“Corporate good” is not a new thing, though it has been the subject of a lot of recent chatter.
The fact is that nearly all corporate leaders want to do good things for other people, be they shareholders, employees, their community or mankind in general. And they succeed day in and day out. And they do it because they hire good people, help them become better, and surround everyone in the company with a “do good” culture.
What is “Good”
When all the varieties of corporate goodness are distilled, we see three primary factors:
DO NO HARM: As in the hypocritic oath, first do no harm. For companies this means don’t pollute, be honest, deliver what is promised, etc.
MAKE MONEY FOR SHAREHOLDERS (in the case of public companies): After all, that is why companies exists. Creating growth and dividends, providing you are not causing any harm (see above) is a distinctly “good” thing to do.
DO SOME GOOD IN THE WORLD: This is a very wide definition. It might be as simple as lowing prices for products on which people of modest incomes depend (Walmart), interconnecting friends and families wherever they are (Facebook), reducing pollution while preserving the thrill of driving (Tesla).
Regardless of which element you look at, it takes people to make the right thing happen (or not happen in the case of doing no harm). To achieve corporate good, you must first achieve good people. As we all know, not every soul is good, though I like to think they all can be. Helping people to be better is a key part of a business leader’s role.
There are basically two complementary paths to having a company filled with good people who then go forth to do corporate good: you hire good people and you help the people you have better.
The former is the obvious place to start. If you have in mind a certain set of positive human qualities that you know to be essential in doing corporate good, you have to include that in your hiring process. Filtering is critical given that one negative person can do great damage to a team of positive folks. One devil can corrupt a room of saints more easily than the saints can sanctify the demon.
In the interview chain, your corporate pillars should be retooled into questions or observations to ensure that a candidate will do the good you want all of your employees to do (at Micrel, the company I founded, we had four pillars: honesty, integrity, respecting the dignity of everyone, and doing whatever it takes). So, ask yourself “what are the corporate culture pillars of my company, and how do I know if a candidate will abide by them?”
But hiring only brings you to the base level of being able to do corporate good. To grow further, you need to help your employees better people. This is because nobody is perfect. Even the best candidate you hire may be weak in one or another pillar. Your never-ending process will entail helping employees become better people.
Sadly, this focus appears to be lost on most companies. So many hires then leave employees to raise themselves. And though many employees will self-direct, bond with like-minded compatriots, and stumble toward doing corporate good, it is rather hit-or-miss. But when you define and communicate your corporate culture, when you make doing corporate good a priority, and when you invest time in your employees to help them be better, then really great things can and do happen.
The basics steps include:
Treat Employees Fairly: Nobody likes being treated unfairly. When they are, they sense a lack of “goodness” in their bosses or the company in general. Be fair about everything.
Pay Well: A good wage and good benefits show that you are concerned with their wellbeing. People who experience kindness and care tend to give it away to others (the inverse applies too).
Help Employees Feel at Home: “Home” is a great concept. It centers around trust and safety. If your office feels like “home”, they employees treat others like family.
Dignity: Every affront at a person’s dignity is cumulative. It adds up. When it reaches a certain point, it becomes toxic. Minimize dings to dignity. At Micrel, we had a “no swearing or condescending language” policy because even salty language has an oppressive effect.
Good Begets Good
By all means, do “corporate good”. Do it by minting good employees.