Job Candidates Seek Commitment to Ethics

Barry Goldberg On Leadership

Job Candidates Seek Commitment to Ethics

Looking at the business press for the last few quarters, it seems that the most unpredictable (and therefore likely most dangerous) new threat to businesses will continue to be finding and keeping top talent.

Even the most automatable, manufacturing process-based business is going to need people. And competition for top talent is fierce.

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The last two generations of employees are harder to recruit and retain than we have ever seen. They have specific standards about the nature of the company for which they are willing to work and greater access to other options.

Gone are the days when a fair day’s pay or equity potential were sufficient incentives. Today’s managerial talent seeks something more profound — a genuine connection to the company’s mission and the positive impact it has on people’s lives.

Until recently, corporate social responsibility was sufficient as a measure of the company’s desire to be a good corporate citizen.

But in response to very public and often very embarrassing ethical issues, job candidates want to know that leadership has a strong commitment to ethics in the way the business gets done.

In generations past, ethics was straightforward. Tell the truth. Don’t steal. Do what you say you will do. Treat people fairly and with respect.

But in an environment in which employees and candidates can see how workers are treated in a factory 12 time zones away, it’s not so simple.

New MBA grads are looking at trade practices around the globe or even in a satellite office one time zone away.

A corporate statement of ethics has joined the ever-present statement of values.

Years ago, when I went to meetings about coaching a CEO or a top leadership team, I would print out a copy of the company’s published organizational values. As part of the interview, I wanted to know if it was a piece of art or a living document that had teeth and was used to make tough decisions.

More recently, I have replaced that ritual with a copy of the company’s published statement of ethics and asked the same questions.

The landscape of ethical business practices is evolving rapidly. Companies must adapt to the changing expectations of new generations of employees who demand more than just financial rewards. Demonstrating a commitment to ethics and social responsibility has become a critical piece of the puzzle in attracting and retaining top talent.

As businesses continue to navigate this shifting terrain, they must embrace the values and ethics they publish as integral parts of their corporate identity. 

I. Barry Goldberg of Little Rock is a credentialed leadership and executive coach. He trained for coaching at Georgetown University’s Institute for Transformational Leadership.