What we found

Ethical issues at work

We found that 83% of managers said their organisations have a statement of values with one in eight (12%) managers saying that the way people behave in their organisations is not that close (9%) or not close ‘at all’ (3%) to their organisational values.

The management disconnect 

We saw a clear disconnect between directors/CEOs and other managers in terms of engagement with their organisations’ values statements. Those at Board level are significantly more likely to consciously refer to their organisation’s statement of values and ethics when making decisions (84%) than all managers (66%). 

Concern over whistleblowing

When ethical breaches do occur at work, there is a lack of confidence in how effectively organisations will deal with them. One quarter of managers (28%) are either certain or concerned that they would be negatively affected if they reported an ethical breach. 

Changing values 

When values change frequently, organisations face a tougher challenge in embedding them. 83% of managers said that their organisation had an explicitly stated set of values and, of these, over half (54%) said that this statement had been changed since 2008. 

Our recommendations

Our research shows that although majority of managers saying their organisations have a statement of values, they aren’t always effective enough at influencing behaviour. However, the research highlights several areas that organisations can address to raise the levels of engagement and alignment with values across their organisations.

Link values to strategy

Linking values into the strategic objectives of an organisation means that the way people are expected to behave and the goals they are required to achieve are in harmony. Values should not be formulated in isolation, but built as part of the organisation’s overall strategy. 

Target your middle managers 

Middle managers hold the key to eliminating the management disconnect between senior leadership and front line staff. Provide targeted support to ensure staff who are under increasing pressure to make key decisions do so in an ethical and sustainable way. 

Tackle breaches openly 

When ethical breaches do occur, organisations should discuss them throughout their organisations (in confidence if necessary), discerning the reasons these breaches occurred and what could be done to avoid them in the future. 

Develop leaders at all levels

Leadership is the driver of cultural change in organisations, so develop your leaders to show that they understand the organisation’s ethical statements, embody these values, and in turn embed them across the organisation. 

Bring your values to life 

Senior leaders should model the way for other employees by showing how they display the company values in their choices and behaviours. 

Build values in consultation 

Values developed in consultation with staff are more effective, so develop your values statement by involving employees from all levels.

Links and resources 

Resources for centres and learners