The importance of values in a small business
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Our values shape us. Not only do they shape how we live our day to day lives but they are the bedrock of a business, shaping its culture and vision. That’s why it’s so important to get your values right for your small business.

Why are values so important for a small business?

Values create culture. They are guiding principles shared by employees that form the essence of your company and brand. Values inspire and motivate people by giving a shared sense of purpose that everyone is working towards the same goals. In small businesses this is key to achieving higher levels of morale, motivation and commitment, which ultimately all increase staff retention.

Having a clear set of values helps other companies and, importantly, potential customers to understand what your business stands for. We like working for and with people who share our values, whether that be as a business owner, employee or customer, so having a clearly defined set of values is an important contributor to overall business success.

Crucially, alignment between company values and employee values can enhance employee engagement. If employees feel that their employer shares their own personal values, not only can this lead to increased job satisfaction, motivation and performance, but you are likely to retain them for longer. This is crucial for small businesses looking to grow and succeed.


How do I create a set of values?

Think carefully about the culture you want to create. Taking inspiration from other companies or brands can be a helpful starting point but this is your business. You have free reign when it comes to creating your own unique culture and the values that you want to underpin it.

Make sure your values are meaningful and authentic rather than just being a list of impressive-sounding words or phrases. Ask yourself if this set of values really represents you and your employees or, if you’re just starting out, do they reflect the culture you want to create?

If you’re an established business looking to either set or refresh your values, consider getting some input from your employees. Finding out the areas your staff value in terms of company culture and ethos should help you to define your values. The clearer defined your values are, the easier they will be for your team to understand and act by.

Once you’ve set your values, consider rewarding employees who really live them out. Not only will this help to further embed the values into the company culture, but recognition and reward increase motivation and morale.


Recruiting staff who align with your values

Your company’s values should be at the forefront of your mind during any recruitment process. Research shows that values-based recruiting is becoming more popular. LinkedIn has reported a 154% increase in job adverts in the past two years referencing culture and values, whilst two thirds of UK professionals want to work for employers that align with their values.

Having your clearly defined company values will help you to attract people who align with the culture of your business but, how do you test for this at interview stage? Asking specific competency based questions based on your values will help you to determine this. For example, if you have a collaborative based value, ask the candidate for an example of a time when they have worked as part of a team. Similarly, to test for a value about providing excellent customer service, ask for an example of this. You’ll soon know if they’re the right match for you.


The pitfalls of not getting it right

Recruit employees who align with your values and you will reap the rewards of high levels of performance, engagement and, ultimately, business success; however, get it wrong and you could find yourself having to navigate some tricky HR processes.

An employee who doesn’t align with your values is unlikely to want to work towards the company’s goals in the same way as everyone else, and this is usually quickly noticeable in small teams. It is crucial in small businesses to be able to create a culture whereby everyone is aligned to working towards the same goals in the same way, all of which is underpinned by the company’s values.

Employing someone who does not align with your values can quite quickly create issues amongst the rest of the team. It can create a low morale and cause others to feel like they are picking up the slack where a colleague may not be performing as expected.

Moreover, disengagement from values can occur when employees feel that the business does not align with their own values. Research has shown that 58% of employees would consider leaving their jobs because their employer does not share the same values as them. Whilst you need to stay true to your business vision, it is worth thinking about setting values that employees will be able to relate to.


Values that provide inspiration and focus for your team will create a culture in which people thrive and want to work towards the same goals. Stay true to yourself and your business, and your values will not only reflect your company culture but nurture it, supporting your overall business vision.

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