If your news feed looks anything like mine, you’ll have noticed a trend in articles that speaks to business ethics as applied to the people who work for you as well as the clientèle you serve. Humane treatment of employees becomes crucial in attracting and retaining qualified people, especially in a tight labor market. The Internet enables job candidates to research companies before they accept job offers, and many do just that, not only checking company websites, but also seeking out employer reviews posted on such sites as GlassDoor, Great Place To Work, Indeed, Vault, and The Job Crowd.
However, does your company’s kinder, gentler outlook manifest in actual practice or in your company’s mission and vision statements? If employer review sites suggest otherwise, you’ve got a big task ahead of you to turn that around with existing staff, because you’ve already lost that chance with former employees who have nothing left to lose by posting scathing reviews. The company that pursues its mission and vision without concern for the human consequences may succeed in terms of dollars and market share, but it will lose in terms of human resource costs. It’s no secret that high employee turnover gets very costly in terms of staff morale and the company’s bottom line.
Once a company has its vision statement, it must develop a strategy to accomplish it. The vision statement serves as the company’s overarching objective: this is what we are going to do; this is our purpose. The mission statement serves as a general directive on how the company will accomplish that overarching goal and/or fulfill the purpose. Writing for Forbes, Larry Myler states that fewer than 10 percent of all organizations effectively and successfully execute their strategies. The missing element in that execution, he says, is alignment. Businesses tend to veer to either extreme: either a declaration of their identity regardless of who likes it or a loss of identity in the whiplash-inducing effort to accommodate their clientele’s every whim. Myler further cautions against the loss of coherence in the company’s vision down through organizational chart levels. Matthew Harrington, writing for New Directions, concurs: “If there is no clear vision or it at least it hasn’t been communicated down the ranks, then how could we expect employees to make decisions that are in alignment with that vision?” Simply put, if the rank-and-file employees on customer-facing front lines don’t understand the company’s vision and mission, then they can’t effectively carry it out.
The vision and the strategy to execute it must have the support of values at all levels of management. This requires integrity, because your employees aren’t stupid. If they see or hear of dishonesty and duplicity in the C-suite, then they have no reason to trust that the lip service given to those values holds any meaning whatsoever. In short, talk the talk and walk the walk. Harrington explains: “values are what make sure the decisions being made are not self-serving. They take into consideration moral obligations and ethics, and often are seen as the pillars on which we stand.”
The process of aligning a company’s vision with its values involves a critical review of workplace ethics. According to Dona Dezube, writing for Monster, work ethics transcend cultural and generational borders and include trustworthiness, responsibility, good citizenship, caring, justice (or fairness), and respect directed to both customers and employees. The policies that enact the mission statement to fulfill the vision statement should translate the company’s values into actionable form that every employee can understand and follow. This includes statements in the employee handbook that define what they may and may not do and apply equally to everyone.
Aligning the company’s vision and values integrates ethics into the common business practices and establishes a culture of dignity and respect that serves employees, customers, and the common goals of the company.