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A customer named Karen calls your car dealership one day and Ted, a salesmen, answers the phone. She asks about a 2017 silver Honda Accord LX Coupe that she wants to test drive. Ted has a knack for persuading customers to buy cars. Feeling extremely confident, he tells Karen we carry the one she is interested in, despite it just selling out. He hopes to convince her to buy a different car once she arrived.
Instead, Karen is upset to discover the cars’ absence once she arrives. Without even listening to Ted, she takes off, furious over the fact that she drove an hour for nothing. Later that day Karen posts a negative review online pertaining to the incident.
Although you might pride yourself as a person of integrity, your company may contain employees acting as renegades intentionally or unintentionally, without you knowing. All it takes is a couple of bad reviews for those employees to cast a negative shadow on your company's reputation.
An important question to consider – how can companies cultivate a code of ethics and imbed it into their culture so that customers receive top-notch service from your employees?
Creating consistent, ethical behavior builds customer trust. Expect customers to keep supporting your business when their needs are repeatedly satisfied and they keep leaving with positive experiences (experiences they often share with others).
Tim Fargo once said, “Who you are tomorrow begins with what you do today.” If workplace ethics is absent or only addressed minimally in your company, take action before your firm suffers a crushing blow to its image. First things first, make sure your values are clearly written and stay consistent.
Consider These Thoughts when Writing Company Values
With a clearly written list of admirable core values, you can align employee behavior with your company’s mission. When developing principles, take the following into account:
Determine Significance – zero tolerance for theft, fraud, and harassment are three big ones right off the bat. According to professor at Arizona State University and author of the book, Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse, Marianne Jennings asks a question, "What are the things you would never do at this company to get a client, to keep a client, to make sure you met your numbers for the quarter?" Once you set the boundaries, your firm can proceed to trigger employee incentive so they buy in to the policies.
Keep Front-line Employees in the Loop – often times, the company’s values comes from the top. This can be out of sync with what employees face day-to-day. Since many of your employees work on the front-line, you should grant them a say in the drafting process. Consider using anonymous input from employees. Taking their insight into account can keep expectations realistic. It also helps employees feel valued.
Routinely Update – put someone in charge of refurbishing and applying your values. This individual can be held responsible for monitoring and reporting any misconduct occurring in the workplace.
Creating a clear and concise body of principles is not enough. So, how do you empower others to follow the values in their work? You reflect the values through your leadership.
Reflect the Company’s Values in Your Leadership
On top of your company values, there are several practices you can apply to convey ethics through leading. Don’t trust your employees to honor the values just because they are mounted on the wall. After all, the National Business Ethics Survey revealed that 2 out of every 3 customers report misconduct, and you don’t want customers giving bad reviews. When customers look at your company’s brand that should trigger nothing except positivity, but if a customer were to report misconduct you may find yourself struggling to restore a tainted brand. As a leader you set the tone for what occurs in your business. When conveying ethics through your leadership, keep the following in mind:
Set Standards you are Prepared to Follow – as their boss and mentor, if you intend to encourage employees to support the company’s mission, your employees need to perceive you as someone who represents the values underlying that mission. Consistency is everything! Don’t create a double standard by jumping on employees for not following the values when you are constantly screwing up. If for some reason you do slip up, own up to it as a demonstration of humility.
Lead by Example – once the standards are set, allow employees to observe management following the core values. If they see you, the managers, and executives serving customers and representing the code, it creates respect and community. They will think wow, my boss actually stands by his beliefs. It gets rid of the common perception that bosses impose inconsistent expectations across the workforce.
Hold Management to a Higher Standard – employees look to their leaders to define what acceptable behavior is. You can challenge managers to engage with employees in discussions about handling difficult situations ethically and perhaps brainstorming ways to address those scenarios.
Reward Employees for Ethical Behavior – Research shows if you affirm the behavior you want, you’ll see more of it. For instance, if you notice Joseph always going the extra mile in putting customer needs ahead of his own interests, acknowledge and let him be an example for others to emulate. Giving him recognition for it will engender him to keep honoring the company values.
Be Mindful of Work Overload – be on the lookout for indicators of burnout and dissatisfaction among your workforce. Findings from the Deloitte and Touche survey reveal that 91% of employees are most likely to make positive ethical decisions at work when they sense a work-life balance. Take action immediately if you notice these types of signs. For instance, you might call together a meeting or incorporating a fun team bonding exercise to relieve stress in the workplace.
Your employees are not just seeing the values on the wall but they are also observing them applied by management. Implement an ongoing support system, through trainings and tools, to solidify the company values in your work culture.
Ensure That Your Employees are Upholding the Values
Back in 2013, 41% of U.S. workers said they observed unethical behavior according to Ethics Resource Center’s National Business Ethics Survey. Moreover, statistics show that good ethical behavior goes a long way for a firm’s success. The Society for Human Resource Management reported that the stock price growth of 100 businesses with the most ethical cultures outperformed stock market and peer indices by almost 300%. So, do the right thing and watch your company reap the benefits. Here are a few ways you can imbed ethics into your company culture:
Remind Employees why Values are Important – It is common for employees to waver in ethical conduct when they are stressed out from work and unable to see their nobility paying off. To reassure them that their integrity matters, remind employees of the vision and how consistently adhering to its values promotes that vision. You can find time for this during meetings, workshops, and seminars. In addition, think of ways to tie your firm’s positive results to ethics. Maybe you can find a statistic that points to the auspicious results of your code.
Regularly Educate Employees on Company Policies – give out copies of your company’s moral principles to employees and have human resources articulate it. You can coordinate training courses periodically via internet, through eLearning modules, or through live instruction. Since millennials are the future of the workforce, you can use technology as a means to reinforce ethical principles.
Correct Wrong Behavior Immediately – note that it is important to address incorrect behavior ASAP rather than later (preferably right then). Waiting undermines the potency of your gesture. If you bring it up later, the problem will appear vague. Approaching him immediately, while it is fresh on the employee’s mind, conveys a stronger message. Moreover, failing to address misconduct immediately creates a new standard if other employees make note of it.
On top of these previous tips, there are lucrative resources available to provide a lift off your shoulders.
Utilize Resources to Help Promote an Ethical Work Culture
You should now have three sturdy support beams in place to uphold an ethical culture at work. A written code of ethics, a management staff who leads by that code, and a consistent training system. When reflecting the code in your leadership and incorporating a training system for ethics, remember to:
- Only set standards you are prepared to follow,
- Make sure management is seen leading by the code
- Reward employees for good ethical behavior
- Remind them why the code is important and how it impacts the mission
- Regularly educate them on company values
- Address lapses in employee conduct ASAP
As for resources, Novareté offers a free culture assessment. If you are unsure whether unethical conduct is occurring in your workplace this assessment can inform you.