9th Feb 2012
The ethics of businesses are increasingly under the microscope.
We only need to think back to the recent banking crisis and the phone hacking scandal to realise the damage that can be done to organisations that are deemed to be acting in an unethical manner.
More and more, HR directors are being asked to become the company’s ‘moral guardians’ and to take responsibility for governing and setting workforce standards. So how can they best take the lead and demonstrate what ‘good’ looks like, while ensuring that staff understand and adhere to the firm’s moral code?
The answer is to nurture and develop the right mindset within the organisation. I recently jointly wrote a book called ‘Put Your Mindset to Work’ with Dr Paul G. Stoltz, which examines the qualities that employers look for in employees and how they can be translated into business success.
The extensive research that took place to put the book together revealed that a huge 97% of employers place a higher value on staff having the right mindset rather than on having the right skill set. In fact, the employers we spoke to said that, on average, they would trade seven ‘normal’ employees for that one rare person with a winning attitude.
So, what exactly is a ‘winning' mindset? Mindset is all about what you see, think and believe. It is not about putting on a bright, shiny display of positive attitude - it is much deeper. It is, in fact, the internal lens through which you see and navigate life.
As to the mindset qualities that employers believe make the biggest difference in business terms, they fell into three fundamental categories: global, good and grit - the three 'G's that make up a winning or '3G mindset'.
Individually, all of the ‘Gs’ are essential in the workplace, but ‘good’ forms the bedrock. ‘Good’ in this context does not mean being a good person. Instead it is about standing up to and being strengthened by the most difficult of tests.
This type of good is about acting with kindness and integrity and seeing and approaching the world in a way that truly benefits those around you. It is about your ethical and moral foundation.
Research has shown that, due to the ripple effect, the ability of individuals to be good in this sense is absolutely fundamental to the long-term success of any organisation. In other words, good creates a culture of good.
In particular, leaders who demonstrate these qualities are more likely to earn the respect of their people who will also be more engaged.
But it appears that good is the ‘G’ that the majority of people struggle with most as they try to deal with the pressures of daily office life and meeting targets. It is, therefore, important to implement working practices that help to support the development of this attitude among your employees.
As Anita Roddick, the co-founder of The Body Shop, said: “Being good is good business” - and she built a successful global brand on that very premise.
As to how you can foster good in your own organisation, here are some recommendations:
1. Be clear about your organisation’s values
Most companies have mission statements and values that dictate their corporate vision, but how many truly conduct their business with these at the forefront of their minds?
Research shows that if people are exposed to a strong value code, it can have a profound, subconscious effect on their behaviour and decision-making. But it is important that an organisation’s values are created in collaboration with staff so that they become the natural way of doing business.
2. Make it personal
It is vital that you not only employ ‘good’ people, but also people who approach everything that they do with a ‘good’ mindset because they will have a net positive effect on the business and those around them. The best way to encourage employees to adopt this attitude is to help them look at the bigger picture by thinking about long-term goals and approaching tasks from an enterprise-wide perspective.
One way to achieve this is to create objectives for staff that reflect the organisation’s values. Too often, objectives are set without considering the ways in which they will be met. As a result, it is important to make clear that it is better to act with integrity than lose sight of what is ‘good’ to meet short-term goals.
Research has also shown that people respond better to values that are personal to them rather than those that are dictated by someone else. By working with them to create value-based objectives or a personal code of conduct, you can help to equip your employees with the ‘good’ hardwiring that will inform their daily decisions and career development.
3. Think about the long-term
To be ‘good’, individuals have to understand how their actions contribute to the long-term success of the business. This means that it is important to communicate your company's long-term goals and clarify ongoing performance against those goals.
If staff have a clear understanding of the bigger picture, they are more likely to comprehend how they can help to meet these goals through their day-to-day activities. Discussing the ‘how’ is a useful way of bringing this concept to life.
For example, if a manager has someone in their team who isn’t pulling their weight, they may end up putting extra pressure on more effective members to achieve a particular target or objective in the short-term.
But this situation isn’t good in practice. Tackling a poor performer may be more difficult, but by addressing the issue directly, and doing so with kindness and integrity, the effect on the team will be much more positive in the long-term.
The last word on this is that, by focusing on ‘good’, you will help create a workforce that is energised, committed and results-focused. Which is rather a good result all round.
James Reed is chairman of international recruitment consultancy, Reed Global. His book 'Put your Mindset to Work' won the Chartered Management Institute's Best Commuter's Read award for 2012.