The latest Gallup Poll shows that a whopping 53% of employees are not engaged at work, and 13% are disengaged, including some whose actions will negatively impact the company. That leaves only 34% of employees who are engaged and actively working to bring creativity, productivity, and growth to your company. That means we have a lot of work to do if we want our employees and our companies to flourish.
To win customers – and a greater share of the marketplace – companies must first win the hearts and minds of their employees. I have spent the past few weeks working with Dr. Andy Koehl, Dr. Carly McCabe, and Mary Roddy of Roberts Wesleyan College on a webinar, Excellence: Ethics in the Workplace. You may wonder, how does ethics play a role in engagement and business success. As we worked together on the webinar, we found so many links between our backgrounds and how to create an environment in which employees feel they are in a safe environment, supported, and creative. All of those elements lead to customer satisfaction and business success. There are books and web articles documenting the ethical success stories of companies like Starbucks, Zappos, General Mills, The Gap, Cisco and others.
How can you succeed like these companies have? One of the first steps is to create a vision of where the company is going. You will have to envision what the environment in the company will look like and how it 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 able to take action without fear of punishment or dismissal. Those work guidelines, values, and the identity of all employees should match with those they live by when not at work. That creates integrity. When employees live with integrity, they are delighted, motivated, and engaged.
Next, you will need to bring those values and guidelines to life. Hanging a banner on the wall with the company’s mission and values will not cause the employees to act following 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 merely do this, and you will get a check, but rather in forms of recognition, self-esteem, a feeling of contributing to a purpose greater than one’s self.
You can find positive stories of ethical behavior on the Internet and in many books on the topic. Also, each year, Business Ethics: The Magazine of Corporate Responsibility selects the top 100 companies that are ethical and profitable. They publish stories relating to situations in which the companies displayed ethical behavior. You can also find case studies of dilemmas and then hold lunch and learn discussion sessions asking what would you do?