Anyone can make some money, but creating something of true value requires a solid set of principles. Without the right mission, it’s easy to lose direction and fail to inspire those you serve.
In short, running any business without having values isn’t sustainable.
I truly began seeing the importance of building an ethical business during my first entrepreneurial endeavor: mowing lawns at the age of 10. As I grew my neighborhood operation in my small Illinois hometown, I realized that I needed to strive for the highest possible standard of care and service—and that passion for my craft was key in achieving that. My neighbors saw that commitment, and because of it, were more willing to hire me.
Flash forward to today. I operate over 20 healthcare centers providing long-term care to elderly and mentally ill people. In healthcare management, those lessons I began learning as a child about ethics stick with me. My principles have naturally evolved and matured, but the overarching idea remains the same: You must have values in order to create value—no matter what you’re doing.
Here’s how to find success in your field by relying on your own values:
Ingrain ethical values into your company culture
A code of ethics document isn’t something to be scanned over and casually signed. However, it seems that it is, considering that 41% of American workers witness unethical or even illegal conduct on the job, according to the National Business Ethics Survey.
So, how can such behavior be prevented? Well, it relies on creating an environment where doing the right thing is easy—and doing the wrong thing is difficult. It sounds simple, but building an ethical culture takes time.
First, leadership needs understanding that being ethical isn’t just the right path, it also pays off financially. As the Association for Talent Development notes, “companies with a strong ethical foundation tend to do better financially, have higher rates of employee retention, and benefit from more customer referrals and higher customer service satisfaction numbers.”
Second, leaders and manager must implement a way to embed ethics into the workplace. This necessitates more than just writing a code of ethics. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) notes you also should:
- Give relevant ethics training. Welcome feedback and suggestions from employees on this as well.
- Create and offer resources to consult concerning company ethics issues.
- Provide a confidential way to report violations of ethics and/or the law.
- Develop a system for evaluating ethics compliance performance that employees view as important.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, ethics training shouldn’t be something that workers study and then forget. It must be talked about a lot. This way, your team members will consistently look at their work and any tough decisions they have to make through an ethics-based lens.
Learn to put ethical values into practice
The Institute of Business Ethics writes that organizational values or principles reflect the way business is done or the standard that business desires to achieve. Common values include “integrity, fairness, honesty, trustworthiness, respect, and openness.” These are usually detailed in a Code of Ethics handbook.
As owner of Reliant Care Group, I make effort to ensure our ethical values are actively promoted and conveyed to all staff. After all, our mission is to provide high-quality health services in a “caring and dignified manner” to both the frail elderly population and to adults afflicted with mental illnesses. This is all in an effort to improve patient outcomes and quality of life.
To achieve our mission and stay true to our ethical values, we work on putting our ideals into actual practice. We do this by empowering employees through collaboration, learning opportunities, and personalized interaction with patients. Reliant Care also works with communities, hospitals, physicians, and others involved in the care of our patients. This enables us to tailor our care and meet the unique needs of every person we serve.
Without an ethical operation, we certainly wouldn’t be near as successful at Reliant Care. Our values are precisely what motivates us to work for a higher purpose.
Don’t fall off the ethical path
It can be easy to get swept into unethical behavior, even if your employees are good-natured people. This is due to things like rationalization (my colleagues are doing it), not punishing bad behavior (which sends a message that it’s okay), and downplaying unethical actions with euphemisms (“creative accounting”).
A company can also lose sight of its values if performance goals make it hard to work in an ethical manner. The Wells Fargo fake accounts scandal is a perfect example of what can happen when company performance expectations are set up to conflict with company values.
Steven D. Olson, who serves as director of the Center for Ethics and Corporate Responsibility at Georgia State University, attests the “ideal workplace” is where people and structures work together around “core values that transcend self-interest”.
As mentioned earlier, building a workplace where ethics is at the heart and soul of practices and processes, you need the proper policies to ingrain values into organizational culture. Additionally, as Olson notes in his report, “Shaping an Ethical Workplace”, relationships help keep an ethical culture alive and thriving.
For instance, executives can lead by example by highlighting how ethics impacts their daily decisions to employees. Marketing can use storytelling to make employees understand the value of ethics in a more emotional way. And HR can serve as mentors and guardians, making certain that employees know there’s support available when doing what’s right and what’s wrong might not be so clear.
With intelligent procedures to uphold values and strengthen relationships across the organization, falling off the ethical wagon become much less likely. That’s what happens when your company and its associates are in the position to continually do the right thing.
Maximizing success by taking the high road
An ethical culture can be the backbone of an organization—as long as it’s built to thrive for the long run. This requires a lot of work and continual commitment from all stakeholders, but does create an atmosphere where employees are inspired to be the best version of themselves.
In the end, invest in developing a values-driven organization is something you must do. From my experiences, it’s an investment that pays off tremendously. That’s because you create organization value that’s not going to fade away.