The latest Gallup poll shows that 53% of employees are not engaged at work and 13% are disengaged, including some whose actions will negatively impact the business. That leaves only 34% of employees who are engaged and actively working to bring creativity, productivity and growth to your business. This means that we have a lot of work to do if we want our people and businesses to thrive.
To win customers – and more market share – companies must first win the hearts and minds of their employees. I have 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 might be wondering how ethics play a role in engagement and business success. Working together on the webinar, we found so many connections between our journeys and how to create an environment where employees feel safe, supported and creative. All of these lead to customer satisfaction and business success. There are books and web articles documenting the ethical successes of companies like Starbucks, Zappos, General Mills, The Gap, Cisco, and others.
How do you succeed like these companies have done? One of the first steps is to create a vision of where the business is going. You will need to imagine what the business environment will look like and how it will interact with employees and customers. Next, you will need to think about your core values and the core values of your business. Next, create guidelines for ethical behavior and decision-making so that your employees feel empowered and able to act without fear of punishment or dismissal. These work guidelines, values and the identity of all employees must match those they live with when not at work. It creates integrity. When employees live with integrity, they are excited, motivated and engaged.
Then 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 employees to act according to the guidelines. Stories of values in action will paint pictures of how they should act and how others have been rewarded for their ethical behavior. The reward is not just doing that, and you will get failure, but rather in forms of recognition, self-esteem, a sense of contribution to a bigger goal 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 magazine of corporate responsibility selects the top 100 ethical and profitable companies. They publish stories relating to situations in which companies have exhibited ethical behavior. You can also find case studies of dilemmas, then host a lunch and learn discussion sessions by asking yourself what would you do?