There’s an adage that says that if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. But what’s true for individuals is also true for businesses. Now, more than ever, workers and customers alike are looking to align with enterprises whose values they feel mirror their own. But, why, exactly, is it important for companies to have a strong corporate ethos, and what can business leaders do to make that happen?
What Is a Corporate Ethos?
As important as having a strong corporate ethos may be, the concept itself is not always easy to define. After all, traditional models of business are largely transactional” You provide a product or service in the hopes of generating a profit. And to achieve that profit motive, you recruit teams of workers, partners, stakeholders, and investors. It is a system based on reciprocity and mutual gain.
But, now, increasingly, it’s a system that is outmoded, both on the level of the customer and on the level of the worker. The rise of the conscious consumer, for instance, has meant that customers’ primary concerns are no longer product quality and price alone.
Rather, consumers are increasingly willing to spend a little more and even to give up some measure of style and function to patronize businesses that they deem to be socially responsible, those committed to the values and practices they, the consumers, hold dear.
But it’s not only consumers who are invested in the ethics of the companies they patronize. In a tight labor market, where competition for talent is fierce, workers have tremendous discretion in whom they want to align with. And that means that workers are looking not just to earn a paycheck or benefits. Rather, they’re looking to invest their skills, their time, and their efforts in serving a greater purpose, in pursuing interests and meeting needs beyond their own.
A company with a strong corporate ethos fulfills the ethical demands of both workers and clients and defines the mission, purpose, and practices of the organization.
As suggested above, having a strong corporate ethos is about more than developing a purpose-driven business model. A clearly defined ethos that informs the work and how the work is performed is increasingly important in attracting clients and workers alike.
But the rewards do not end there, because a strong ethos also helps to attract investment. Indeed, socially responsible investment (SRI) has become a powerful, and growing, force in the business world. Patrons are looking to put their money where their hearts are and will eschew businesses whose standards and practices conflict, or appear to conflict, with their own values. This is why cultivating an ethical brand is becoming integral to these companies’ bottom line.
Building a Productive Work Culture
When your company has a strong ethos, you’re not just going to attract talent, investors, and costumes, but you are also going to build the kind of workplace culture that yields performance. For example, the workplace has the potential to create not only anxiety but also trauma for some employees.
This is because microaggressions are often an unfortunate reality of corporate culture. Sadly, these behaviors are rarely recognized or called out unless and until there is a concerted effort in the workplace to understand and prevent them. This is where cultivating a strong corporate ethos can be seen to contribute to effective workplace culture. When there is a demonstrable commitment to diversity and inclusion, particularly at the level of leadership, and combined with zero tolerance for microaggressions, in whatever form they may take, employees are going to feel safer and more valued. And that’s going to increase engagement, morale, and performance
In addition, employee recognition can be a vital tool for supporting the corporate ethos. You will not only be incentivizing ethical behavior, but you will also be using the example of your lauded employees to provide a role model for other employees to emulate.
Ultimately, this means that corporate ethics is predicated on putting people first, including not only clients but also employees and members of the community. In so doing, the ethical corporation seeks alignment between its purpose, its narrative, its people, and its practices.
In today’s increasingly competitive business environment, having a strong corporate ethos is not a luxury, but a necessity. The rise of ethical consumerism has meant that prospective consumers are often unwilling to support companies whose values do not align with their own. At the same time, the most talented members of the workforce are increasingly reluctant to commit their careers to organizations that do not represent their moral beliefs. Similarly, investors are increasingly choosing to commit their hard-earned dollars only to enterprises whose brand they can get behind. But it’s not just about attracting the best people to your company. A strong corporate ethos helps to drive business performance and cultivate an optimal corporate culture.