How ethical leadership can improve your employer brand
3 minutes | Posted 24 March, 2021

Every organization wants the right person in the right job.

Every person contemplating the roughly 90,000 hours they’ll be spending at work wants to be in the right job.

This is why magazines such as Forbes release annual lists of the world’s best employers, and why sites like Glassdoor, where employees rate their employers, exist. If you’re going to spend a third of your lifetime at work, you’re going to research what different organizations offer.

So how can employers ensure their brand is viewed favourably and can compete against its contemporaries? Know what motivates the people you want to hire.

Understanding what motivates your people

Yes, salaries and perks matter but they’re fairly generic. There’s probably not much you offer that your competitors can’t match.  Where you can differentiate yourself is through your principles. It’s increasingly important for potential employees to find companies with values that align with their own, particularly (but not only) to millennials who will comprise 75% of the workforce in 2025.

One of the effects of the pandemic is that it has thrown into sharp relief what matters to people, in their personal and professional lives. Whether it’s flexible working hours, changing where they live or ditching their commute, people now know what’s possible. In the years to come, they’ll be looking for companies that accommodate those choices, and allow them to bring their whole selves to work. They’ve also watched how organizations have treated their staff in this crisis and taken note.

“It’s increasingly important for potential employees to find companies with values that align with their own, particularly (but not only) to millennials who will comprise 75% of the workforce in 2025.”

Organizational values can no longer be the laminated sheet on the wall of the office kitchen. They need to be the authentic foundations of company processes and systems, informing decision-making and making the company’s actions consistent and transparent.  Those values need to genuinely permeate the daily experience of employees.

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It starts from the top

This starts at the top. Staff are significant stakeholders and need to be recognized as such. People want to make a positive impact. They want to genuinely speak with pride about what their company stands for. They want to work for leaders with integrity, and they expect a high degree of transparency about decisions that affect them. Employees flourish when working with ethical leaders; those who create a culture in which employees can safely challenge decisions, and where contributions are welcomed.

The right organizational culture produces a secure and productive workforce – proud ambassadors who’ll champion your brand on their social channels and in their professional interactions.

Once you’ve got the right people on board, how do you keep them there? Organizational churn is disruptive, and costly. It’s estimated that the Canadian economy loses $3.8bn each year in lost productivity due to staff turnover. Work perks aren’t enough to keep staff hanging on in the face of toxic organizational culture and unethical leadership. The resulting low morale tends to breed a culture of mere compliance and minimum effort amongst those who stay, and high turnover as those who can leave do.

Creating ethical decision-making frameworks

Invest in your human resources the way you do any other.  Everyone in their career will face challenges that can’t be solved by a Code of Conduct. Help your people meet these challenges by providing professional development which exposes them to different ethical decision-making frameworks and increases their ability to work through ambiguity. Empower them to move from simply following rules to being able to question the rightness of an action or circumstance. Ethical fade is real and needs to be consciously addressed.

Strengthen their judgement and critical thinking skills. Support people who are motivated to create change along ethical lines and make sure their efforts are recognized. Equip your employees with the capabilities to assess the impact of the organization’s priorities and overtly give permission for them to act constructively on what they may uncover. All of these measures will help them, and the organization, make the right decisions for the right reasons at the right time.

There are many positive benefits of strong ethical leadership – brand safety, reputation management and growing market share. But among the most important is attracting and retaining high calibre staff who will share their experience of your organization widely. Word of mouth is a powerful force, and it’s a recruitment tool you want to get right.

If you would like to learn more about how to improve your Employer Brand, get in touch with us here. 

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