29 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Attributes of an Ethical Organisation


THERE are a number of attributes that depict an ethical organisation, and amongst these are servant leadership, respect for employees, customer satisfaction, care for the natural environment and securing community goodwill.

Servant leadership entails company leaders being warm, responsive, caring and humble in their dealings with the business of the organisation.

It means leaders being fair, showing compassion and being sensitive to employee needs and those of all stakeholders.

Servant leadership empowers employees and facilitates their growth in the organisation. According to Spears (2004), servant leadership means listening intently and receptively to what others say, being accessible and having empathy for others.

And the values that most commonly inform servant leadership are integrity, honesty and truthfulness.

These values are at the heart of ethical leadership and must inform the conduct of every leader in any organisation, large or small.

Leaders who engage in conflict of interest, insider trading and corruption destroy the well-being of their organisations and must be dealt with swiftly to ensure organisational leadership remains a source of inspiration for employees.

Organisations should show respect for employees by making sure their needs are well taken care of as much as is possible.

Employees should never be seen as factors of production that should be exploited and discarded like worn-out machinery, but rather should be seen as partners in the growth of the organisation.

Workers always want to experience real purpose and meaning at their workplaces, and organisations must be built on the recognition of this fact, meaning much effort must be exerted towards making sure the work environment is favourable for maximum employee productivity.

Ethical organisations must take cognisance of every individual employee's desire and right to be treated with dignity at work, to grow and learn, and to be a whole integrated person who cannot simply be sacrificed for organisational expediency.

Organisations must be anchored on ethical business practices that empower employees to work together and share knowledge where the strengths of one employee will compensate for the weaknesses of other employees as is the case in a successful football team.

Ethical organisations promote a culture of tolerance of mistakes, experimentation and operating outside the box; and empowered employees operating under such circumstances have the ability to renew, regenerate and revitalise their efforts in order to achieve set organisational goals.

An ethical organisation should examine its corporate strategy to ensure the strategy is embedded with formal ethics management processes that re-engineer organisational practice and rejuvenate staff commitment towards the organisation.

This means that corporate strategies and mission statements should not only discuss profit, growth and maximisation of shareholder value.

Instead, they should embrace the needs of all stakeholders who include customers, employees, communities in which they operate, and the general public.

The corporate strategy must be used to ethically energise the entire organisation and provide direction to all and sundry so that employees, customers and other stakeholders will get to know exactly what the organisation stands for and what it intends to achieve.

Customer satisfaction is paramount to the growth of any ethical organisation. An ethical organisation truly cares for its customers and clients.

Business wisdom postulates that customer satisfaction is the most important measure of any business performance, and because of this, it is actually difficult for a firm to succeed when its products are substandard.

Caring about customers also includes listening to them and hearing what they say. Listening to customer complaints is a powerful ethical tool, and is also a good way of tapping ideas for improving the quality of the company's product.

Equally so, when an organisation makes a mistake it should not be afraid to apologise and show remorse.

Apparently the strength of an apology is in acknowledging the mistake, communicating humility and sincerity, explaining why the mistake was committed, and offering compensation where necessary.

An ethical organisation should establish and maintain strong ties with the local community in which it conducts business.

It should try as much as possible to hire employees from the local community and do business with local companies where possible.

After all, some of its customers will come from the surrounding areas, which means that when the local community thrives, the business will benefit as well.

Improving the health delivery system and schools of the community is a practical way of ensuring that a firm has an adequate supply of healthy, competent and literate employees.

The Government should be lauded for coming up with the concept of Community Share Ownership Schemes for employees and rural communities through the indigenisation and empowerment drive, which clearly serves this principle so well.

In the same breath, the need for corporations to take care of the natural environment cannot be over-emphasised.

The buzzword globally these days is "going green". The natural environment must as a matter of principle be preserved for posterity's sake.

Apparently the current practice globally is that firms that advance environmental preservation issues are now able to secure a competitive advantage over their competitors.

Bradwell Mhonderwa is an Ethics Coach and Trainer with the Business Ethics Centre.

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