The Meaning of Integrity In Business
People often define integrity as doing the right thing even when no one else is around. It is the ability to act with honesty and be consistent in whatever it is you are doing based on the particular moral, value or belief compass you have. Beliefs, values and morals all relate to the culture in which you operate, so culture plays a role in determining exactly what integrity involves.
How is Integrity in Business Helpful
At the most basic level, all business relationships are built on trust. This is true for both employer-employee and company-consumer relationships. To trust someone or an agency means that you feel confident in their ability to be fair and respectful, do what was promised and act responsibly.
When trust is in place in a business, employers and employees are open with each other. They are not afraid to express their true views or opinions. This type of communicative environment lets employers give their employees a certain amount of independence, even when those employees are assigned to groups or teams. In return for this independence, employees exercise increased creativity, which ultimately lets a company or businessperson adapt to the ever-changing marketplace to stay competitive. Creativity also lets employees feel as though they have contributed something special, can be proud of their work and are more closely connected to the business. That feeling can keep employees from seeking employment elsewhere or asking for additional perks and compensation.
Trust and integrity are inextricably connected. Individuals and organizations use the presence or absence of integrity to determine whether an extension of trust is warranted. Business relationships halt or proceed based on this basic determination.
Businesses are heartily concerned with their reputation—that is, they care what the public thinks about them. This is because reputation is connected to operations. The higher a company’s reputation, the more business it usually draws. The lower a company’s reputation, the harder it is for the company to gain and retain customers and workers.
When a company acts with integrity, it builds trusting relationships with employees and customers. Its reputation rises as a result, positively affecting productivity and sales. When a company fails to act with integrity, however, the public’s view of the business becomes more negative. Over time, this can mean customers turn away and employees leave, drastically lowering the company’s profit margin.
Building Integrity In Your Business
Integrity is not necessarily present in business by default. Increasing the level of integrity your company has starts with being more proactive during or changing the scope of your employee selection process. For instance, spend some time during interviews to ask scenario/situational questions (aka, what would you do if…) instead of focusing only on skill sets or educational background.
The journey toward an integrity-rich company doesn’t end when employees are hired. After the initial selection process, make it a point to provide training (e.g., seminars, memos, conferences, PowerPoint presentations) on the topic of integrity. With today’s business world becoming more diversified and incorporating people from vastly different cultures under a single roof, give examples of what integrity means to you. Enforce integrity-related policies via a formal handbook.
Companies who need more integrity also find some relief when managers provide ways for employees to keep tabs on the integrity of each other. A good example is a solid system for reporting offenses to your human resources (HR) department. Having employees work in teams for increased accountability also works.
Even when you are careful during hiring, provide good training and establish opportunities for integrity monitoring, nothing is more effective for moving a company toward integrity than setting a good example yourself. People will follow standards they see set by leaders, so if you are steadfast in your actions and beliefs, your employees will build their own integrity over time.
Raising the Bar
Integrating integrity in business does more than just make your company efficient and stable. It also raises the general standard by which all companies operate. The integrity in your business that keeps employee and customer retention high forces other companies to reevaluate their own systems and models—failure to do this might mean the inability to offer a similar environment, service, product or price. Let your leadership transform the way business is done.