A lot has been written about the challenges companies face while operating through this period of unprecedented and simultaneous crises.
The amount of uncertainty is enough to make the most experienced leaders’ heads spin.
The world has been ravaged by a global health pandemic. Millions of people have died and the full toll on human life is still unknown. Most businesses sheltered in place, forcing some out of work, others to close their doors completely, and still others to come face-to-face with the realities of digital transformation almost overnight. All the ways our lives, social norms and workplaces will be forever altered is still to be seen.
At the same time, we face the worst economic downturn in decades, multiple climate-related challenges, and widespread protests against racial inequality and for justice.
This is on top of skyrocketing stakeholder expectations that companies behave ethically, responsibly and make positive contributions to society – an outgrowth of a decade that saw its fair share of corporate scandal, highlighting the downside of not operationalizing ethics and compliance as core to business.
Not surprising, then, that the current operating environment is characterized by high levels of mistrust and misinformation in business, leadership and society.
While there is ongoing discussions and debate on how business will reset, return and recover post COVID-19, what is clear to us at LRN is that workplace behavior and company cultures must be reshaped to evolve, and evolve quickly, to meet the demands of this new world of work.
This is why we have joined forces with Interactive Services building on our strategic alliance with Leeds Equity Partners, to help more companies around the world create ethically-aware and inspired workforces at a time when purpose and values are critical to corporate performance.
So why now and why us?
Values Create Value
Our own research has proven time and time again that values guide behavior and shape culture, which, in turn, bears positively on performance. Values are the only thing that discourages unwanted behavior and simultaneously guides and propels the kinds of positive behaviors we need. What you can and can't do is one thing; what you should do comes from something deeper and more fundamental.
Values, Purpose & Trust Provide Firm Foundations in an Uncertain World
In times of uncertainty, the ground can seem to shift under your feet and the road becomes harder to navigate. Values, purpose and trust are the firm foundations upon which people and companies can view the word, operate and make decisions with more certainty. It’s not enough to promote values, purpose and trust, they must be embedded into the DNA of organizations and embraced so that employees are inspired to do the things that preserve what makes them uniquely special.
Innovative Education Inspires Employees to Do the Right Thing
Training and education are two of the strongest levers that an organization can pull to guide employee behavior and to shape culture. It’s not training that checks the box or is done for regulators. It is ethics and compliance training that touches hearts and minds and builds the kind of muscle memory needed to help employees do the right thing when nobody's watching. It helps to define expectations for behavior and encourage accountability for one’s own behavior and for the behavior of those around them.
To Build Culture, You Must Scale and Reach Everyone
When companies reach every employee with the right set of messages and experiences that show them how to take principled action and explain why doing so makes for a better company and better world, they can have a major impact on company culture and business performance. In fact, training and education are two of the only things companies can do to reach everyone and every level, no matter how far away employees are from one another.
Ethical Cultures Safeguard Against Ethical Risks & Bring People Together
What happens in one corner of the world reverberates in another. A bystander records and uploads a video on their phone and that interaction can build or damage a brand in an instant. One incident, felt deeply enough by enough people, has ripples that affect all of us. Distributed work environments create even more opportunities for lapses in ethical behavior. Remote work can also increase data protection and privacy issues, not to mention loneliness and isolation. When people work remotely, by themselves, culture and values form the connective tissue that brings people together, reminds them of what matters most, and makes them feel like part of something bigger.
Leaders Aligned to Pursue Principled Performance
Ethical, purpose-led companies outperform S&P by 3-4x annually. This data shouldn’t be the only thing to convince boards and senior leadership teams to be inspired to take the deliberate and necessary steps to further strengthen their embrace of ethical behavior and culture as central to business strategy.
Meeting the New Demands of the Workforce & Workplace
Stakeholders, including the next generation entering the workforce today, decide where to work and how engaged they are at work based on whether or not they believe in what a company does and how it lives up to ethical obligations. An authentic and deep commitment to mission, purpose and values with measurable societal impacts is central to the new playbook for operating today.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is All About Values
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are not programs, but values statements and relate to creating cultures committed to justice, truth, fairness and respect. Increasingly business is being asked to use its influence and power to proactively address racial and other inequalities. True impact can’t be made with empty promises or programs alone.
At the Vanguard of Ethical Business for 25 Years
For the past 25 years, both LRN and Interactive Services have been at the vanguard. LRN is the pioneer and leader in ethics and compliance education, content, thought leadership and advisory services and the leading authority and advocate for values-based approaches to shaping workplace behavior and culture. Interactive Services is the gold standard in bespoke education for companies across the length and breadth of corporate functions, from HR and Leadership Development to Sales, Marketing, IT, Finance, Manufacturing and Product Development -- with multiple awards to support their status as leading innovators in corporate education today.
The current challenges in the world underscore the urgency of powerful training, communications, codes of conduct and ethical-culture building tools that reach more stakeholders, from front-line employees to the C-Suite and boards. Coming together as one LRN, the companies’ unique capabilities and strengths meet the current dynamics and opportunities in the new world of work head on.
LRN’s outstanding platform and deep array of offerings and advisory services, backed by its rigorous research and thought leadership on how and why companies do (and don’t) achieve principled performance, have helped define and shape the ethics and compliance space. Interactive Services’ long commitment to improving talent and performance in the workplace through creative design is a perfect complement and will be enhanced and enriched by the LRN philosophy of inspiring principled performance.
After decades of studying M&A activity, the best analysts have concluded that culture is at heart of every successful (or failed) deal bringing companies together. This insight needs to inform the work ahead, both internally for us as we unite as one team, and externally as we seek to help companies around the world do the right thing. As we build on our culture, we will be joining with our new colleagues to help hundreds of companies reimagine their own corporate cultures and behavior in a time of virtual work, global uncertainty and crisis.
About the Author
Senior Advisor at LRNMore Content by David Greenberg