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Compliance Training

How to Make Ethics Part of Your Company Culture

By Josh Young Jun 06, 2017

ethics company culture

How would you describe your business?

Not what you manufacture or what services do you provide -- but what is the heart of your organization? What makes your company tick? Are you focused on providing the highest quality of customer service? Do you want to deliver reliable products quickly and efficiently? Are you an established name that offers advice and direction that your customers can trust?

How can you encourage your employees to more fully embrace your desired culture? Watch: Building a Culture of Compliance

However you answered the above question, that sentiment is likely tied directly to the kind of culture that your business wishes to cultivate. And by corporate culture, we mean the underlying personality and philosophy that drives your business, that is emphasized and enforced in company policies and practices.

Routinely, a company's culture will develop organically over time and will be reflected in the organization's:

  • Treatment of clients
  • Dress code
  • Office hours
  • Employee benefits
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Hiring and turnover

But far too often, the culture your business desires and the one you currently have don't match.

How Do You Change Your Company’s Corporate Culture?

Define corporate culture

Admittedly, defining a corporate culture isn't something that can be easily done. You can't simply dictate to your employees that this is a fun place to work -- they tend to decide that. But what your organization can do is clearly define what behaviors and actions are and are not appropriate for your business.

With an established code of conduct, employees will at least have a clearer understanding of your organization's priorities as well as underlying ethical considerations. And with these guidelines readily available, they can more easily comply with expected behaviors and reinforce positive cultural norms.

Lead with tone at the top

At this point, it is widely recognized that one of the key elements known to influence corporate culture is the "tone at the top" of your organization -- the message, attitude, and image that senior management conveys to the rest of the company about the principles, values, and character of the organization.

In fact, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) all cite "tone at the top" as a primary ingredient for creating an ethical corporate culture.

Put simply, the more frequently that managers and executives within your firm embody your desired culture, the more likely your front-line employees will do the same.

Reward ethical behavior

A robust performance tracking platform will help your firm identify employees that actively strengthen your company as well your culture. Reward staff that exceed productivity or sales expectations, but also recognize employees that make sound ethical choices and that meet compliance guidelines.

By incorporating business ethics and corporate compliance discussions into your employee review process, your business can make it clear to staff that these topics are just as important as meeting their third quarter sales targets.

Distinguish between culture and perks

You should never confuse the various benefits and bonuses that your business may offer with its underlying culture. True, the available perks -- such as "bring your dog to work day" or a ping pong table in the break room -- may help to promote and reinforce cultural elements, but they will rarely reflect the cultural core of your business.

Perks are routinely considered a supplement or addition to the job, which can be taken advantage of occasionally or outright ignored. Conversely, the culture of your organization is present in every day-to-day task and cannot be easily overlooked.

If your company is experiencing a cultural crisis, simply adding perks won't likely do much to correct matters.

Educate with compliance training

It doesn't matter how well defined your company's cultural desires are if no one knows about them. Your organization needs to regularly communicate these ideals, goals, and guidelines to staff, particularly new hires.

Your business should frequently offer compliance training that reflects and reinforces company ideals. And while some cultural elements will vary across businesses and industries, some elements should be non-negotiable and embraced by every organization, such as:

  • Ethical business practices
  • Diverse and inclusive hiring
  • Zero tolerance for sexual harassment
  • Security awareness and customer privacy

The Next Step

Changing a corporate culture is no easy task, but with consistent policy, practice, and education, your organization can create a healthy, inclusive, and productive environment for all your staff.

If you would like to learn more about how Workplace Answers could help your business strengthen or redefine its existing corporate culture, request a demo of our compliance training programs today.

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