Imagine a business where every employee worked together towards a common goal. A workplace so inspired by the company’s core values that everyone made a conscious effort to put aside their self-interest to build an organization and culture driven by integrity.
While it is unlikely any business could ever achieve this level of perfection, there are many global companies that are working towards this effort, and transforming their business for the better – especially in the face of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement.
How are these companies doing it so effectively? As Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh explains, much of it comes down to company culture, “Our number one priority is company culture. Our whole belief is that if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff like delivering great customer service or building a long-term enduring brand will just happen naturally on its own.”
If your organization is challenged by how to get employees to do the right thing, even when it’s difficult, making these foundational principles a priority at your business is a good first step towards creating a rock-solid – and ethical – company culture.
Build a Framework of Ethical Action
It’s difficult for employees to act with integrity if they don’t understand what’s expected of them. If a business is to create an environment that both facilitates and supports ethical behavior, it needs these standards written explicitly across a company’s mission statement, as well as other key manuals and training materials. But the work doesn’t end there.
Establishing an ethical framework for employees should also include taking action and speaking up when ethical issues arise. If harassment, data privacy issues, or corruption or abuse of power take place inside an organization, employees need to know these violations of company standards won’t be tolerated, and any offenders will be dealt with swiftly and uncompromisingly.
Enforcing the ethical standards set by an organization isn’t designed to create fear. Instead, it shows employees that adherence to ethical business practices is critical to developing a company culture that “walks the walk” in terms of its values. And as employees see integrity in action, it propels the company culture in the right direction.
Become an Ethical Influence
Few things are as disruptive to a business, or as damaging to company culture than an unethical workforce. This makes it even more important for leadership to not only establish the standards by which the organization should operate, but also set an ethical example for employees.
Successful educator, author, and business leader Dr. Stephen Covey once said, “You can’t have trust without being trustworthy.” As leaders, part of building employee trust and creating an ethical workforce is making professional integrity a priority for c-suite executives and frontline managers. After all, if a leader is unable to commit to the standards they set, it invites others in the organization to follow in their footsteps.
In addition to being an ethical influence, leaders should also consider bringing in experts to offer employees broader and different perspectives. These experts can provide more guidance on acting with integrity at work, reinforce the values that executives have established, and open the conversation up to sensitive topics that employees may not feel comfortable discussing with direct leadership.
Take Advantage of the Tools that Build an Ethical Culture
An ethical workplace culture won’t happen on its own – and it certainly won’t happen overnight – but it can be achieved with values-driven decision-making, deliberate effort, and the right support.
As support options go, ethics training programs have been proven to be one of the most effective ways to reduce unethical behavior in the workplace next to establishing a code of ethics. However, ethics in itself is an all-encompassing matter, making it critical for learning teams to break the subject down into microlearning sessions that target different areas of ethics a business wants to focus on, such as:
- Ethical workplace conduct
- Anti-harassment and discrimination
- Respect in the workplace
- Anti-bribery and corruption
- Cybersecurity and data privacy
- Antitrust compliance
- And many other ethics-related topics
Providing employees with periodic ethics training sessions, as well as ongoing refresher courses, makes a big impact on employee behaviors over the long term. It’s also one of the more meaningful ways a business can create a real shift in its culture. As employees become more aware of what behavior is expected of them, and are given the training to see the impact of their behavior, the values that inspire everyone at the organization to push company culture in a positive direction are instilled.
Interactive Services is a leader in helping organizations create values-driven, ethical cultures through our award-winning ethics and compliance training solutions, which includes our newly launched “Workplace Diversity” training module. Discover how we can help your business – and your employees – live by the values that drive your organization by signing up for our free 7-day trial!