Beyond the Break Room Poster: Values are Good for Business

Written by Paul Marchildon, on February 24, 2015.

Values Values are good for business. Seems a bit disingenuous, doesn’t it? And it is, if all you do is post a set of values on your website and call it a day. But when you live them – when they’re incorporated and entwined through every facet of your culture – they’re your best asset and your biggest differentiator. Values-based companies consistently outperform the competition. How can your organization use your ideals and ethics as a launch pad for greater employee motivation, engagement, productivity, and profitability?

The Value of Values

What are values? Author and strategic planning expert Graham Kenney writes that they “describe the desired culture. As Coca-Cola puts it, they serve as a behavioral compass. While he distinguishes between the terms “values” and “purpose,” both relate not to what a company does – but how and why.

Research shows that companies that are driven by purpose and values have an “empirical financial benefit” over those that do not. On the whole, they’re better able to attract and retain top talent, a huge advantage in itself, especially given the passion- and purpose-oriented Gen Ys and Zs;

As the Harvard Business Review puts it, these employees “view work as a key part of life…they place a strong emphasis on finding work that’s personally fulfilling. They want work to afford them the opportunity to make new friends, learn new skills, and connect to a larger purpose. That sense of purpose is a key factor in their job satisfaction.” When work isn’t just work – when it encompasses leisure, pleasure, and purpose – people (of any generation) are happier and more productive.

Value-driven companies, too, instill more loyalty in customers and assurance in shareholders. They are more confident in their futures, and this leads to greater investment in training, development, and innovation. Which, in turn, creates yet more value (the monetary kind!) for stakeholders. The ripple effects of values extend far and wide.


According to a comprehensive Deloitte study, “Organizations that focus beyond profits and instill a culture of purpose are more likely to find long-term success.” At the same time, though, nearly two-thirds of employees and executives believe their companies are not doing enough to instill such a culture. How can you start to change that? At Atlantis Creative Group, we had SPIRIT! Our values were:
• Strategy
• Performance
• Innovation
• Responsiveness
• Integrity
• Teamwork

These weren’t just words; they were who we were and how we operated. Every employee could recite our values. Not only that, they could tell you specifically what each meant and how they used these values in their everyday decision-making.

As a boutique shop, a significant point of difference was agility, or Responsiveness. For example, an account director receives a voicemail from a client early Thursday morning, demanding a last minute colour change to a logo. This request is unforeseen, and will push back other deliverables due to the same client that day.

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Does he ignore the call until late day, call the client back, and say, “Sorry it can’t be done until Friday.”, Or does he call the client back immediately and explain: “It can be done, but it will push everything else back. Are you ok with receiving the change Friday?”

Leaning on our value of Responsiveness, the answer was clear: we call the client back right away with the options. Nine times out of ten, the client would be fine with the logo change being sent the next day. Yet in scenario one you have a client who feels neglected and scenario two they feel like you are completely on top of their business. And that one time out of ten, we pull a rabbit out of a hat and get ‘er done.

These values were not only for our client interactions; we relied on them in every aspect of our business. We had a lot of freelance suppliers…one-man shops. It was common knowledge that if they showed up with an invoice, and didn’t mind waiting around for an hour, that there was an excellent chance they could walk out with a cheque. The same freelancers our competitors used, who often made them wait 60 to 90 days to get paid. Guess who got the A team during peak season? Yup, Responsiveness, Integrity and Teamwork all paid dividends for Atlantis.

Instilling a Values-Based Culture in Your Company

First, identify what your values are. It sounds obvious, but Glassdoor Career Trends Analyst Scott Dobroski (who helps compile the Top 25 Companies for Culture and Values list) says, “Believe it or not, not every company has a set of values. Most have a mission statement, but they don’t necessarily have a set of values that aligns with that.”

Deloitte Chairman Punit Renjen recommends starting at the beginning: “You have to really understand the essence of why you exist.” When you understand that, you can begin to articulate it to employees. That’s the key. The values themselves do not drive enhanced employee engagement or performance; it’s the understanding and awareness of them that does.

We were able to do this successfully at Atlantis because we lived and breathed our values; they literally and figuratively surrounded us, and they became our biggest competitive advantage. Companies that exist for reasons beyond making a profit are more successful. When you develop your own behavioural compass and use your core values to make decisions, your people will follow. They will be more engaged, motivated, and productive. And that is very, very good for business.
Paul Marchildon

Paul Marchildon

A self-proclaimed Leisureologist and Motivational Speaker, Paul Marchildon applies his vast expertise in human engagement to help leaders create more productive, effective organizations. Building on an influential career as a pioneer in employee incentive and loyalty programs, strategic creative communications, social media and mobile marketing, Paul provides insight into the advantages of incorporating a leisure culture in the "work" place. He is past president of Society of Incentive and Travel Executives’ (Site) Canadian Chapter and founder of Atlantis Creative Group (now part of Maritz Canada). He is one of a select group of Canadians who have received the Certified Incentive Travel Executive (CITE) designation.