Assessment of Organizational Culture
For more than a decade, ECI’s research has consistently shown that organizations with strong ethics cultures reduce their risk of noncompliance. Specifically, when companies build strong cultures; a) fewer employees observe misconduct and b) those that do are more likely to report suspected wrongdoing to management. Even further, employees feel less pressure to compromise standards in order to do their jobs; they are more engaged; more satisfied with their work; and more likely to remain with their current employer for more than 5 years.
ECI has developed a means for assessing organizational ethical culture. With the input of some of the most highly regarded scholars from leading universities we have tested and validated a series of metrics to understand:
- The values (both stated and unstated) that influence daily behavior in an organization;
- The strength of employees’ connection to their organization; and
- The drivers of culture that can be leveraged in culture-strengthening initiatives.
Our research services team primarily uses a quantitative, online, employee surveys supported by qualitative focus groups; however, this approach can be tailored to meet the needs of an organization. Findings from assessments provide specific, key insights into the state of organizations’ ethics and compliance programs; the strength of their ethics cultures; and the potential presence of ethics risk. Organizations can use this information to direct their focus on areas in need of further attention.
Through assessments, an organization’s commitment to values and ethical behavior is reinforced to employees when they see:
- Their organization demonstrating to employees their willingness to conduct self-examination,
- Their organization listening to them,
- Support for such initiatives coming from senior leadership,
- Survey results shared with employees in a meaningful way, and
- Their organization undertaking changes to more strongly embed the company’s values and ethics into the everyday workplace and business conduct.
People often hold views about an organization’s culture as if it is a single monolithic entity; however, in reality culture is dynamic and complex. Every organization has a culture, but it also has many subcultures. Clifford Geertz, a prominent theorist in the field of anthropology, defined culture as “an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions … by which [people] communicate, perpetuate and develop their knowledge … and attitudes.” The essence of a culture is the unifying values and the resulting priorities that both flow from and reinforce those values.
In the workplace, everyday actions and decisions are laden with meaning; employees learn what is valued and show what they value through words and actions. Workplaces with a strong commitment to ethics (ethical cultures) make doing what is right a priority. Ethical culture, therefore, is the (often unwritten) code of conduct by which stakeholders learn what they should think and do, and then do it. The ethical culture of an organization communicates acceptable limits; how people ought to treat one another; whether it is acceptable to question authority figures; whether or not it is safe to report observed misconduct; the importance of compliance with controls and safeguards, and more. Ethical culture determines “how employees understand what is expected of them, and how things really get done.”
ECI’s Culture Metrics
Based on this understanding of culture, ECI’s current metrics for culture include:
- Embedded Values: the stated and unstated values that govern daily decision making;
- Culture Drivers: the individuals or activities that most influence employees’ sense of connection to the culture;
- Ethical Leadership: the tone heard from the top & perceptions of senior leaders’ integrity;
- Supervisor Reinforcement of Ethics: perception that supervisors set a good example and encourage ethical behavior; and
- Peer Commitment to Ethics: the extent to which peers support each other in “doing the right thing.”
ECI also gathers input on the following dimensions that inform an organization’s understanding of its culture:
- Satisfaction with the level of transparency within the organization;
- Awareness of ethics and compliance program resources;
- Effectiveness of ethics and compliance program resources;
- Sources of pressure to compromise standards;
- Willingness to raise bad news or concerns;
- Level of misconduct;
- Rate of reporting of misconduct, recipients of reports, and perceptions of the reporting process;
- Reasons why employees did or did not choose to report suspected wrongdoing; and
- Perceived retaliation for reporting.
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