work values, ethics, company values

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The extent to which a worker’s values are compatible with their employer’s plays a crucial role in determining employee job satisfaction and company profitability, psychologists have said.

In relation to the Great Resignation trend, many workers are shifting to jobs that offer better perks, be it greater flexibility, work-life balance, or even pay.

However, there has also been a growing narrative that more employees are now quitting based on how well corporate values align with their own. The younger generations are also increasingly seeking jobs that give them a sense of higher purpose, and ones that establish a positive work culture.

Surveying 4,000 employees in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines, Milieu Insight's May 2022 Values at Work study observed where employees stand on their values at the workplace, their sentiments, and whether they have had their values compromised. 

Overall, 95% of respondents considered the values of a company important. However, more than a third were willing to compromise their values for a job. While almost half (49%) said that they will not work take on a job that would require them to go against their personal values, 41% indicated that they were willing to do so as long as it is not illegal.

One in 10 held the opinion that it is okay for a company to lie or manipulate the truth if it is not illegal. Looking further, while more than two-thirds strongly agree (35%) and somewhat agree (38%) that integrity is valued in their company, 13% agree that it’s okay for a company to lie or manipulate the truth as long as it is legal.

The study also showed that more than one in 10 have lied to a colleague (15%), gone against personal values to meet work KPIs (14%), and have helped their company cover up a wrongdoing/mistake (13%).

How do companies in Southeast Asia fare at upholding positive values?

The extent to which a worker’s values are compatible with their employer’s plays a crucial role in determining employee job satisfaction and company profitability, psychologists have said.

Looking at it from the Southeast Asian context, only 44% of respondents indicated that their companies are doing a good job at upholding positive values, particularly skewing towards those in the Philippines (57%) and Thailand (47%).

According to Milieu Insight, "some companies, particularly larger ones, have the resources to consistently communicate their values, and having a strong brand makes it easier to attract people who are a good fit for the company.

"However, smaller companies may have to do things to stand out, and one of the most effective strategies is emphasising the positive social impact of their work."

As such, employee pressure can bring tangible change and employers ought to work to fulfil these demands through philanthropy and corporate social responsibility (CSR). This sets out ethical positions more explicitly, offering “a moral compass’’ – this is increasingly important in attracting younger talent.

Are companies obliged to do good?

Apart from the above, the insights also uncovered what employees think about doing good. Of those surveyed, the majority (61%) agreed that companies have the obligation to do good for the society, particularly among Filipino and Thai respondents (73% and 68% respectively).

Generally, CSR plays a crucial role in a company's brand perception; attractiveness to customers, employees, and investors. There is also increasing pressure to dress up CSR as a business discipline and demand that every initiative deliver business results.

Interestingly, the study found that more than half (59%) believed that CSR policies are necessary for a company to create positive impact, while over a quarter (29%) expressed doubts about CSR, agreeing that it is mostly just about branding/public relations.


Image / 123RF

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