Ethics in Business Increasing in Value, Awarded in Lancaster
Some companies and organizations are all about the bottom line. For others, it’s about doing the right thing—conducting business according to ethics.
Nick Paulukow, president and CEO of One2One, a Lancaster-based IT staff company, pursues a model based on “morals, values, and ethics, doing the right thing, producing the right product in the interest of customers, and servicing it well.”
Ethics in business also means finding the “right people,” who “self-police and work internally on developing ethics,” added Paulukow.
The company has even “fired” clients who behaved unethically, or at least not in keeping with its way of conducting itself, even it cost thousands of dollars in business. In short, Paulukow said, ethics in business means “sleeping well at night.”
Another company that emphasizes ethics, according to CEO Roxanne Edwards, is Nxtbook Media, which brings new media solutions to publishers, marketers, and clients.
Rather than come up with her own definition, Edwards asked several of her staff to comment on what ethics in business means.
Laura Schanz, whose title is global growth gazelle at Nxtbook, emphasized transparency, adding that this “takes authenticity and courage—for example, sharing positive information as well as open-book/financial information.”
Schanz added: “Nxtbook seeks to give people more than what others may think they ‘deserve.’ This takes tremendous integrity and sometimes comes at a [financial] cost.”
According to Nxtbook’s visual intelligence operative, Brent Hughes, chaos can result when a business lacks a “defined ethical standard.”
“It can be achieved by collaboratively developing values that define that company’s place in the business world,” Hughes said. “Those values help every decision made by every employee.”
Nxtbook, Hughes continued, has a mission statement and a well-defined set of seven values collaboratively developed by the company as a whole. These are “regularly reinforced” by making employees aware of them in several different ways—including naming conference rooms after the values. These include Creativity, Integrity, Collaboration, Passion, and Service.
“At Nxtbook we are led to keep one another accountable to our ethical standards by viewing the choices we make as active examples of our values,” he added.
Both One2One and Nxtbook were recognized for their commitment to these values when they were recipients of the annual Ethics in Business Award sponsored by the Samaritan Counseling Center in Lancaster.
The award criteria states that businesses and nonprofits are evaluated based on how they demonstrate five principles with staff, customers, vendors, donors, and the community.
“These principles are integrity, which includes humility and credibility; fairness and justice; stewardship—being responsible in the management of what’s entrusted to one’s care; life enhancing, including respect for human rights; and transparency, or being accountable and loyal in relationships,” said Amy Winslow-Weiss, of the department of marketing and communications at Samaritan Counseling Center and coordinator of the Ethics in Business Awards.
Everyone who is nominated goes through an ethics audit that includes employee and customer surveys and a site visit; one company is chosen out of six finalists.
“It’s like the best of the best,” said Anita Hanna, director of development at Samaritan Counseling Center.
The audit has an intergenerational component. Last year and again this year, some of the onsite visits and other research about the nominees were conducted by students from Franklin & Marshall College, where professor Nancy Kurland had developed a related new course in corporate responsibility and crisis management.
“The students were trained to look for positive messages about ethics and a clear explanation of values,” said Karen Sheehe, a member of the planning committee for the Ethics in Business event who is a part-time trainer and career coach with Samaritan but also an employee of Lancaster SHRM. The HR organization is, in turn, an affiliate chapter of the Society of Human Resource Management.
The annual awards and presentation event are only part of a larger emphasis on ethics. Samaritan partners with various organizations to do educational, ethics-related programs.
“We make it more of a conversation all year long,” said Hanna.
Increasingly, noted Sheehe, businesses are requiring ethics training for employees. They realize it’s not enough to hire people with skills and credentials.
“The focus on ethics has gotten broader,” she said.
An alliance has grown between organizations like Samaritan and human resource organizations such as SHRM.
“Human resources is often the voice of ethics in an organization advocating for employees,” Sheehe added. “One of the competencies of international SHRM is called ethical practice, defined as the integration of core values, integrity, and accountability throughout all organizational and business practices.”
Lancaster SHRM helps garner local and community support for the Ethics in Business Awards and the awards event and handles registration.
Ethics in business, admittedly, is not divorced from morale on the job. An ethical business is “life enhancing,” said Hanna. “We spend a lot of time on the job. And if we’re unhappy there, it translates into unhappy marriages and unhappy homes.”
“No questions are asked if an employee says he or she has to take off because a family member is sick,” said Hanna. “It makes such a difference. It creates productivity, because the workers don’t want to let the management down.”
Being an ethical company or organization means following one’s own mission and vision—and handling every decision in light of those principles.
“This may mean making a tough decision that may not be popular, but one you know is best for employees and the company,” Hanna said.
And sometimes, ethics isn’t about right vs. wrong, but a decision between a “right vs. another right,” she added. BW