the new values?
  • What if they are either too short-sighted or too broad?

These questions and more paralyzed me until I realized we have thousands of teams using Disco to celebrate their values every single day. With the main goal of creating values that a) guide us and b) affect our daily actions, I looked for inspiration from our customers.

With their permission, I'm going to share a few interesting trends from the top 1% of Disco customers that have achieved 100% employee adoption of their values (all employees give or receive stars for the particular value every month). Here are the trends from several of those elite teams:

Actionable

One of the most common trends in the data was action-oriented values. It seems to be very important for values to be attached to a clear, demonstrable behavior. This makes sense if you are crafting values that are actually intended to be used and habit forming or behavior shaping!

A prime example of this is Passionately Debate by Thinkifc. Not only is it clear when this value is demonstrated, it fosters healthy conversations that allow not just one person to connect with the value (a debate usually requires more than one person 😂).

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Boost success

Like good appreciation, it seems that great company values also embody an aspect of celebration. Celebrating your unique culture and of future successes that seem to create a snowball effect.

Take Shipt's Excellence on Repeat value as an example. They were recently acquired by Target for $550,000,000. Clearly having a core culture of excellence and celebration leads to good things.

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Authentic

One of Animoto's core value Oomphosity is having a passion for life inside and outside of work and the ability to bring that passion to work everyday. This value is clearly unique to Animoto while also being intuitive in that passion is expected and celebrated.

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Short & memorable

There are obvious struggles between brevity & clarity. Finding a sweetspot that is both memorable and obvious can be challenging. Treehouse nails it with their value Student Focus. It is both very intuitive and easy to remember.

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In fact, I did a bit of research across all company values that have gained at least 50% employee adoption. There seems to be a sweet spot for character length:

  • Mean: 14.5 characters
  • Median: 13
  • Mode: 14
  • Min: 4
  • Max: 48

charlength-2

Student Focus is 13 characters. Coincidence? I think not.

This doesn't mean that longer values are bad. There are plenty of examples of values exceeding 20 characters that gain employee adoption. In fact, Disco makes it easy to recall your values regardless of length, but if you are starting from scratch (or refreshing your values like us) then shoot for 10-15 characters.

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Inclusive

It's important for values to foster inclusiveness on your team. Everyone should be able to relate to the values in their own way. Having a value that promotes that is a common trend. Take Animalz Inc, an NYC content strategy shop, celebrating Winning as a Team. Their entire staff gives stars for this value every month.

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Less is more

Of the companies with heaviest values adoption, there also seems to be a preferred range for the number of total core values. The average number of values per company is 4.3 with a median of 4, min of 2, and max of 8.

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This also makes sense given that according to Christian Bick and Mikhail I. Rabinovich, authors of a study on the storage capacity in our brains, it's about 30x easier to remember 4 items from a list compared to remembering 10 items from a list.

Lasting

Last but not least, it seems very important to have values that will stand the test of time. This is also a delicate balance between choosing something that has an obvious impact on your current goals and objectives, while having foresight to be relevant toward the culture and company you're trying to build and whatever goals, objectives, or projects will help get you there.

A fantastic example of this that has been used by 100% of their team is We Are Never Satisfied from Dayta Marketing.

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Thank you to Animalz Inc, Animoto, Dayta Marketing, Shipt, Thinkifc, and Treehouse for being incredible cultural thought leaders.

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Crafting company values that stick
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