Business EthicsAs an advisor to public and private sector organisations on the subject of organizational health (how an organisation lives and breaths), the issue of the capabilities of the employee is of keen interest to forward-looking CEOs. The thing is, Business Ethics = Work Ethics.

Strong work ethics creates strong organisations

The concept of the strong work ethic being simply a reflection of working hard (according to the instructions of your superiors) is outdated – it is so much more than this.

In the 21st century, a strong work ethic still acknowledges the need to be a focused worker, but an individual hard worker will only temporarily increase productivity in a limited area or field whereas a collective work ethic helps to develop a consistent and sustainable environment for success.

Basically, a strong work ethic is vital for achieving your objectives and every employee needs behaviours and values to maintain this corporate health.

Work ethic means nothing without a business ethic

Many leaders ask me to run workshops on work ethics for their staff but won’t consider their own business ethics – but how can you expect staff to show exemplary work ethic if the organisation doesn’t actually believe in it?

Business ethic determines the landscape of the organisation:

  • business ethics (e.g. don’t be the next Enron!)
  • ethical leadership (how to develop and encourage both business and work ethics)
  • workplace ethics (applying corporate ethics in real-world situations)
  • workplace behaviours (how your people think & act on a daily basis)

[pullquote]Your business ethics incorporates values, morality, cultural beliefs, views on consumer rights and your commitment to corporate social responsibility.[/pullquote]

Business ethics drive work ethics

Business ethics form an important part of any industry and we see clear lessons writ large in the global press including a workplace where moral codes are slanted (Barclays and the Libor-rigging scandal) or general dishonesty (Enron).

Unethical behavior creates legal risks and damage to reputation, brand and revenue – and these ethics are driven by your leadership which filters into management and teams.

Customers expect integrity, honesty, transparency and fairness – and your business and work ethics needs to satisfy this demand.

Work ethics enable business success

From an individual perspective, values drive behaviours and so it is important for Leadership and HR professionals to work together to identify the (informal and formal) value systems within the organisation:

  • Integrity – being trustworthy is a key relationship building block (with colleagues, suppliers, customers)
  • Taking responsibility – rather than make excuses, the responsible individual takes personal responsibility for job performance, timekeeping, etc.
  • Exceeding expectations – rather than do the bare minimum, a strong work ethic drives overachievement – and this means not checking the clock, but checking that you did a great job
  • Mindfulness – focusing on the task in hand and avoiding distractions in order to complete assignments
  • Collaboration – a well thought out performance management framework should be aligning individual objectives with team / departmental / divisional and corporate goals – and so everyone should be working together to achieve them. Simply: everyone is responsible for success; everyone shares the pain of failure
  • Respect the code – I run a business with a casual dress code – but, on client site, we dress to suit the code of the business – I’m not saying that you become a clone / drone… but you DO need to respect the wishes of the organisation
  • Consistency – playing favours with colleagues doesn’t work: it creates resentment and doesn’t usually deliver the corporate objective (merely satisfying personal agenda)
  • Respect – stressful situations bring out the best and the worst in people and, in many cases, it can be hard to be diplomatic but this is when people are under the closest scrutiny: being respectful whilst delivering on your promises
  • Reliability – being on time for meetings, running well-prepared meetings, keeping promises, working within budgets, delivering on time (every time)… being dependable means that your team knows that when you say you will do something then it will be done
  • Remember the customer – whether this is internal or external, you are usually doing something for someone else (a report for the boss, feedback to a client, paying an invoice to a supplier, etc.) and customer service is crucial

Some of these traits can be taught in workshops (e.g. time management, effective meetings, powerful communications, motivating performance management).

Many behaviours are the product of belief systems and it is important to build a coaching and mentoring program that helps to dismantle the attitudes and mindset that blocks change.

In my experience, workshops work in partnership with coaching / mentoring but are worthless without strong leadership.

Basically, if your leadership is flawed, don’t spend any money on training your staff until leadership development is in place!

If you look at the collective values and behaviours of your people, you can put it under the general concept of ‘work ethics’ – whether you are an introvert, extrovert, leader, manager or individual… are you focused on achieving success?

Contact Neil to discuss work ethics in your organisation.

Business Ethics = Work Ethics