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Cultivating an Ethical Workplace – Part 3

In the first blog of this three part series, we made the business case for creating an ethical workplace.  In the second, we talked about how building ethical culture means more than avoiding unlawful conduct. Now, we translate all of these lessons learned into action.

There is no one-size-fits all ethics program. Still, there are several features that have achieved success towards cultivating an ethical workplace:

  1. Develop a strong vision, mission, and/or values statement. These written, public-facing statements lay out your company’s central purpose, guiding principles, and core values and beliefs. Source ideas and feedback not just from top managers, but also from employees at all levels of the organization. Be able to demonstrate how the positive vision is put into practice in day-to-day activities and development of strategic goals. Value statements should reflect the actual, not aspirational, values that your company lives by.
  2. Reward ethical behavior. Don’t just punish the bad. Create incentive and promotion systems that reward behaviors aligned with the espoused values of the organization.
  3. Hire for positive character traits. Most companies higher for job skills and experience. Smart companies place equal importance on values and professional expertise when determining if an individual is a good fit. Well-designed integrity-tests that can be incorporated as a standard part of the interview process, are relatively hard to cheat and can be powerful predictors of unethical behaviors.
  4. Practice ethical embodiment. Walk the talk – plain and simple. Role modeling is important because one bad apple can spoil a bushel. Employees who observe unethical acts on the part of their peers and leaders often internalize this as implicit endorsement that such behavior is acceptable.
  5. Make ethical behavior a social norm. Most people are highly influenced by the behavior of their coworkers and supervisors. Who is someone within your organization that employees look up to? How can you amplify and make their behaviors visible? Leverage internal communications and social media to highlight instances of altruistic behavior and values-based acts.

We’ve only just scratched the surface. The most important thing to remember is that a positive company culture is a key element to any successful sustainability program.

In addition to the five tips above, there are many more things you can do to develop ethical leadership within your company. Ethicalsystems.org is a great place to start! If you really want to kick it into high gear, sign up for a demo of the Sustrana Platform and let us show you how to improve your company’s management systems for ethics, culture, and leadership.