The latest Gallup poll shows that a whopping 53% of employees are not engaged at work and 13% are offline, including some whose actions will negatively affect the company. That leaves only 34% of employees engaged and actively working to bring creativity, productivity and growth to their company. That means we have a lot of work to do if we want our employees and our companies to prosper.
To win customers, and greater market share, companies must first win the hearts and minds of their employees. I spent the last few weeks working with Dr. Andy Koehl, Dr. Carly McCabe and Mary Roddy from Roberts Wesleyan College on a webinar, Excellence: ethics in the workplace. You may be wondering how ethics play a role in business commitment and success. As we worked together on the webinar, we found many links between our backgrounds and how to create an environment where employees feel safe, supported, and creative. All of these elements lead to customer satisfaction and business success. There are books and web articles that document the ethical success stories of companies like Starbucks, Zappos, General Mills, The Gap, Cisco, and others.
How can you be successful as these companies have? One of the first steps is to create a vision of where the company is going. You will have to imagine what the business environment will be like and how you will interact with employees and customers. Next, you will need to reflect on your core values and the core values of your company. Then, create guidelines for ethical behavior and decision-making so your employees feel empowered and can take action without fear of being punished or fired. Those work patterns, values and the identity of all employees should match those with whom they live when they are not at work. That creates integrity. When employees live with integrity, they are delighted, motivated, and engaged.
You will then need to bring those values and guidelines to life. Hanging a banner on the wall with the mission and values of the company will not cause employees to act on the guidelines. Stories of values in action will paint pictures of how they should act and how others were rewarded for their ethical behavior. The reward is not simply doing this, and you will get a paycheck, but rather in forms of recognition, self-worth, a feeling of contributing to a purpose greater than yourself.
You can find positive stories of ethical behavior on the Internet and in many books on the subject. Also, every year, Business Ethics: The Corporate Responsibility Magazine selects the 100 best ethical and profitable companies. They publish stories related to situations in which companies displayed ethical behavior. You can also find case studies of dilemmas and then have lunch and learn discussion sessions asking what would you do?