The Best Organizations Always Put People First: The E&C Pulse - February 26, 2020

February 26, 2020 Ben DiPietro

Feb. 26, 2020

The Best Organizations Always Put People First


One of the main themes from LRN’s 25 & Beyond event was the need for organizations to put people first when considering how best to create a strong ethics and compliance program that positions itself at the center of the business.  


LRN’s Susan Divers earlier this month hosted a panel that included Jorge Dajani, chief ethics officer of World Bank Group; Kevin Tubbs, chief ethics, compliance and sustainability officer at Oshkosh Corp.; and Randall Corley, global compliance officer at communications firm Edelman. 


Tubbs talked about the effort at Oshkosh to create a people-first culture, now in its third year. The company has a mission employees can rally around--building specialty vehicles for military and public safety departments--so purpose has always been a part of the culture. 


The task, he said, is to develop a program that can engage the hearts and minds of employees. “Because, when you get all three, then you really have something powerful,” said Tubbs.  


Part of building a people-first culture is making sure people are treated the right way, with respect, he said. Oshkosh trains its leaders to listen and show respect, so employees feel they have the safety of coming forward and bringing ideas and information. 


“Ethics is really the cornerstone of that because, if you don’t have the trust of your employees, and they don’t have the trust of their leadership, and if you’re not treating people with respect, then you have nothing to build this on,” said Tubbs.  

“It fits hand-in-glove when we are talking about ethics, and behaving ethically, trying to drive a people-first culture.” 


At World Bank, Dajani said the only way to administer justice is within the group. That makes trust a vital ingredient for success. 


While World Bank has always worked to investigate allegations of sexual harassment when they were discovered, and then to hold accountable anyone who may have behaved poorly, it felt it could do a better job at thinking about the people who came forward and were suffering from their experience.  


“We needed someone to understand them, let them choose how to report things,” said Dajani, who redesigned the way people could report, giving them more freedom on how to bring forth concerns. 


For instance, an employee can file a report, but choose when to send it in, setting criteria for when it would be put through; for instance, after one or two other people have made similar allegations, he said. 


“When you create that avenue, you get a lot more people coming forward,” said Dajani, who said the number of reports received has more than tripled.  


World Bank also worked to make sure behavior that was inappropriate but unlikely to rise to the threshold of misconduct, was not getting ignored, or swept aside. By ensuring all inappropriate conduct would not be tolerated, it helped build trust, which leads to more people coming forward. 


“It’s a virtuous circle, leading to more accountability, which is leading to more trust,” he said. “People-centered is the only way to go forward.” 


Trust is needed now more than ever, as Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer shows, said Corley. The annual survey uncovered a rise in peer influence--people being more likely to trust people they talk to--and a decline in the credibility of traditional institutions, such as government, media, business, and non-governmental organizations. 


Because there is an unease about the quality of information that is out there, it undermines what would otherwise be a more shared sense of what the truth really is, said Corley. “We are in a battle for truth,” he said. 


As trust in governments languishes, businesses now are being perceived as being problem-solvers, and that presents an opportunity, he said. Competence and ethics are the two biggest factors that could help rebuild that trust, but none of those four institutions is looked upon as being both competent and ethical.  


For instance, NGOs are looked at as being ethical, but not competent, while business is seen as competent, but maybe not as ethical as it always should be.  Government and media are even further down the spectrum. 


“What this creates is an opportunity for companies who are seen as competent to move forward and make change,” said Corley. “It’s not just an opportunity, but a responsibility.” 


How to do that? Chief executives have to take the leadership role, said Corley, and it must be more than words; it must be action, and a change in focus. 


“Historically, companies focused on the shareholder,” he said. “Now, they recognize they need to make a broader stakeholder engagement, looking at customers, employees, and also their communities.”


                                                                                                            BEN DIPIETRO




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"It's no use to go back to yesterday because I was a different person then."

-Lewis Carroll, author



As a lover of baseball for more than a half-century, I can't recall another time when so many players were willing to speak out against other players as now, with some of the game's biggest stars slamming the players involved in the Houston Astros cheating scandal. Those who follow ethics and compliance closely know this is what happens when an organization fails to deliver justice, and is another example of employees feeling empowered to take on the people signing their paychecks for failing to live by a proper code of ethics and morals. Expect more of this going forward, as workers demand their companies live up to their values.


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