A large part of the value of initiatives such as developing a code of business ethics comes from employees talking about and identifying how to address key issues related to customers, fellow employees, and the organization. Upon completion, the final document is just the cherry on top of the policy sundae.
The processes involved in developing a code of ethics are, in fact, common to developing other products or courses of action that may require widespread support and ownership from employees. The Code of Business Ethics is based on values the corporate entity will embrace.
The Values Identification Process
Prior to identifying the organizational values, the executive group must complete the following:
- Learn about and discuss the power of shared values.
- Obtain consensus and commitment to creating a value-based workplace.
- Define the role of the executives in leading this process
- Provide written material the executives can share with their staff
Design and schedule a series of values alignment sessions in which all members of the organization will participate. A trained facilitator or internal facilitators who lead one session and participate in another can lead the sessions.
Prior to the values identification and alignment sessions, the leaders must do the following:
- Share written materials as well as the spirit and context of the executives’ values discussion
- Promote the rationale for, need for, and desired organizational impact of the process.
- Ensure reporting staff members understand the importance of participation.
- Answer questions and provide feedback about staff concerns to the rest of the executive group
Values Identification Workshop Overview
Each session begins with a brief overview exploring key concepts. These concepts are as follows:
٠ Each person brings his or her own set of values to the workplace.
٠ Sharing similar or agreed upon values at work helps clarify:
- expected behavior and actions to each other and customers,
- how decisions are made
- exactly what is important in the organization.
Steps in Workplace Values Identification
The workplace values identification session begins as participants identify their own individual values. Restrict these individual lists to the five to ten most important values individual staff members bring to the workplace everyday. It is through melding all of the values of the members of the organization that forms the current work environment.
This is a marvelous learning opportunity that can provide significant insight into the beliefs and desires of co-workers. Allow for a time that the staff can talk about their value list with another member.
Organize the participants into smaller groups of people from across the organization to identify which personal values are the most important for creating the desired work environment. These are then prioritized and shared as lists of five to six most desired values. Generally some values will be common to each group’s list.
Discuss how these values are currently operational in the workplace. Through this process have people define each value by describing what is seen in behaviors and actions when a value is truly incorporated into the organizations belief system. Graphic statements are stronger and better for producing an understanding of shared meaning. Here are a few examples of value statements:
Integrity: We maintain credibility by making certain our actions always match our words.
Respect: We respect each patient's right to be involved, to the greatest extent possible or desired, in making informed decisions about his or her health and plan of care.
Accountability: We accept personal responsibility to efficiently use organization resources, improve our systems, and help others improve their effectiveness.
Follow-up Process for Values Identification
Using the work and insights from the values identification session, volunteers meet to reach consensus on values; develop value statements for each of the prioritized values; and, share the value statements with all staff for feedback and refinement. The staff will discuss the draft value statements during organization-wide meetings, when possible. The total group adopts the values by voting when the organization believes the value statements are complete.
The Leaders' Role Following the Workplace Values Process
Once the values identification and alignment sessions have completed, the leaders will:
- communicate and discuss the mission and organizational values frequently with staff members;
- establish organizational goals that are grounded in the identified values;
- model personal work behaviors, decision making, contribution, and interpersonal interaction that reflect the values;
- translate the values into expectations, priorities, and behaviors with colleagues, reporting staff, and self;
- link participation in the adoption of the values and the behaviors that result, to regular performance feedback and the performance development process;
- reward and recognize staff members whose actions and accomplishments reflect the values in action within the organization;
- hire and promote individuals whose outlook and actions are congruent with these values;
- and meet periodically to talk about how the group is doing via living the identified values.
Make This Workplace Values Process Not Just Another Exercise
Be careful not to oversell the process, making sure to always anchor the values to real world problems. Encourage staff to identify where there are gaps between values, or beliefs, and behavior. Remember talking about values and beliefs will not alter how another person believes. These are opportunities to share, not change. To ensure the investment in workplace values identification is not lost, leadership and individual follow-up is critical.
The organizational commitment to change, to enhance work behaviors, actions and interactions must be real. Recognition systems and performance management systems must align with, support and reward the new behaviors. Additionally, consequences for behaviors that undermine the agreed upon values must be enforced. If the commitment is not there, do not even start the process. Doing so will create a group of very unhappy people who will feel misled and betrayed. The staff will hardly jump to embrace the next initiative. They certainly would have a right to feel disassociated.
Institutionalize Your Code of Business Ethics
Once developed, the critical component to making it an effective tool is using the code daily, if possible.
Carter McNamara has an excellent resource for business ethics at Managementhelp.org (http://www.managementhelp.org/ethics/ethxgde.htm).
Organize your own challenge sessions and use the business code of ethics document to measure or guide all business actions and decisions. Reputation and integrity are just too important to leave to chance.