Integrity is vital to every business; we regularly see the damage that a failure of integrity can cause. A company tagline that alludes to regaining or rebuilding consumer trust usually means that integrity was lacking previously. While most people grasp the importance of integrity in their personal lives, how it applies to an organization is less intuitive. Even harder? Getting your employees to act with integrity.
For an organization, integrity entails more than honesty. It is a commitment to a clear purpose, vision and set of values, which together govern decision-making at every level. A clear articulation of your company’s purpose, vision and values is a vital business asset, as these words give every employee clarity on an organization’s stated goals and ethics. Without this clarity, an employee will struggle to align his or her actions with the organization’s underlying ethic.
In essence, integrity in business is, at its core, directly related to an organization’s purpose and the way that purpose is manifested through behaviors and decision-making at every level of the organization. The stakes are high. According to a 2015 study by Deloitte, mission-driven companies have 30 percent higher innovation and 40 percent higher retention, and they tend to be top competitors in their market.
When an organization commits fully to integrity, it reaps many benefits:
- The organization upholds one version of the truth, so everyone knows where he or she stands and what is necessary for success.
- The organization becomes committed to transparency and believes everyone has a voice and ideas to help create success.
- The organization cultivates a good reputation with customers, and, in turn, customers become loyal.
- Everyone understands organizational goals, operates in line with expectations and holds each other accountable to those standards. Leaders make decisions without taking shortcuts, and employees conduct themselves in an ethical and accountable manner.
The bottom line is that integrity, as defined by adherence to a clear statement of purpose, vision and values, is a key ingredient for successful long-term business strategy. It impacts everything from recruiting and employee retention to customer relationships, brand and reputation, and, ultimately, the bottom line.
So, how do you go about instilling integrity in your organization? There’s no shortcut – integrity is a 24/7 pursuit – but many senior executives and business owners rely on peer groups both to hold them personally accountable and for perspectives and feedback on how to create a culture that inspires integrity.
Leaders can also model integrity and drive cultural change through their own behaviors. Many executives turn to peer advisory groups to help nurture strong leadership skills, where experienced leaders offer advice on navigating business challenges. Committing to leadership training with a group of high-integrity peers reinforces model behavior and can hold leaders accountable. When an executive faces a big decision, a capable peer group will always ask if their choices align with their purpose and values.
Ultimately, building a high-integrity workplace starts at the top, but just because an executive is at the top doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t need help. We all have blind spots, and doing the “right thing” can become complicated when your decisions are influenced and/or executed by your employees, business and customers. Given that integrity is integral to running not just a successful business but also a business where everyone is proud to work, investment in leaders’ development should be a top priority.