Companies can’t just talk about ethics, they have to demonstrate those values are intrinsic to how they operate says Sinead Hasson.

Lip service is one of the issues that comes up when we chat to disgruntled employees. Things such as values being used for PR/marketing, but not for the day to day. Constant spouting about diversity and inclusion, with no real evidence, is currently a hot topic.

If you are a company, or work for a company, that has core values, you need to be confident that they are being adhered to throughout the business. Recent tales from people about firms where it’s one rule for the managers and another for the team make me feel that – no matter how far we travel in transparency – there are still companies that take us right back.

What you don’t want is to see words such as ‘honesty’, ‘loyalty’ and ‘trust’ painted on the reception wall, only for them to fade fast as you walk through the office.

If a company has gone to the effort of creating values, it means it has made a conscious decision that it wanted something to define and guide the business. These values should be used specifically when dealing with clients, employees, suppliers and other relevant stakeholders.

So, if you are a manager in your business, make sure the leaders are on board; without their buy-in, this group could act against those values and undermine the process and your power to live these values. It’s worthwhile taking time to ensure that all the key stakeholders agree.

Once you have the values nailed down, you need to know what to do when these are breached – when someone acts in a way that goes against a value.

If you don’t act when you see negative behaviour, the consequences can be contagious. By not acting you are saying:

  • Bad/negative behaviour is OK
  • These values mean nothing
  • We don’t stand by our word
  • You can’t trust us.

So, make it clear what the consequences are and act as soon as you see the negative behaviour. You could:

  • Link performance management to compliance with values
  • Inform the line manager and call a meeting immediately if you see or hear of bad behaviour.

It can be challenging, but tackling these things head on can benefit you and your business and ensure that your employees trust you. That’s got to be high on your priorities for a successful business.

Sinead Hasson is founder and managing director of recruitment consultancy Hasson Associates.