Core Values

Steven Cesare, Ph.D.


In follow-up to last week’s posting on Organizational Culture Components, I have had several discussions with business owners about how to generate, select, and implement Core Values.  This posting provides a general list of typical Core Values and offers an overview of the process to finalize how Core Values are determined.  That said, while there are endless options, here is a list of common Core Values:


  • Accountability
  • Being the Best
  • Collaboration
  • Competency
  • Character
  • Adaptive to Change
  • Creativity
  • Truth
  • Agility
  • Customer Focus
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Customer Retention
  • Appreciation
  • Efficiency
  • Empowerment
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Continuous Improvement
  • Ethical
  • Exceed Expectations
  • Excellence
  • Communication
  • Expertise
  • Flexibility
  • Focus on Future
  • Growth
  • Cost Conscious
  • Honor
  • Innovative
  • Integrity
  • Joy
  • Learning
  • Partnership
  • Merit
  • Non-Bureaucratic
  • Open Minded
  • Resourcefulness
  • Passion
  • People
  • Perseverance
  • Proactive
  • Employee Development
  • Practical
  • Pride in Workmanship
  • Professionalism
  • Quality
  • Profitability
  • Fairness
  • Prudent Risk Taking
  • Relationships
  • Resilience
  • Reliability
  • Respect
  • Results-Oriented
  • Safety
  • Shared Prosperity
  • Simplicity
  • Skill
  • Proficiency
  • Success
  • Maturity
  • Synergy
  • Responsibility
  • Thorough
  • Commitment
  • Teamwork
  • Trust
  • Clairvoyance
  • Value


While the starting inventory can be as numerous as your company decides is useful (hopefully, not over 50), the ultimate goal is usually five.  Five.  Five Core Values represent clarity, focus, simplicity, and utility in that most employees can remember five things; once the number of Core Values exceeds five, it becomes more of a memory task for the employees, rather than actually applying the Core Values while at work.

Keep it to five.

The selection procedure is normally conducted in a sequential fashion, involving either the management team or the entire workforce; parenthetically, I suggest the latter.  I know including the entire workforce will take more time; but remember, it is more about securing inclusive buy-in from the employees regarding what they think constitutes the company culture, not the timeliness by which the process is completed. 

The actual process begins by providing an overview of Organizational Culture, the Company Mission Statement, and the role Core Values represent in each employee’s daily work routine, to the participants.  Following the overview, instruct every participant to choose no more than five Core Values from the original list.  Once that task is completed, count the number or times each unique Core Value was mentioned.  Then, identify those Top 10 most popular Core Values, and repeat the process of selecting the Top Five Core Values from that Top 10 list. Repeat that process until there is consensus agreement among the participants of the final five Core Values.

Keep in mind, this is not merely a touchy-feely, administrative task.  The intent of this deliberative exercise is to identify key attributes that represent your company’s essence; they are your company’s DNA code.  Moreover, as we discussed last week, once the final five Core Values have been chosen, approximately five success behaviors should then be specified for each Core Value.

The final five Core Values should be prominently displayed in the office, yard, shop, Employee Handbook, as well as periodically included as payroll stuffers, and referred to during Rewards and Recognition meetings, All-Hands meetings, New Employee Orientation sessions, and Employee Performance Reviews.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.