What does a company stand for? What values do its employees embody? What do its products contribute to the world? Answering these questions succinctly but meaningfully is challenging but worth pursuing to the many companies that craft “core value statements” or “mission statements” to anchor every aspect of a business in a set of commonly-held beliefs and commitments. These statements “become the deeply ingrained principle and fabric that guide employee behavior and company decisions and actions—the behaviors the company and employees expect of themselves,” says Eric Jacobson, a former executive who writes about management and leadership in Kansas City, MO, “Without a statement, the company will lack soul.”
Not every company agrees—in fact some think such statements can be restrictive. “We think that a mission statement can limit our people from seeing the business through the eyes of the customer,” says Tara Darrow, a spokesperson for Nordstrom. But at their best, the statements are “true reflections of what the company believes—and management and employees are willing to live by,” says Jacobson.
These 7 companies on the 100 Best Companies to Work For list have mission or core values statements that play an active role in business practice and foster confidence and happiness in the employees who work with the values every day.
Mission statement: To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.
The social networking site’s mission statement, characteristically, is fewer than 140 characters, a move that helps the statement embody the company’s identity in both form and content. The company’s 3,600 employees—2,000 of whom are based in Twitter’s (TWTR) San Francisco headquarters, are encouraged to understand the mission statement as a defining corporate philosophy. “Our mission statement puts our users first and defines our clear purpose—to give everyone the ability to be heard, seen, and share their thoughts and experiences as they happen,” says Brian Schipper, vice president of human resources, “It is our compass when we’re building the platform and developing new products and policies. We want to empower individuals and be a force for good in the world.”
Core Values: Reach, Learn, Di-bear-sity Colla-bear-ate Give, Cele-bear-ate
Build-A-Bear Workshop takes teddy bears very seriously, and “bear-isms” are front and center throughout the corporate culture, including at the corporate “bearquarters” in St. Louis. The company’s six core values are internally-facing—they’re not posted at retail stores. But within the company, they are important tools for bringing employees together across every level of the business. In fact, “Di-bear-sity,” the most recent value to be added to the statement, was named through a 2012 company-wide contest. And at quarterly corporate meetings, managers from individual stores can nominate employees for “Atta Bears” awards, citing excellent performance in one of the core values areas. Sharon John, Build-A-Bear’s CEO, says the core values were not on the list of things she wanted to change when she came to the company in a “turnaround situation” in 2013. “These are life values as well as company values,” she says, “They are unifying for our organization.”
Whole Foods Market
Higher Purpose Statement: With great courage, integrity and love—we embrace our responsibility to co-create a world where each of us, our communities, and our planet can flourish. All the while, celebrating the sheer love and joy of food.
“I don’t think a lot of companies talk about love in the workplace,” says Mark Ehrnstein, global vice president of team member services at Whole Foods Market’s (WFM) Austin headquarters, “but we do.” The grocery chain’s higher purpose statement is meant to reinforce that passionate outlook to customers, suppliers, stockholders, and employees alike. Ehrnstein adds that the statement is part of what helps keep the various stakeholders connected in a business that needs to be open to change. “We have to continually evolve our thinking and embrace change,” he says, “We have to do that while staying true to who we are, and staying true to the core of the company.”
Core Values Statement: Sell good merchandise at a reasonable profit, treat your customers like human beings, and they will always come back for more.
This quote from Leon Leonwood Bean has been known as “L.L.’s Golden Rule” at his namesake company since the 1920s, and it is posted prominently in its retail stores and manufacturing and shipping facilities, says spokesperson Carolyn Beem. “It’s not just a saying, but it’s way of life and a way of conducting business” for the nearly 5,000 employees who work for the Freeport, ME-based company, she says. The philosophy embedded in the core values statement can be seen in L.L. Bean’s trademark satisfaction guarantee, and in the pride boot-makers take in placing a card in each hand-crafted pair of boots they ship. “We’re in business, but we’re not in business to be unreasonable or to fleece anybody,” said Beem, inadvertently using a bit of an outerwear pun. “We want customers to come back, and if they feel they’ve been treated well, then they will.”
10 Core Values:
1. Deliver WOW Through Service
2. Embrace and Drive Change
3. Create Fun and a Little Weirdness
4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
5. Pursue Growth and Learning
6. Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication
7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8. Do More with Less
9. Be Passionate and Determined
10. Be Humble
Employees at the online retailer Zappos.com aren’t expected to memorize the company’s 10 core values, which were incorporated in 2006 based on a list of 100 character traits circulated by CEO Tony Hsieh. But they are expected to embody those values in their personalities—and not just at work. “The best employee is the person who can be the same person at home that they are at work,” says Jamie Naughton chief of staff for the Las Vegas-based company. When they are hired, employees sign contracts saying they understand the values, agree to be reviewed based on them, and understand that they can be fired if they fail to live up to them. This commitment makes the values “a living breathing thing, more than just a plaque on our lobby wall,” says Naughton, and it fuels the company’s reputation as a place where employees are happy and motivated.
Wegmans Food Markets
Our “Who We Are” Values: Caring, High Standards, Making a Difference, Respect, and Empowerment
The Rochester-based grocery chain considers its core values to be a key tool for hiring well and cultivating employees who will remain with the company throughout their careers. “We want to hire for values,” says Kevin Stickles, who has worked for the nearly 100-year-old company for 31 years and is now vice president of human resources. “We can train anybody for the technical work they’ll need to do in our stores,” he says, “but do they fit into the fabric of what our company is based upon?” The values are introduced to employees when they are first hired, they are posted prominently in stores, and they are modeled by open-door policies from managers. “Yes we have it on a wall, but our people live and breathe it,” says Stickles.
Bright Horizons Family Solutions
Core Values Statement: The HEART Principles:
Bright Horizons Family Solutions (BFAM) employs 25,000 people at more than 900 childcare centers in the U.S. and U.K., and its “HEART Principles” are used at every level of the business, says Ilene Serpa, vice president of communications. The statement is posted prominently in staff rooms and bulletin boards at individual centers, it is featured in the employee handbook and culture guide, and it is often referenced by leaders in presentations or company-wide communications. The statement’s impact is most strongly felt in fostering open, honest lines of communication between families and caregivers—and those caregivers and their managers, right up the line to the company’s executives. “It’s very important we make Bright Horizons feel like a family for our employees, because that’s the feeling we’re trying to create for the people we’re caring for,” says Serpa.
Holly Lebowitz Rossi is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Massachusetts.