Take a moment and think about a job you absolutely hated. One that made you feel deflated, one that you dreaded going into every day. Now, think about WHY you hated that job. There were probably lots of reasons why that job wasn’t for you. It could have been bad interactions with customers or vendors, long or unpredictable hours, the list goes on and on.

However, it’s likely that the root of the problem boils down to one thing: a bad workplace culture.

Research shows that 56% of today’s workers value a strong workplace culture. In fact, they value it even more than they do a high salary! If you want to attract and retain top talent in your company, you need to prioritize ethics, compliance, and a strong corporate culture – and it all starts with your managers. 

A Manager’s Role in Workplace Culture

Whether you’re a middle manager working directly with employees or a top-level manager in the C-suite, managers set the tone for their company’s workplace culture. This is why it’s so important to make ethics and compliance a cornerstone of your company culture – and to model that ethical philosophy in your own work.

As a leader, you need to remember that your employees are always watching – and if you don’t “walk the walk,” you can’t expect any of your workers to hear you when you “talk the talk.”

Why Ethics and Compliance Matter

You might be wondering, “Why should I worry about compliance and ethics, anyway?” There are several reasons why ethics and compliance should be at the forefront of your workplace culture, including:

  • Boosting company morale: When your employees trust you, they’ll feel much better working for you.
  • Preventing misconduct: Companies that stress the value of ethics and compliance are more likely to retain employees whose values match the company’s – which means they experience fewer non-compliance incidents.
  • Increasing productivity: Some research suggests that a strong corporate culture can lead to increased productivity, largely because employees are more satisfied with their work.

How to Define Your Company Culture

As you can see, company culture can have a lasting impact on your office environment – and even on how successful your company will be. So, how do you foster that positive culture of compliance and ethics? Here are a few tips:

Put a Plan in Writing

If you want to define your company culture, the first thing you need to do is define it for yourself. Sit down with your fellow managers and discuss what ethics and compliance mean for your organization. Make sure your expectations are clear and thorough so that no one can misconstrue your meanings.

Then, write it all down!

Your company must have a written code of ethics or compliance standards on which to build your office culture. This document should be one your employees can reference time and again to confirm that they (and you) are doing your jobs “by the book.”

Create a “Culture Committee”

As a manager, you already have a lot on your plate. You simply may not have the time to audit your office for non-compliance or unethical behavior. So, how can you expect to enforce the new ethical culture? The answer is simple: by electing someone to help you.

An ethics committee or Corporate Compliance Officer (CCO) is a person or group dedicated to helping uphold your company’s compliance and ethics policies. By bringing someone into that job, you both enlist someone to help you manage compliance issues and you show everyone in your office that you are taking this new, ethical culture seriously.

Hold Employees Accountable

Perhaps one of the most important things you can do to foster an ethical company culture is to hold your employees accountable. If you receive word of any form of misconduct, address the issue swiftly and deal with it appropriately, even if it means letting an employee go. Holding your workers accountable for their actions shows everyone that you’re serious about making ethics and compliance a top priority.

Of course, it is important to remember that accountability goes both ways. As we mentioned earlier, managers set the tone for the office culture, and therefore they need to be just as beholden to the code of conduct as their employees. If you or a fellow manager is doing something inappropriate, the culprit must face the proper consequences for his or her behavior – no matter how high up the ladder they are.

Incentivize Ethical Behaviors

Holding employees accountable is an important part of your workplace culture, but it’s only half of the equation. It’s also wise to reward employees who exemplify your company’s values through their actions.

People who act ethically (including those who report misconduct they’ve witnessed) should receive recognition for their dedication to ethics and compliance. This reinforces the fact that your organization values ethics, which will encourage other workers to make ethics a greater part of their office culture.

Communicate Clearly

Every office is filled with people from all walks of life, each with his or her own unique views and experiences. Try as we might, it’s almost impossible to guarantee everyone will agree with or even understand each other! That is why managers need to make sure they communicate their expectations very clearly for all their employees.

Incorporate Ethics and Compliance into Training

Where can you clearly and definitively state your expectations for your company’s office culture? In training! When you include information about ethics and compliance in your new employee or corporate compliance training programs, your workers know exactly what they’re getting into when they set foot in your office. This is one of the best ways to build a corporate culture, as every employee who goes through training is clear on what you expect from them.

As long as they’re clear, consistent, and leading by example, any manager can create a culture based on ethics and compliance in their organization. Simply take your time, follow our tips, and remember to “walk the walk!”