A friend of mine, Jim Rhea, is the CEO of Greenwood Performance Systems. He recently shared with me about ethics training that they conduct. This is frequently a “How do we do that?” question for those on a Baldrige journey.
“In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.” – Warren Buffett
The Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, a validated management model based on the characteristics of high-performing organizations, asks “How do senior leaders personally promote an organizational environment that fosters, requires, and results in legal and ethical behavior?” In addition, the Criteria ask “How does your organization promote and assure ethical behavior in all your interactions?”
Sadly, it is commonplace today to learn that most companies do not succeed in establishing a credible corporate tone that promotes and assures ethical behavior. The reality is that American business is suffering from a character crisis.
According to a recent survey of American workers, more than half admitted they had done something unethical or illegal in the workplace during the previous calendar year. And the future doesn’t look much better. Case in point: Zogby recently polled graduating college seniors preparing to enter the workforce for the first time. The survey revealed that 73% of these “employees to be” believe ethics in the workplace are dependent on the individual and a given situation and that there is no standard of ethics for all employees to adhere to. Only 25% stated they believe there is a standard of right and wrong for all in the work force to be judged by. Sadly, today’s generation is beset with an even greater illiteracy than that which is functional: Ethical Illiteracy. Much of today’s generation does not process decision-making through an ethical lens…or they simply don’t care.
To make matters worse, in 2006, just 19% of all corporate training was ethics related, and of that, nearly all was focused on compliance issues. Thus the great majority of all corporate ethics training addresses symptomatic issues, which does not produce change.
As the scandals of Madoff, Enron, WorldCom and countless others stare us down from the headlines each day, the question remains: Can ethics in the workplace be developed to create systemic and sustained change? Simply put, ethics is learning and understanding the difference between right and wrong, and then doing the right thing. Yet creating a culture of ethics and integrity in the workplace is not simply a matter of rule of law or adherence to requirements. Rather, it is a matter of cultivating the human heart of the individual in the workplace.
The heart is best defined as man’s innermost part – the mind, will, emotions, conscience, and moral nature. To create a truly effective culture of ethics and integrity in the workplace, companies must train the heart of the individual, and cultivate and reinforce the values of such training. With the level of ethical illiteracy that exists today among those in the current generation entering the workforce, it is imperative to train for ethics and character and intentionally instill the principles of integrity and other such values.
Empirical data shows that ethical workers are more committed and more caring about co-workers, customers, the company and the community. Those who demonstrate honor, respect and responsibility – who are honest – are simply better workers. They work more efficiently, more effectively, and more productively.
Such is the case at Caremark, the nation’s premier integrated pharmacy services provider. The company fills or manages more than one billion prescriptions per year and realized net revenues of $37 billion in 2006. After deploying the Heart of a Champion Integrity program at Caremark for a 4-month period, the measurable changes were profound: attitudinal and behavioral shifts of 11-19% were accompanied by a 20% increase in productivity. Production and performance numbers were the highest in the company’s history, as were quality control numbers. Overtime hours were the lowest in company history. The effect was a seven figure bottom-line impact from a five figure investment.
American business stands at a historic crossroads – a Corporate Character Crisis. This crisis has come with a price tag of hundreds of billions of dollars in lost productivity, quality control lapses, overtime, and diverted resources – as well as eroded public trust. Without a direct and intentional approach to altering its corporate culture, companies stand to continue to lose big in these areas.
Heart of a Champion’s corporate learning programs deployed at Fortune 500 companies have demonstrated that training for character and integrity not only creates attitudinal and behavioral shifts in employees, which stimulates a better working environment and enhanced working relationships; it also can dramatically increase a company’s bottom line. www.greenwoodperformance.com
CoreValues Partners helps their clients focus, align, and accelerate their performance excellence efforts through the effective use of the Malcolm Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence. www.corevaluespartners.com