In a time of diminishing trust in governments, leaders and organisations it’s easy to understand why so many organisations are thinking deeply about what they stand for and how they behave.

Purpose is a response to these challenges for many organisations, and a way to enhance reputation and trust with multiple audiences – including employees. But embedding purpose within an organisation requires activating a direct connection between purpose and ethical behaviour.

We see an organisation’s values as an essential link between purpose and expectations for the behaviours which shape an ethical culture and the brand experience. To achieve this, employees need to feel an emotional connection to them.

Furthermore, statements of values are interpreted differently in different cultures (or may simply be invisible in a plethora of employee communications). This makes it even more important to define and support the translation of values through behaviour.

But why go to all this trouble?

We all know about the catastrophic, sometimes irreparable consequences of unethical behaviour.

From Enron’s scandalous demise, to UK banks paying over £20billion in fines, to the massive fall in the VW share price following ‘dieselgate’. But we believe the value of ethical behaviour isn’t simply about avoiding a crisis.

It starts with a proactive approach to purpose, values, behaviours and ethics. There are distinct business benefits from investing in culture and creating a connection between the four.

Having a strong ethical reputation gets you the best people

Top talent is becoming increasingly selective about who they work for. It’s not just Millennials who prioritise purposeful work and companies with a positive impact. Employees who connect with your company’s ethics, purpose and values are more valuable than the ones who are there for the paycheque – they’ll be more committed and help you build the reputation you want. So ensuring alignment between your purpose and your EVP is an essential consideration for HR and OD practitioners.

 

Reputation is important to your bottom line

Consumers are considering a company’s values and reputation more than ever when making purchases. According to research published by MWWPR, the brand choices of over a third of the US buying population aged 18-80 will depend on broader questions around a company’s corporate values. The most important expression of these values will be through the actions of employees, and therefore it is essential to make the connection for employees between brand reputation, values and behaviours.

The investment market is no different, and the growth in SRI investments is outpacing other investments globally by leaps and bounds.

Being ethical protects your company

Ethics start inside. This is as true for the individual as it is for the organisation. Compliance programmes and regulations have struggled to ensure ethical behaviour because they are external forces. What is needed is an ethical culture, a commitment to act according to a set of values, related behaviours and a purpose beyond profit that steers employees in the right direction.

Here’s how…

Talk of values, behaviours and ethics can often lead to a far-off look, glazed eyes and an expectation of an exam in compliance. We take a very different view. Our aim is always to go beyond rational understanding to connecting people emotionally with purpose, a brand’s story and its strategy. Values and their related behaviours are an essential part of rallying people around that common purpose with a guiding framework that helps them achieve autonomy and being at their best. We should be thinking about a jet pack rather than a straightjacket.

Whether creating a new brand story or helping an organisation engage its people with a new code of conduct – it’s essential to get under the skin of the organisation’s culture and understand what shapes what employees think, feel and do.

The insight this generates is essential in creating inspiring programmes that galvanise employees into turning words describing values into purposeful daily action.

When employees know how to make values and behaviours relevant to their daily work, the concept moves away from generic corporate ‘telling’. Instead, it gives them a sense of connection to and involvement with the company purpose.

For example, in our work with a global house of luxury brands, we involved nearly 20,000 of its leaders and managers in agreeing the new set of organisational behaviours required to unite its people across the world and raise performance. Through this transparent and creative process, these people were active participants in shaping the organisation’s future by isolating the essential behaviours that support its ambition and values, and which are now being embedded in its performance processes.

 

We examine the stated ethics and values of FTSE 100 companies further in our ‘Value of Values’ white paper. To download this, and learn more about our thoughts on employee engagement, purpose and other topics, please get in touch at hello@ry.com.

Back to top