All Articles Leadership Inspiration The journey toward values-based cultures -- are you on the way?

The journey toward values-based cultures — are you on the way?

3 min read


This guest post is by David Greenberg, executive vice president of knowledge at  LRN, a company that helps businesses develop ethical corporate cultures and inspire principled performance.

Culture, values and leadership are critical priorities for business leaders. No matter how many resources your company deploys, how many experts you retain and no matter how many programs you run, little matters if you’re not reaching your global workforce at heart, mind and gut level.

Companies are grasping this and embracing values-based corporate cultures, governance and leadership as new sources of advantage. Southwest Airlines, Zappos and Google are leading the way, demonstrating the benefits of values-based behavior.

LRN recently surveyed more than 100 companies on their biggest challenges and top priorities for this year and found that when it comes to core values and ethics/compliance leadership in corporate America, it’s a “good news, bad news” scenario.

The good news first: Ethics and compliance leaders view themselves as the champions for creating ethical, values-based cultures. In fact, 58% see that their primary mandate is to ensure ethical behaviors and alignment with core values. Further, 68% indicated that creating long-term value for the business is a principal benefit of promoting an ethical culture.

Now for the bad news: As organizations embark on a journey to become more values-based, companies are failing to execute in several areas; 57% are still not giving ethics the same weight as business outcomes in performance evaluations, and 54% never formally celebrate acts of ethical leadership.

So what are some ways companies can advance their ethical journey?

Treat culture as a strategy: An ethical culture is not created by accident. It is deliberately crafted at many levels of the organization under the guidance of leaders who hard-wire it into the processes and practices by which business gets done.

To make ethical considerations truly central to operations, ethics and compliance must expand beyond education and communications and encompass the wide variety of corporate practices, including performance appraisals, promotion and recruiting practices.

Seek better alignment and purpose: Ethics and compliance programs serve a distinct purpose, but they cannot adequately fulfill that role unless they help reinforce corporate priorities. They fall short if they operate in isolation from rapidly shifting business needs and conditions.

For this year, spurring growth, strengthening customer service and advancing innovation are key corporate goals for many companies. Ethics and compliance leaders need to find meaningful and visible ways to show how living company values in day-to-day behavior can help deliver on these priorities.

Seek partners beyond your traditional domain: Ethics and compliance leaders can extend their influence and better fulfill their mandate by building deeper partnerships with business units, human resources, corporate communications, and environmental and social responsibility departments. Isolated compliance and ethics functions will never reach the hearts and minds of employees.

Culture as a strategy, fueled by values that are translated into tangible behaviors and embedded in the gears of a business, can create a sustained competitive advantage in the marketplace. Ethical cultures are not created overnight. But ultimately, tomorrow’s winners will be those who invest in systems inspired by values-based culture.

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