Ta da! Here they are: your company’s values. Your team went through the painstaking process of choosing just the right words to convey what your organization is all about. You had your shiny new values printed on employee badges and posters hanging in break rooms. You even held a company-wide event where your CEO shared the new values, and everyone got ice cream. Time to sit back and enjoy a job well done.

Um . . . not even close. Your work has just begun.

Your company values define the soul of your organization. They guide your business decisions, define your customer interactions, convey your brand and unify your employees under a common understanding of who you are and what you stand for. But company values are not magical; they aren’t transfused into employees’ beliefs and actions once they are announced. Bringing the values to life requires intentional focus – and time. Without both, they’re just words.

Bringing the values to life requires intentional focus – and time. Without both, they’re just words.Click To Tweet

Interested? Here are five ways to make company values real for employees.

Make them meaningful. Let’s face it: many companies use the same words to describe their values. Integrity, diversity, collaboration and innovation – among others – show up in nearly every set of values we’ve seen lately. Tweak values language so it captures your brand and unique culture, and your employees more easily can see themselves bringing the values to life. For example, you can see the Coca-Cola, Genentech and Zappos brands shine through their core values.

Make them visible. Yes, I realize I just poked a little fun at employee badges and posters – but they have their place. When your values are visibly present in the workplace, it’s a reminder of what you stand for. In addition to the standard posters and badges, look for unexpected places for employees to find the values. In our offices, we have tabletop displays that are moved around. You never know where they are going to pop up – which makes people pay attention to them.

Define the behaviors. Even if the words are similar, values come to life differently at each organization. Employees need to understand what behaviors or actions support your values. For example, one of Padilla’s values is ‘Think as many.’ A supporting behavior is ‘Always ask whose voice is missing,’ which reminds us to make sure the right people are at the table to make our work the best it can be for our clients and their customers. Wondering who should develop those behaviors? Your employees are your best resource. They’re the heart of your company, and they can best identify how values are brought to life within your organization.

Talk about them. Your values should be a common topic in your workplace. Discuss them as part of business planning, employee development, recruiting strategy. Talk about what’s happening in the industry and in the world, and how your company values compel you to respond. During team or staff meetings, ask one or two employees to share a “values moment,” a time in which they observed a colleague demonstrating the values. The more you talk about your values and what they mean, the more employees will embrace them and bring them to life.

Recognize and reward them. If you implement the suggestions above, it should be easy to spot examples of employees living the values. It’s human nature to do more of what you’re recognized and rewarded for, so encourage employees at all levels to recognize each other for bringing the values to life. If you already have an employee recognition program, tweak the requirements to reflect your values. If you don’t have one, now is a great time to start. Values also should be incorporated into annual – or more frequent – employee performance evaluations.

Transitioning your company values from words to action requires effort well beyond the initial rollout. But as you see your employees embrace and demonstrate the values in their interactions with customers, clients and each other, I’m confident you’ll find it an investment worth making.

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