By Angella Luyk.
The concept of ethics is attracting lots of attention in today’s business environment. At its core, ethics are a body of moral principles and values. Properly implemented, a strong ethical foundation is a company’s greatest asset.
The Rochester Area Business in Ethics Foundation (RABEF) recognizes there is a growing belief among businesses large and small: those which take the time to define, implement, and maintain strong ethical practices will experience positive growth in nearly all aspects of their operations–employee fulfillment, retention, customer satisfaction, referrals, reputation, sales, and profits (for more information visit www.rochesterbusinessethics.com).
That’s all well and good but how does a business initiate the process of establishing a strong business ethic? Think of it as a four step process: describe, assess, implement, and maintain.
Describe how your company perceives its ethical vision. In other words, what does your company believe to be important and vital to its overall health? What role does your company fulfill within its business and civic community? Fundamental issues include employee satisfaction, community service, environmental commitment, customer respect, honesty and integrity.
Assess how your company’s behaviors support your company’s ethical vision. This requires a careful examination of internal practices. For example, if you feel employees are satisfied within your organization then take a survey to see if your company’s perception matches that of your employees. Examine diversity within your work force. Consider how your business handles conflict and the resulting outcomes. Research your procurement policy for environmental impact. Ask your customers how they feel about your services and/or products.
Implement change where it’s needed. Start with communications. Make sure your company’s Code of Ethics is emphasized and accessible to every employee. If you don’t have a Code of Ethics then revisit the first step (Describe) and articulate one. If there is a discrepancy between how your staff feels and what your company thought they felt, then pinpoint the gaps and change it. Can you increase opportunities for employee growth and professional development? Do your conflict resolution procedures support your Code of Ethics? Have you tested it? What can you do to demonstrate that your product and/or services are supported with honesty and integrity? In other words, “walk the talk.”
Maintain your business ethic by establishing consistency in your operations. Ensure you have the communications and systems in place to pass your company’s belief system on to new employees. If your business expands its products or services make sure the support system is consistent with your ethical commitment.
This process requires honest commitment. But does it work? Karen Marley, an independent business writer with KMwordsmith, has worked with numerous businesses identifying the specific practices that set them apart from their competition. “I often see a strong correlation between a well-defined work ethic and those businesses enjoying a robust customer base grown from referrals. A commitment to business ethics and the willingness to invest in communicating it, internally and externally, is a good indicator of how well a business knows itself, its staff, and its customers.”
Or, ask any one of the Rochester Business Ethics Award Finalists. Each year a total of nine finalists from three categories (small, medium and large business) are selected from approximately eighty or more applicants. Midnight Janitorial was one of the finalists for 2007. They have watched their profits soar by 150 percent in the last three years.
So think of an established business ethic as a long-term investment. If done correctly, your business will be healthier from the top shelf to the bottom line.
Angella Luyk is CEO of Midnight Janitorial. Her company was the 2008 recipient of the the Rochester Business Ethics Award’s small business category.
This article was originally published in the Democrat & Chronicle.