Why It’s Important To Run An Ethical Business

We live in a man's world as James Brown once sang. If you're a woman, this unfortunately has not been a world of joy, security, nor comfort. Going from the #MeToo movement to #EqualPay in the workplace, it really seems like the business world is just now getting #woke.

Let's think about this for a moment. Let's imagine there were more companies that did the following business practices:

  • Equal pay for men in women in the same job positions
  • Merit-based promotions tracked by actual data on attainment of work goals, additional certifications/education obtained and/or sales objective goals exceeded.
  • Maternity & Paternity leave for at least 1 full year with pay. 

Now to some big business owners, this small list is asking a lot and is very expensive. And that's the problem. You're looking at your bottom line and not the people line. What do I mean by the 'people line'?

Everyone has a limit when it comes to everything. Job satisfaction is no different. A company needs employees to do tasks that keep the business running. Yes, employees are replaceable but if you've already invested time and money into good employees, then any HR person knows that if they leave the company too quickly, the company just lost all that value they've built up in that employee. Now they have to come out of pocket again to recruit, train, and retain another employee. HR will tell you, top talent is hard to find.

So what's the trick to keeping employees happy? Running an ethical business. Let me tell you a true story.

I used to work at a small Wi-fi service provider in Los Angeles as a network engineer. At the time, they were expanding their reach like CRAZY across the U.S and into the world. It was definitely an exciting time to be there. As an employee though, we had to work our asses off.

Since we wore many hats and only had one office, often times I would go straight to the other engineers and directors in the office if I needed a favor to move something along like YESTERDAY. Since we all we're putting out fires and were swamped, we all understood that if we didn't work together, nothing would get done. Our work depended upon each other.

We didn't have time to judge one another or do the office politics, water cooler gossip thing. We had work to do, customers to keep happy, and contracts that needed signing.

You would think this fast-paced enviroment would be stressful to work in, right? Well let me tell you about the perks.

We had a basketball arcade game in the office. Two of them so you can play against other co-workers (or their kids when they bring them to the office and talk smack...silly kids.) We also had a ping pong table in the middle of the floor over by the engineering group. Then there's Bagel Wednesdays. Who doesn't like free food and coffee to start your day off right? Even those few people that worked from home brought their hungry ass to the office that day for the free bagels!

We also had a high floor office which had a great view of the city with floor to ceiling windows. Just looking outside on those bright, sunny L.A. days definitely helped lighten the mood.

To top things off, every month, our HR director would promote our monthly charity activity open to all co-workers to participate in the community. We also had fun events around the office on random days, like a sports day where we played different sports around the office against different departments for prizes, and holiday dress-up competitions. Working there was HELLA fun because we played hard and worked hard.

Now, this blog post isn't just about creating a fun culture for your employees. This was the one thing people GOT at that company. We did work that brought meaningful moments to our customers. I remember our customer care department mentioned that a customer was using our services to video chat with his family back home for Thanksgiving. It was the only way he could see them and that made his holiday.

Can you imagine being in a place, alone, for Thanksgiving? No cellular service, just Wi-Fi. And luckily it's fast enough that you can video chat to see your family, through tears of loneliness and sadness because you can't be there. (Yes he legit was crying.)

We had several customer stories like that which made our work meaningful. We busted our asses for a reason. Since we all worked in the same office with low wall cubicles and open space, we could hear EVERYTHING going on which created a transparent, community environment.

There were no boys' clubs here. Everyone could hear and see everything. We talked across departments, across the hall and around the corner. Hell some people shouted down the hall or swung an occasional golf putter and ball. #shithappens

The point is if you create a fun, respectful culture that values hard-work and collaboration as absolutely necessary to business functions, you'll see a different workplace. An ethical business means treating employees and customers in a way that prioritizes their human needs.

If employees get to hear that the work they actually do impacted customers in a profound way, it makes them feel valuable. Like they are actually doing good work in the world! If feeds that 'I'm a good person and I want to feel good' need we all have.

Even something as simple as feeding your employees and providing fun spaces for them to de-stress goes a long way in job satisfaction and fighting hangry moments. #needAsnickers

Stop focusing on the bottom line so much and prioritze what people need to be happy. You won't get everything perfect and people will ALWAYS complain so focus on the basics. Food, water, shelter, positive well-being. If you do that, employees will think about how you've treated them when they get poached by another company.

It's like a personal relationship. If you treated someone well, why would they want to go anywhere else if their needs are getting met? People promise a lot of things, but if you actually DO good things through actions that people experience themselves, nothing is more real than that.