Strong Ethical Cultures Established on a Bedrock of Trust
Many organizations spend considerable time and money trying to create a culture that embodies their values and personifies the qualities that command the loyalty and admiration of employees, customers and investors.
In the end, culture comes down to trust: whether each stakeholder group can trust the organization. And that makes earning trust a central goal for ethics and compliance departments, equal in importance to following laws, rules and staying out of trouble.
LRN’s Susan Divers moderated a panel at last week’s Ethics Summit put on by Ethisphere Institute, and asked what organizations are doing to build trust.
Joseph Suich, chief compliance officer and counsel at GE Power, said trust occurs on multiple levels--trust between employee and company, trust between employee and manager--and it comes down to supporting each other.
The organization should be unwavering in expecting employees to act in a way that is consistent with its mission, values, policies and procedures. In return, employees have a right to expect issues will be addressed in a transparent manner. When employees trust, they are more likely to report potential issues when they come across them, said Suich.
“To me, trust is for the company and for the employee,” he said. “It’s a real symbiotic relationship.”
Gloria Santona, of counsel at law firm Baker McKenzie, board member of Aon PLC, and formerly a longtime executive at McDonald’s Corp., where she headed legal, risk and compliance, was asked how organizations and boards can help to build trust.
One thing that’s very important, she said, is to get processes that are transparent, so employees know if they make a claim there will be follow-up, and they will get a response within a certain period of time.
It’s also vital for the board to make sure all business units in the organization have uniformity in how to handle issues, to ensure all employees are being treated the same, regardless of which department of division they work.
Transparency and ongoing dialogue are really important, said Santona, adding that sometimes it isn’t even so much what is said, as much as just showing up and being present.
“Personal touchpoints are really important to employees to building that trust,” she said.
Divers emphasized the best ethics and compliance programs operationalize their procedures by embedding them into the business. LRN’s Program Effectiveness Report 2019, released last week, shows such programs promote ethical behavior more effectively than those that don’t.
“LRN's research demonstrates conclusively that ‘operationalizing’ ethics and compliance in every phase of business decision-making enables leaders and employees to think and act based on shared values rather than on short-term expediency or minimum legal requirements,” stated the report.