Yesterday, I explained the importance of establishing and defining your practice’s core values—the foundation of your company culture. At the end of that post, I asked you to identify your practice’s core values and jot down rough definitions for each. Today, I’ll discuss how to document those values and their definitions in a well-written, easily distributable format.
Before I leap into the how, though, I want emphasize why you should document your practice’s core values. That way, you truly understand how important this document is and will be—and thus, why you should put sincere effort and time into crafting it.
As we’ve learned in previous blog posts, culture forms naturally, and every company has culture—whether they know it or not. Because of this, some people believe organizations cannot control culture. As this post from Recruit Loopexplains, it may seem “weird to attempt to document a culture, as if to formalize something that is really just ‘the way we do things around here.’ Particularly with smaller groups of people, the idea of documenting a culture—attempting to formalize it—seems like over-preparing and aggrandizing the importance of the process.” But nothing could be further from the truth. “There comes a point in most organizations’ growth where tacit assumptions and shared, founding beliefs need to be made more formal and explicit,” says Tim Cadogan, CEO of OpenX.
Your core values are the foundation of your company culture. Document them, and you set the standard—the way the business, or the team, does things rather than the individual. Ultimately, if you don’t define your practice’s culture, it’ll evolve on its own, and you may find staff and therapists operating in ways that don’t align with your values. As Recruit Loop says, “culture is like a garden. If you let it go, individual flowers and weeds that you never expected to be there will sprout and grow, some taking root and becoming difficult to remove.”
You know your core values and their definitions. Now it’s time to put them down in writing. Here are seven tips for doing so:
1. Be Clear
“The clearer you are on defining the culture and explaining the reasoning behind the belief system, the more likely new employees are to embrace the same doctrine,” says Constructive Communication. Buy-in like that solidifies your culture and—as a result—positively impacts business.
2. Write With Panache
“Make it punchy. Punchy is memorable,” says John DeHart, co-founder of Nurse Next Door. What does he mean? Your writing should be concise, but impactful. Demonstrate your brand’s personality in the writing. Tim Cadogan concurs: “Being explicit means writing the values down in memorable phrases. We tried to avoid generic words and phrases (like ‘integrity’) and use our own unique voice. This makes the values more relatable and reinforces whatever is unique about the culture.”
3. Write Well
While it’s certainly valuable to do your own writing—after all, you want it to be genuine and feel personal—it’s also important that your words are well-written. Consider enlisting a friend, relative, or business acquaintance to assist you with the writing. They can either write based off interviews with you or polish the writing that you do. If you don’t know someone who can help, you can easily find freelance writers online. Look for one who has a background in company culture, HR or internal communications, and/or the private practice health care industry.
4. Make Them Real and Liveable
In his Wall Street Journal blog post, Greg Shove, founder of SocialChorus, discusses Netflix’s culture document. There, they explain the difference between nice-sounding values and actual values: “The real company values, as opposed to the nice-sounding values, are shown by who gets rewarded, promoted, or let go…Real company values are behaviors and skills that we particularly value in fellow employees.” For example, organizations may say they value independence, but then reward conformity. So, first, ensure your core values are genuine. Then, in addition to defining your values, make sure you detail the behaviors associated with each. Even better if you can list examples.
5. Get Feedback, Edit, and Polish
Once you have a first draft, share the document with the same trusted staff who helped you brainstorm and decide upon your core values. Get their feedback and revise. Then, have your writer do a final review.
6. Distribute It
You have your core values documented. How do you want to distribute this information? We here at WebPT created a Team Commitment handbook. Netflix and Zappos have something similar, too. Other companies post them on their website or intranet sites, hang them on the walls of their offices, disseminate them as single page handouts or PDF documents, or share them during training seminars. Choose which route reflects your culture and will ensure everyone can a.) have access to them and b.) easily reference them. Whichever route you choose (according to Constructive Communication, handbooks are the most common), I recommend enlisting a graphic designer to lay everything out and ensure the final product is eye-catching, easy-to-read, and reflective of your brand.
7. Keep It Current and Relevant
Once you distribute your core values, keep them alive in your business. As writer Erica Cohen will explain next week, you absolutely must maintain your company culture as you grow. Your core values document will play a strong role in that. Lastly, understand that this document isn’t set in stone. You can update when needed. Just this year, WebPT added two new core values to its Team Commitments handbook. As your practice grows and evolves, it’s important that you reflect upon your core values document. Make sure it always aligns with your business and vice versa.
Has your therapy practice documented its core values or company culture? Share your experiences and advice in the comments below.