Using an Ethical Culture to Attract Talent


By Douglas Kelly
EverFi Lead Legal Editor

Attracting and retaining the right talent is just as important as growth and revenue. While compensation and work-life balance are important, an ethical culture is critically important to motivate talent and sustain long-term company value.

Pay and Flexibility Are Good Starts

All companies want to find great talent. They will need to. A report by the National Center for the Middle Market indicates that finding talent with the right skills, and competition with other firms to get that talent, is a major concern among executives. As a result, “many firms are considering improving salaries and offering flexible work arrangements to attract talent.”

Higher pay and flexible work arrangements are good starts. Research conducted by the ManpowerGroup reveals that out of 1225 survey respondents, 45% named work-life balance as their highest career aspiration. And a 2017 Society of Human Resources Management survey found that roughly two-thirds (61%) of employees rated compensation/pay as a very important job satisfaction contributor.

However, as my colleague Nicoleta Leontiades asks in Harnessing a Workplace Culture of Purpose, “is compensation enough to keep an employee working for a company they don’t find purpose in?” The answer is “no.” In addition to compensation and work-life balance, employers “should be considering what they can do to make their company more culturally sound, so that employees feel fulfilled with the company instead of sticking around for a pay raise.” This means an ethical culture.

Culture is generally guided by the organization’s mission and values, its vision for its future, and a business plan that reaches goals without sacrificing integrity. These elements are highly specific to each organization, but they should be wrapped up in a commitment to ethics. An organization that embodies an ethical culture will reflect an ethos that guides all of its members to do the right thing for their company. Good ethics are good for business.

Attracting Millennials

Millennials are a prime reason to adopt and implement an ethical culture. By 2025, they are expected to make up 75% of the workforce, and want to work for companies that have a positive impact on the wider society in which they operate. An ethical culture is important for attracting and retaining top talent. The 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey explains

Business involvement in social issues and “good causes” goes beyond the tangible impact made or the reputational benefit that might result; by involving employees in such initiatives, employers seem to be boosting millennials’ sense of empowerment. . . [E]mployees who feel their jobs have meaning, or that they are able to make a difference, exhibit greater levels of loyalty.

Many workplace factors empower Millennials. The Deloitte Survey ranked “working culture/atmosphere” the second most important, and “ethical behavior/organizational integrity” tied third with a company’s “reputation.” The top factor contributing to empowerment was “client/customer satisfaction.” It’s easy to see how these factors fit together to make a business better, where employees are attracted to companies with ethical identities and are intrinsically motivated to operate according to those identities when hired. In short, Millennials want ethics.

If companies want to retain a competitive workforce, it’s important that they develop and implement an ethical culture, and hire, retain, and conduct business according to their ethical identity.

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  1. Good Afternoon Doug – nice post. Do you think companies do enough to review their cultures when good employees leave? Rather than improving pay or giving greater benefits, how many would benefit from taking an honest look at their culture and improving it to avoid a further talent hemorrhage?

  2. Nice article. Yes it is important to work on building an ethical culture. Millenials are concerned about ethical issues – especially discrimination, privacy. It pays to work on building an ethical identity.

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