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At the Foundation: Your Core Values

Author: Mike Campion

How much of a negative impact can the bad apples in your organization have? Are having no bad employees a realistic goal? First things first: What is a bad employee?

  • Is it just someone who is bad at their job?
  • Takes too much time off?
  • Has a penchant for punching other employees?

While none of those are ideal, they all focus on actions and results instead of the root cause. Instead of trying to create a comprehensive list of “do’s and don’ts” for your employees to ignore, start at the foundation: your Core Values.

A bad employee is anyone who does not love and live your organization’s Core Values.

Discovering your Core Values is an action in-and-of itself, but when you have a set of “rules” to run your organization with, you will find that the people who line up with those rules don’t tend to violate the “do’s and don’ts” of your organization. 

Luckily, you have the keys to the happy employee kingdom. Get ready to discover the Three Steps to protect your organization from the wrong employees:

  1. Stop them from showing up
  2. Stop them from getting in
  3. Stop them from sticking around

Step 1 - Stop Bad Employees from Showing Up

Pre-framing is extremely important when weeding out potential problem employees. How an employee is first exposed to your organization is key. Consider the following two examples:

1. A current employee tells his friend, a prospective employee, “You should apply at my job; the place is so disorganized, we could get away with anything.”

2. A prospective employee comes across your website and thinks, “These are my people! I love what they are all about, I wonder if they are hiring…”

When you feature enough of your Core Values on your website, in your hiring ads, phone systems and your current employees become evangelists for your mission, you position your organization as the right place for the right employee. Whenever, however a prospective employee becomes aware of your organization, they feel like they have finally found their tribe. This alone will dramatically increase the quality of your applicant pool. Which brings us to...

Step 2 - Stop the Wrong Employees from Getting In

Once you have laid the foundation in Step One, the job of keeping bad employees from infiltrating your organization is half done. All you have to do is make sure that your organization is actually living and breathing the Core Values that brought prospective employees to you in the first place.

So many employers focus on job history and/or technical ability. Both offer good insight, but are only relevant with employees who have the same Core beliefs as you do. Hire for attitude, train for skill.

If your organization is passionate about outstanding customer service, it is eminently possible to teach an employee how to serve a customer. It is a fool’s errand to teach him to be enthusiastic about customer service. Your life will improve exponentially when you are in the business of stoking your employees’ passions and values. You are not in the business of convincing people to do something they don’t want to do or believe something they don’t want to believe.

Craft your interview process around the values that attracted your prospective employees. Once that is a match, job history and ability to do the job at-hand come into play. An unintended consequence of passionately living your organization's Core Values is an extremely attractive community. This can make employees that aren’t a good fit work even harder to get in, even when your pre-framing and interview process is Core Values-based. Time for the big guns...

Step 3 - Get ‘em Out

Creating a Core Values-driven culture not only naturally repels the wrong employees; it strongly attracts the right employees. They feel “at home,” like they have finally found something special. They don’t want to leave. They stay longer, work harder and enjoy their jobs more.

The flip side is that people who are not a Core Value fit feel out of place. They don’t fit in. They don’t understand why everyone acts so differently. They discover that the amazing community that attracted them to your organization isn’t for them. More often than not, they wander off into the night on their own free will.

When you do have someone that doesn’t get the memo, and needs a little help recognizing they aren’t a fit, you will weed them out by systematic recognition and application of your Core Values. Examples of Core Values being either applied properly or ignored or mishandled are common topics. Decision making conversations regularly start and end with your Core Values.

Those who don’t “get” your values will stick out like a sore thumb. When you see that is the case, have a conversation. Refer back to your hiring process. Verify they share your organization’s values. If they do, their behavior will follow and all is well. If they don’t, it’s time to help them transition into an organization that is a better fit.

It can sound like an overwhelming prospect, but integrating your Core Values into your organization is like pushing a flywheel. It takes a lot of energy at the beginning, but when it gets spinning, it creates a tremendous amount of power on its own. Not only will keeping bad employees out of your organization help your bottom line—it will make your life and your employees lives far better.