Integrity. A word you must have come across quite often. But how would you define it? For some, integrity means doing the right thing even when no one is around. For others, it means doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do. In the field of ethics, it is regarded as the honesty of one’s actions. All these varied definitions convey the same thing – integrity means being honest and truthful.
The rise in technology has prompted a greater need for transparency, within companies and with their consumers. Any dishonesty can now be easily traced online. And if a person doesn’t trust a company, they won’t bother doing business with them.
The value of trust
Trust is the basis of all business relationships, be it employer-employee or company-consumer. When companies encourage an environment of trust, employers and employees are open with each other. They feel free to communicate their ideas, views, and opinions openly. This kind of environment helps increase employee productivity and retention. Employees feel that their contribution is special, that they can be proud of their work and feel more connected to the business.
Research conducted by Institute of Leadership and Management stated that trust was reasonably high in most UK organisations. Integrity was one of the drivers of trust, with 48% of respondents considering it to be the most important element. It also found that integrity was a must-have for senior leaders.
Reputation at stake
Benjamin Franklin once said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” Companies, therefore, are extremely concerned about their reputation – they care what people think about them.
A company which acts with integrity creates goodwill for itself in the market. This helps in building trusting relationships with customers and employees. The company also sees a surge in productivity and sales.
If there is an absence of integrity, people’s view of that company becomes more negative. The company fails to retain its customers and employees may also leave. This, in turn, drastically lowers the company’s performance.
However, incorporating integrity is not always that simple. According to an article in Harvard Business Review, businesses are faced with integrity-based choices every day. It raises questions which have no clear answers or predefined corporate policies to fall back on – are the customers aware of the pros and cons of their services? Do businesses declare every detail to potential buyers for due diligence purposes? Do subordinates give honest feedbacks regarding their superiors?
Furthermore, the article adds we often end up making choices and rationalising them, because of no clear answers or policies. In the process, we convince ourselves that the choices were made with integrity.
So, what does integrity in business look like to you? Have you made it a priority for your organisation?