Consumers are savvier than they have ever been before, and this translates into an environment that benefits businesses with a corporate culture that understands not only the value, but also the necessity, of adhering to ethical standards. Those that stick to ethics as a rule – and not a guideline – will position themselves for the greatest possible amount of long-term success. Here are seven guidelines to ensuring adherence to the spirit, and not just the letter, of an ethical culture.
The Ethical Nature of Corporate Culture
1) It starts at the top
The people who call the shots will, necessarily, dictate how often and how stringently the business of the whole company sticks to its guns on ethics. This means that all corporate executives must be on the same page. When it comes to the people who make the most impactful decisions, the culture is only as strong as its weakest link. The perception of a corporation as ethical takes a long time to build, but can be lost in one moment, with one bad decision by one person. Make sure that the executives you employ truly buy into the ideals of ethical conduct and social responsibility. Any executive who plays fast and loose with these tenets is an executive who is willing to risk damage to the corporation, and therefore is not an executive worth having.
2) Track and measure perception
For many corporations, once a year is enough to internally administer surveys that will give insight into the in-house perception of business ethics. While this is generally a good timeframe within a stable corporation to administer that kind of survey, there are other ways to track how your company is performing in the arena of ethics. You can hire third-party companies to assess employee concerns over ethics and routinely survey non-employees, such as shareholders and vendors, to see how your company is perceived. Understanding the public narrative will empower you to see where the gaps exist in the corporate culture as it pertains to ethics.
3) Train and re-train
This may seem rudimentary, but if your employees don’t know the specific ways in which they must conduct themselves to behave ethically and foster the right kind of corporate culture, then that is a failing of management. Employees should know what is expected of them from day one, and in some ways, knowing what not to do is of greater importance than being incredibly productive from day one. There should be thorough, position-specific conduct training from hiring and routine reinforcement throughout an employee’s term. This will create an environment of diligence, where employees understand that it is never acceptable to say, “I didn’t know.”
4) Enforce penalties
It’s tempting to let your employees off with a slap on the wrist for a lot of small violations. They are people that you invest time and money into training and, in turn, they contribute to the success of the company. If the rules surrounding ethics are not strictly enforced, however, this can be taken as a sign that it’s okay to skirt the rules as long as it is in the best interests of the company – yet an action that puts the culture and health of the company in jeopardy in any manner, large or small, can by definition never be in the best interests of the company. This means that the rules must be enforced equally and regularly. Those companies that are not forthcoming about how they investigate and discipline employees for violating codes of ethics are the subject of derision by consumers, and deservedly so. Playing it close to the vest is never a good practice, because it appears as though there is something more being hidden.
5) Honesty is the best policy
This is not to say that being completely honest with everyone all of the time is a good thing. However, this generation of consumers is notoriously difficult when it comes to forgiving corporations for coverups. If a mistake is made that is a major breach of ethics that can hurt the public perception of the company, it is best to get out in front of it and own it. This allows for some control of the narrative and will make it possible to maintain public trust in the enterprise through what could otherwise be a truly damaging event. There is a saying that “in every calamity, there is opportunity,” and this is truly reflective of the spirit of business in the 21st century.
6) Trust the process
When something goes sideways, resulting in an ethics or compliance violation, stick to the rulebook. Don’t panic – the bylaws of the corporation are there for exactly this reason. There is always a contingency to be found, and it will be found in the documents that are the lifeblood of the corporation. By placing your trust in the existing structure that has facilitated ethical behavior at all prior points, you will be able to ride out the one point at which it was not able to prevent a failure.
7) Leverage technologies
There is an incredible wealth of technology available to manage your corporation, which will allow for greater efficiencies in all arenas. Compliance and ethics go hand in hand. Use vendors that will allow you to have a greater understanding of how a business can be ethical to the greatest degree while also maintaining its status as an industry leader.
Why Technology Can Help Improve Corporate Culture
One of the most important steps in leveraging technology to attain a reputation for stringent ethics and compliance is to use entity management software. Without a system to track all of the internal documents that are necessary to ensure compliance with regulatory standards, a scandal of some sort is a huge potential threat.
Blueprint OneWorld offers a suite of innovative, intuitive entity management solutions with a team of dedicated members for install, maintenance, troubleshooting and upgrades. We offer personalized product suites tailored to the needs of each client. If you are interested, please do not hesitate to give us a call or shoot us an email today.