Suggestions for Top Management
There are many writings about corporate culture but one stands out in my mind because the thoughts are those of Big-4 firm Deloitte. Providing advice to clients on how to strengthen corporate culture says a lot about the firm’s commitment to serve their clients not only from a compliance standpoint but from the perspective of the broader notion of ethical behavior.
What is Corporate Culture?
The culture of an organization says a lot about what it stands for. Organizations that commit to ethical decision-making tend to instill a culture that promotes doing the right thing regardless of the cost. They view decision-making from a long-term perspective. Such organizations do not make decisions based on expediency. They do so after careful deliberation about the potential consequences of their actions on stakeholders; whether they are meeting their obligations to customers, clients, employees and so on; and whether their actions match their values. In other words, the leaders of the organization should“walk the talk” of ethics.
Creating an Ethical Culture
Create listening posts. Conduct cultural assessments that unveil what employees think and how they behave.
Maintain a healthy mood in the middle. Middle management should convert the tone at the top into policies and practices that drive everyday behavior.
Keep it Interesting. Find new and innovative ways to communicate cultural values that grab the attention of employees.
Promote accountability. Reward the right behaviors and penalize the wrong ones while not favoring one employee over another.
Shout it from the rooftops. Be strong and consistent with the message that core values and expectations for ethical behavior drive actions.
Remember the water cooler. Learn how employees view how things get done and what the organization stands for.
Walk the talk. Implement policies that align organization values with strategies and provide specific responsibilities for acting in an ethical manner.
Create a flexible performance appraisal system: Develop just-in-time performance appraisals that give immediate feedback, not just annually.
Reward principled performance. Include in ethics and compliance performance goals for C-suite executives and tie those goals to compensation.
Reinforce positive behaviors. Communicate right behaviors while explaining why certain behaviors are wrong through employee training.
Checking Your Behavior
Top management should set a clear tone that ethics matters. One useful approach is to ask employees to consider the following before making decisions that may reflect negatively on the employee and organization.
How would you feel if your son or daughter found out about what you planned to do? Would you be proud of it?
How would you feel if your decision made it to the front pages of tomorrow’s newspaper? Could you defend it?
How would you feel if your decision went viral on social media? Would you be able to explain it on social networking sites?
To learn more about how an ethical workplace environment can bring happiness and meaning to your life read Steve’s new book Beyond Happiness and Meaning: Transforming Your Life Through Ethical Behavior.