Scholars Paola Sapienza, Luigi Guiso and Luigi Zingales have conducted interesting new research on the topic of corporate values and integrity. Kellogg Research Insights reported on the research. In that article, Sapienza notes, "We didn’t find any correlation between the cultural values that a company advertises and what its employees perceive from the inside once they're working there." In other words, it really didn't matter whether a company crowed about its values and integrity on its website or on other publicly available documents. The bottom line: employees watch what managers do, not just what the company says on paper. Employees make an independent determination as to whether the company and its senior leaders have integrity. They watch to see who walks the walk, as opposed to worrying simply giving credit to those who talk the talk about integrity.
Ok, the research results don't surprise most of us (that doesn't stop scholars from claiming that their findings are surprising... it helps get you published, after all!). Still, the findings should remind us to take another look at how we "walk the walk" at our firms. As leaders, what do we do that might contradict public proclamations about values and integrity? Have we given our employees any reason to doubt the authenticity of our claims about honesty, integrity, and respect for one another?