Blog: Live by the Code

#Employer Branding

Live by the Code

Employees behaving badly and breaking the law outside the office perimeter is disgraceful. Isn’t it time it starts to influence public buying behaviour?
Live by the Code

My wife demands logic. Especially when we make expensive buying decisions. Normally, I’m seriously deficient in this department. But this time I think I have a point.

We recently bought a laptop for the son and heir. After covering the usual drivers that determine our buying decisions, we zeroed in on two large pan-India chain stores. Let’s call them shops A & B. They both offered us equal value on the deal. Yet, I insisted on making the purchase at shop B.

Why? Asked the wife, expecting the convoluted logic and I usually ply her with. But this was no joke. Looking her straight in the eye, I explained how a senior executive of shop A had recently killed two innocent people, while driving drunk, on the wrong side of the road. The company’s reaction was textbook perfect: an internal communication to the staff that they should not drink and drive, blah blah blah, and follow the law! Firmly shutting the stable door – after the horse had bolted! Sweeeeet!

This incident influenced my buying decision. I would not buy a product from a company whose employees so blatantly break the law! I might have reconsidered, however. Had the organization come out in the open and said how they took responsibility for their employee’s misdemeanor and that they had fired their erring employee. Adding that they firmly and publicly stood by their Code of Conduct would have been the ‘Wow’ factor.

My wife gaped, then mumbled that using this logic, we would never be able to buy anything!

Actually, this isn’t about shop A or B. This is about organizations that implement their Code of Conduct, by insisting that their employees live them – within and outside the office! The true demonstration of corporate social responsibility!

Most organizations do have a Code of Conduct, Company Values, and the like. But do their employees know what these mean, and how they, as ambassadors of the brand, are expected to live by them?

Try this: randomly ask employees on the work floor to state the company Code of Conduct and Values. I’ve tried it, by the way. Most reactions have been rather amusing. From ‘duh?’ to ‘they’re around here…somewhere’.

It’s not funny! How can people live by a code they don’t even know?

Try this: stop by at places executives hang out. The ‘up-market’ pubs, the all-night dhabas near large office complexes. People’s behaviour and language, laced with alcohol and stress, is often shocking. Some even wear tee-shirts with company logos. So everyone knows which brand they work for.  

As observers, we wouldn’t know – or care little – about the individuals. But we would know – and probably buy – those brands. So our immediate reaction should be: Gosh! Are these the guys who make the things my family and I use everyday? Shouldn’t I be ashamed to be their customer!

Most organizations consider it none of their business what their people do outside of the work place. Until an employee gets caught and the brand gets exposed.

Meanwhile questions of ethics, morality and privacy pop up. And where is the bandwidth? Monitoring employees in the workplace is challenging enough! Damage control is easy and everything will soon get forgotten anyway! Excuses, excuses, excuses! Each one threatening to demean the brand, the company’s public image and, hopefully, impacting customer perception.

Organizations must bring the Code of Conduct to the forefront! Here’s how:

1. CEO-driven communication: The CEO must drive this. Loud and periodic – not post facto, for heaven’s sake! The message: the Code of Conduct is non-negotiable!

2. Action visibly: Make visible examples of rewarding employees who live by the code – and punishing employees who break it.

3. Reiterate common sense: Everyone has some. Insist that they use it!

4. Colleague-watch: Colleagues keeping an eye on each other’s behaviour – even arranging cabs anyone who has had a few…

5. Create moral surrogates: Branded company assets – company cars, laptops, phones, visiting card holders. Reminding the employee that wherever they are, the Brand is being watched.

Unfortunately, the sad truth is that organizations will never see reason to implement anything – least of all their Code of Conduct – if it does not impact the buying decision of the customer. That’s you and me! We, the customers, need to influence leaders to implement their Code of Conduct.

Our loyalty and buying decisions are driven by the overall product. But…shouldn’t employee behaviour be a part of it? So how about we take it upon ourselves to enforce that change?

Let’s insist that living the code is a responsibility that is jointly and severally owned – by the company and the employee. Or we’ll take our business elsewhere…

 

 

 

 

 

Topics: Employer Branding, Culture

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