It’s hard to ignore the news when it comes to the apparent lack of ethics both individuals and companies have. Wether it’s the #Metoo movement or the Wells Fargo fake account scandal it can easily appear that everyone is under attack. Today’s political climate only adds to the volatility. The impact of stories like these and the many others that seem to pop up daily has created a cynical environment that effects leaders, employees, and consumers. A simple social media post can be taken the wrong way and cause seemingly anonymous followers to spew vitriol that would never be said in an normal social setting. It has everyone wondering, “Will I be next?”
Perception of business has never been lower. In a recent article from the Washington Post over 51% of Millenials do not support capitalism. This can be perceived that a generation that grew up during the Great Recession view companies and their leaders as greedy and uncaring. For them businesses lack vision, are void of values, and fail to align to a greater purpose. The ethical missteps of larger companies create a ripple effect that can even impact small businesses.
Here’s where the opportunity exists.
For every cloud there is a silver lining. Even with all that is stacked against businesses today there are pivot points that companies can take advantage of. Today’s climate is perfect for small to medium sized companies to make huge strides for growth. All you have to do is one thing. Live by your word.
The ethical mistakes that companies have made are a perfect example of an empty business culture. The example of this is the business who markets their great service and wonderful quality but has neither. Or it could be the leader that preaches corporate values and fails to follow any of them. Bottom line, you get the behavior that you incentivize. Take the Wells Fargo example. The push was so strong to generate new accounts it became common practice that to hit your bonus goals all you had to do was create fake accounts. Considering one of their five values listed on their website is Ethics you might wonder how something like this could be so rampant. It all goes back to the words you live by.
Do things right and profits will follow.
We live in a world driven by numbers. Technology now provides us with way more data than we could ever dream of managing. Often we boil all that information down to two numbers: sales and profits. However these numbers are not causal, but an effect. They are the result of doing things right for the right reasons at the right times to produce the right results. The Wells Fargo example relates to growth for growth’s sake.
Today’s employee and consumer wants more than the promise of good service and reliable products. They want business to be something more. This is where Values and Ethics need to be more than a side note in the marketing materials. You can say whatever you want. But do you believe what you say and does your culture embrace it with their actions? Millenials are looking for greater Corporate Social Responsibility. An NPR article points out that this group will represent 50% of the workforce by 2020. Their mantra? “People, Planet, Profits”. They are willing to pay a premium for products and services that follow a code of ethics and live by their values. They will also seek to disassociate themselves with companies that do not have these in place. So that means that your ability to acquire top talent will be near impossible if you don’t have a strong business culture, sustainability plan, demonstrated values, and ethical standards in place. Profits are at the end of the path of doing the right things for the right reasons. Are you prepared to seize the opportunity?