Last week I talked about five reasons you feel stuck in your career. In my opinion, one spends considerable time developing their career and then working the job. And it is far from ideal if one keeps feeling stuck and unhappy in their jobs. Now, every problem has a solution. So here I present to you five easy steps to break free and get unstuck in your career:
1. Introspect, revaluate, and develop new skillsets
There is new competition and talent added to the job market every day. Fresh graduates and experienced professionals with unique skills dominate the workspace. It is but natural to feel that your skillsets have become outdated. Now is the time to do some introspection and reassess your skillsets. Start by writing down your skills, even those you use in your personal life. You may be surprised to discover that those skills you never thought could be helpful in the professional diaspora are actually useful. Also, keep learning and adding the latest qualifications to keep abreast of the competition. You can also upgrade your education to a Master’s degree by studying online with RKC.
2. Move past the fear
You must come out of the shadow of fear. If talking to your supervisor about your career growth, new opportunities, or searching for new jobs instils fear of the unknown, then you are not pushing yourself and limiting your potential.
Learn to be outgoing and gather feedback from trustworthy colleagues about yourself. Make lists of pros and cons and identify the top things you fear most.
3. Evaluate your priorities
Money could have been your priority before. But when you have reached a point where the job does not offer any challenges and has become monotonous. Yes, we work to pay our bills. However, it might make better sense to be in a job that might pay slightly less but the one that you enjoy doing every day.
4. Better late than never
Often you might be given some promises by the management of an upcoming raise or promotion. You end up waiting for that performance review, bonus, or annual increment. Because you are comfortable and used to working in that position, you might want to wait for the decision and what’s in store for you. But instead of waiting (sometimes in vain), you should keep planning for the change and look for better opportunities.
5. Create a roadmap and manifest
You might be feeling stuck in your job because you don’t know what you want to do in the future. Without a goal, you might just be wasting your efforts. Try to channel your focus on what you want to do and grow your career. Invest sometime in yourself and research what areas might interest you. It might be time-consuming, but once you have a clear understanding, you will have a clear path and purpose.
I hope these five simple steps will help change your thought process and help actualise your dream career! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
I know the word is self-explanatory, but we have to start somewhere, so let us begin with the meaning of globalisation. According to the BBC, Globalisation is the process by which the world is becoming increasingly interconnected due to massively increased trade and cultural exchange.
How has this come about?
The first thing that happened was transport became cheaper and faster. We invented the wheel, then the steam engine, then the combustion engine, and so on. People and goods were able to be moved around the world almost overnight and in large quantities.
Then the communication boom. From snail mail to the telephone, it took a bit of time. Then came the era of mobile phones and the internet, and everything changed. The changes seen just in the last 25 years have been miraculous. The world has been brought closer together (Only in business. In every other way, the world is still pretty divided). Companies have become truly multinational and cross border trade – a mundane reality. At this rate, Gene Roddenberry’s vision in Star Trek of an Earth utopia could become a reality (fingers crossed here).
Now, if you combine the two (travel and communication), what you get is globalisation.
To understand this better, let us take Apple Inc. as an example – Designed in California, Made in China. The iPhone may be designed in California, but everything that goes into the iPhone is global. The phone itself is manufactured in China with semiconductors sourced from Italy and Germany, memory chips and processors from South Korea, wi-fi and Bluetooth from Japan, and minerals from Mongolia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
While this looks impressive, what is really impressive is the Supply Chain Management that must go on behind the scenes. Apple sells upwards of about two hundred million iPhones a year globally, and they bring out new models of the phone every year. This means the material has to be sourced, the components manufactured, the phone assembled/manufactured and then shipped to ensure they reach the customers’ hands-on time. All this has to be carried out like clockworks across multiple countries. Let’s face it, none of us has any patients anymore, and if there is a delay, I am going to Samsung (Oops, I already have, but for a different reason).
For all this to happen, the communication behind the scene has to be real-time, continuous and spot-on. The shipment planning has to be on-time and seamless. Because remember, you are operating across countries here.
There are a lot of positives to globalisation, such as creating jobs and new income in poorer communities, thereby giving them food and a roof over their heads, making a cheaper yet high-quality product for the customer, and keeping manufacturing costs low, thereby enabling the company to invest the money into some other aspect of the business (hopefully no into the pockets of the executives), just to name a few.
While it is hoped that working with companies from developed nations, the local business partner will be able to adapt the best business practices from the developed countries and raise the standard of living of its employees, the reality is companies still need to secure future contracts with the “big fish”, and the way to do that is by giving a lowball quote on future services. They get this done by cutting corners, cutting wages, and cutting the workforce by increasing the workload.
While this is more likely with companies operating in blue colure job segments, it comes down to the laws of the nation they are operating within at the end of the day. If the countries have strong labour laws and enforce them, then this is less likely to happen.
Then there is the question of what happens to the people whose jobs just got outsourced? Are they being retrained and upskilled, or are they just let go? Do companies pass on the cost-benefit of outsourcing to the end-user?
So, while outsourcing and globalisation can be great to the bottom-line of any organisation, companies must ensure ethical business practices of their partners because no one else will. Companies must also provide training and upskilling of their employees before outsourcing because a strong and happy workforce is the backbone of any organisation.
Motherhood is unique for every woman. It’s full of joy, love, challenges, despair, anguish, fun, responsibility, selflessness, and sacrifice. As it is rightfully said,
A Mother is an epitome of love, strength, and sacrifice.
A mother makes many sacrifices while raising her family and children. The instinctive selflessness and dedication of a mother make her go to extraordinary lengths to care, protect, and provide for her children. Yet, while tending to the needs of her family, a mother commonly puts her career and further education on the back burner. According to a survey conducted by LinkedIn and Censuswide, nearly half of the working mothers consider a career pivot and prefer not returning to work after maternity leave in the US. And 63% of working mothers who opt to take a career break do so to spend more time with their children.
Now, if being a career woman, juggling between the roles of a wife and a mother is hard already, then deciding to enhance your career with a master’s education will make life much more challenging. But does it mean a mother cannot pursue her dream of having a job and family together? Should she not be allowed to advance her career?
The answer lies in what my mother always tells me:
I can do anything; I am a mother!
That’s right. You can do anything! Being a mother does not mean that you have to sacrifice your career and education goals. On the contrary, achieving that perfect work-life-study balance is very much possible (check out our blog and a short video about work-life balance) and realise your long-awaited dream. All it requires is a mix of planning, dedication, and clear focus on your ultimate goal.
Here are five tips that can help you better in the transition to a master’s students’ life:
Find your motivation
There could be several reasons for continuing education, such as updating your skills, gaining advanced qualifications, adding new knowledge or specialities, career pivot, financial enhancement, or the personal challenge of finally getting that university degree! First, find your motivation, as this motivation will keep you fueled and focused all through your journey of master’s for the next 1 to 2 years. Should you deviate, or lose focus, your motivation will always get you back on track and remind you of your ultimate goal.
An RKC alumni, Meg Plooy, a mother, a wife, a friend and a (foster) mother of Pitbulls, found her motivation in two things: First, to be an inspiration for her young children and be able to show them that if you work hard, anything is possible. The second was to advance her career opportunities.
Another master’s alumni, Manal Al-Khaled, shares her motivation, “In 2013, my daughters were only 4 and 5 years old when my husband lost his job due to political unrest in the region (Middle East). There was never a right time to do my Master’s degree. There were always other financial priorities, and with two little kids and a full-time job, time was a luxury I didn’t have much under my control. So I kept postponing it for all the reasons in the world. Then it hit me – it’s now no matter what”.
Develop and maintain a support network
One of our students, who is also a mother, suggests reducing personal commitment, waking up early, and staying up till late at night. While this arrangement may not always be possible for everyone, it is necessary to have a cushion, a support system to help you cope with any stressful situation you might face, or in case of emergencies. Do not hesitate to ask for help from your husband, siblings, parents, employer, or even neighbour!
Make a plan and work on a schedule
90% PLAN + 10% EXECUTION = 100% SUCCESS
Before you even enrol for a master’s, the first focus should be on how you will manage work, home, and studies. Plan a schedule and follow it religiously. Formulate a 30-60-90 plan according to the number of modules you register yourself for in a given quarter. A 30–60–90-day plan details the targets you plan to accomplish in the first 30, 60, and 90 days of your studies. Set concrete goals and a vision for your abilities at each stage of the plan, that will act as a guiding rope and will constantly move you towards the goal.
Planning your study space at home or work, away from distractions, is also essential. Again, self-organisation is critical to be able to plan efficiently and to be able to execute it successfully.
Most of RKC’s working mothers planned their days and weeks to strike an optimum balance; they would usually be working during the day on weekdays and allocate study hours to night-time and weekends.
Meg again: “A good routine and sticking to a schedule [are a must]. The best time to complete my studies was after the kids were in bed, which gave me anywhere from 2 to 2.5 hours each night. In addition, I used Monday through Thursday as “school nights”, which ensured I was still getting downtime over the weekends. This helped me to stay focused and manage time effectively”.
Find a study buddy
Trust that you are not alone in this situation. Getting back to being a student and coping with an online learning environment can be pretty daunting. Having a study buddy will help to relieve your stress and keep tabs on the OnlineCampus class discussions and assignments. For online education students, if you can look for a study partner in the same time zone, it will be more convenient for your interaction.
Believe in yourself!
As one of our students suggests, have the confidence to believe in yourself and not procrastinate. Obtaining a master’s degree is a life-changing experience for most, and you must believe in yourself that you can achieve this goal.
Naomi, an MA Leading Innovation and Change (now MBA LIC) graduate, gave herself this pep talk: “Yes, women face issues with their husbands, childcare, and the fact that society doesn’t expect too high an education from women. My friends think having a bachelor’s degree should be enough for me, especially because I own my own business. To the society around me: “what else are you looking for in life”? Also, challenges with workplace issues, especially when women are working for other employers. Lack of funds to sponsor oneself to school, tight work schedules, and traffic to get back home are all challenges. Eiiii!! Naomi, everything is possible. Don’t think of your tight schedule at your office, the needs of your staff, or the number of employees under you. Don’t even think your husband or your three children would be hindrances. Remember, Naomi, that with determination and hard work, you can make it”.
I agree the journey may not be a walk in the park, but taking one step at a time will bring you closer to your ultimate goal – attaining the Masters’ qualification. So many working mothers have successfully achieved their educational goals, and so can you.
Happy mother’s day to all of you out there, and if you have a story about being a working mother and a master’s student you would like to share, the floor is yours!
After reading the title of this week’s blog, I am sure some of you might be wondering why I chose to write on this topic; the blog will be long, convoluted, and tedious. And you would be wrong. This blog is going to be short and sweet.
There is no such thing as International Intellectual Property (IP) Rights. The end. 😀
The fact of the matter is IP rights are territorial. Each country creates its IP rights through national laws, and the laws can govern conduct only within that nation’s boundaries. However, there are several international IP treaties that establish ground rules such as how long should copyright or pattern last, defining what constitutes a trademark, etc. What these treaties do for the countries that join them is provide standards and a baseline for all to follow, thereby providing more protection and confidence to creators and inventors seeking to safeguard their creations.
The most crucial minimum standard set up by these treaties is the principle of National Treatment.
Under national treatment, a country that grants particular rights, benefits, or privileges to its own citizens must also grant those advantages to the citizens of other states while they are in that country. In the context of international agreements, a state must provide equal treatment to citizens of the other states participating in the agreement. Imported and locally produced goods should be treated equally — at least after the foreign goods have entered the market. The same goes for services, trademarks, and copyrights and patents.
It means that countries that have signed these treaties must guarantee the same IP protection to foreigners that they provide to their citizens.
One of the first international treaties to recognise creators’ rights was the Berne Convention in 1886 for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. It provides creators such as authors, musicians, poets, painters etc., with the means to control how their work is used, by whom, and on what terms.
I know this is cliché, but international IP rights have taken on new importance with globalisation. Most significant businesses operate beyond their local boundaries and are truly multinational. Trade is global, and there is no iron curtain. So, it is understandable that companies or creators want to protect their creations and maximise returns on their investments. This results in IP rights playing a significant role in international trade.
Sellers of pure IP products such as movies, literature, art, software, etc., will usually only sell to countries with robust IP rights.
Today, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), an agency under the United Nations, is responsible for promoting and protecting intellectual property across the world by cooperating with countries and international organizations. However, even if a signatory country does renege on IP rights, there is still no way to enforce any punishment, as IP rights are territorial and have to be enforced by the county itself.
It is also a fact that five developed countries receive around 90% of all technology royalties and licencing fees. This means that for developing nations to have access to the latest technologies or medication, they will have to pay a premium. As a result, developed and developing countries have very different attitudes towards IP.
Developed or first world countries try to maximise the economic benefits they get for their creations/services through strong IP rights/laws, arguing that robust IP rights are necessary to protect their significant investments in developing their products. Hence, if a developing country has strong IP laws, it is generally considered an excellent trading partner by most developed countries.
On the other hand, developing nations need modern technology and medication to advance and compete with other countries and improve the standard of living of their citizens. Developing nations can view strong IP rights as a tool the developed nations use to either deny or restrict access to modern technology, preventing them from growing or, in some cases, even surviving, making them reliant on the developed nation.
So, who is right? We all fall on one side or the other, and both have valid points of view.
Understanding International IP is not easy. It can be convoluted and complex, and at the end of the day, it depends on the laws of the country you operate in.
Get a handle on international business and learn to make informed decisions with our one year 100% online master’s degree programmes. Chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on all the programmes we offer and the application process.
From the title of this blog, I am sure some of you might be wondering why I am channelling Sun Tzu.
Let’s start with the origins of the word ‘strategy’. ‘Strategy’ is originally derived from the Greek word ‘strategos’, which means the art of the general. In other words, the origin of strategy comes from the art of war, and specifically the role of the General in war. In the 2nd century B.C., when Sun Tzu wrote the ‘Art of War’, his writing’s message was plain – to win.
Despite ‘strategy’ becoming an often-used buzz word in management, there still seems to be a lot of confusion between ‘goals’ and ‘strategy’. To explain this and in keeping with the war theme, let us consider Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia. Imagine a time long ago, Alexander has decided to strive for immortality by creating a true world empire. He calls his generals together and states that his strategy is to build this empire.
I am not saying that he said that in those exact words because there is no way of knowing what he thought or who he consulted. Hypothetically, if he said that this was his strategy, then that is the wrong use of the term strategy. That was his ‘goal’ – to conquer the world. How he went about conquering the world was the strategy he used.
Now that we have established that ‘strategy’ directly correlates to a general’s role, let us understand what the role of a general is?
A general’s role is not to fight the war but to tell others how to fight the war. It is the general’s vision of how the battles are to take place that is to be carried out, and his orchestration of all the different pieces that will result in the failure or success of his vision. His role is to see the big picture, see what the unit commanders cannot, see the whole, and orchestrate all the units’ positioning to achieve his vision.
Business is also a kind of war, and the casualty of this war is the shareholder’s investment. The Chief Executives’ challenges are similar to that of the generals – to develop strategies that will lead to victory.
So, how do executives develop strategies that will lead to victory?
In my opinion, four key questions need to be answered by your strategy to be classified as a good strategy.
Where is our market?
You must identify the battlefield that will provide you with the best advantage, like Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, recognised a field near Waterloo in Belgium to defeat the might of Napoléon Bonaparte. It is essential that an executive correctly identifies the markets that will maximise the profits or reduce costs for his goods and services.
What is our unique selling proposition (USP)?
During the Napoleonic Wars, Napoléon Bonaparte, for the most part, was the undisputed ruler of Europe. Logically, he should have strangled and run England into the ground. But England had correctly identified two of its biggest strengths – trade and the Royal Navy and used them to not only stay afloat but to ultimately win the war. So, identify the unique value(s) your product or service offers and how it will best benefit the identified market.
What are our resources and capabilities?
Resources refer to the things we have in our toolbox that can be brought to bear for our benefit. It may be capital – either human or monetary, superior technology, something intangible like brand equity, or tangible, like a diamond mine. How well you utilise what is in your toolbox for maximum benefit depends on your capability. During the Napoleonic Wars, England had a mighty naval fleet (resources), but that by itself is of no benefit as France also had a mighty fleet. What England had were great sailors and leaders like Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, among others, capable of wielding the resource (Royal Navy) more effectively.
Once you have identified your USP and identified your capabilities and resources, how can you sustain in the markets you have identified – to continue to win over time. Even after Admiral Nelson’s death during the Battle of Trafalgar, England did not fall apart; they continued to martial their resources and continued to develop their capabilities to hold France across the Channel.
While the above points give us an idea of what strategy we should employ, they also indicate what we should not be doing. We should not operate in markets where we add no value or do not have the resources or capabilities to maintain sustainable growth.
A good strategy, while letting us know what we should be doing and why, should also inform us where our boundaries are and what we should not be doing.
I am sure I don’t have to tell you all that this blog is in no way comprehensive and barely scratches the surface on business strategy or strategy in general. Please feel free to add value to it by sharing your thoughts and experiences on developing ‘strategy’. Happy to hear from you!
Please watch this space for similar posts. Strategy forms an integral part of most of our online master’s degree programmes. You can chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on all the programmes we offer, the application process, and for details on discounts we might be offering at this time.
One of the things that I dislike about corporate culture is the many different terms that get thrown around to describe a logical and an otherwise common-sense action. Many managers and companies like to create new terms and abbreviations for actions and rules they have incorporated. However, the thing is, the more popular terms like ‘critical thinking’ are still around for a reason – they work.
The word ‘critical’ might have a negative connotation, and you might wonder – “What is the point of thinking negatively?” But where ‘critical thinking’ actually helps is in understanding all the flaws in an argument or a decision, counter or correct the process, and finally arrive at the stated objective.
Critical Thinking is: Independent Thinking + Information Analysis = Arriving at a Judgement
What do critical thinkers do?
They think, they question, they do not accept everything at face value, using their ability to reason and to solve problems through logical reasoning. This is why most employers would be keen to employ critical thinkers because they are the catalyst that will propel the company forward.
So, what can you do to become a more critical thinker?
Asking questions – Don’t be afraid to question everything, don’t take anything at face value. Ask:
What are you trying to achieve?
How have you arrived at this conclusion or decision?
How would I know what you have told me is accurate? Show me the proof and explain it to me.
What might you have missed out or overlooked?
Assumption is the mother of all screw-ups – One of my majors during graduation was physics, and one of the things I disliked was the proof of every theory started with “Assume…..”, which is why we used the headline of this point as our motto during physics class. But leaving our childish assumptions aside (because who are we to question some of the greatest scientific minds ever), in our mundane lives assuming things will just make an ass out of you and me (ass-u-me). So, question all assumptions.
Self-reflecting – Critical thinkers must be able to reflect on themselves. Ask yourself if your beliefs are based on logic or emotions. Don’t be afraid to take a step back and analyse your decisions or belief, recognising if you have any bias and if it played a role in your decision-making process.
Listening – When you discuss something with someone, don’t get ahead of yourself and start thinking, but listen to their point of view. Only once you hear and understand their point of view can you have enough data to analyse and evaluate, and offer alternatives if required.
Understanding the motive – Understanding the motives behind the source of the data you are basing your decisions on is essential because the data will always be skewed towards the source’s beliefs. For example, in the US media, the same story on President Donald Trump or President Joseph Biden will be covered in a completely different way by Fox News and CNN. That is why you have to question what you are being told.
Researching – Today, we are blessed with endless sources of information, and all of them easily accessible. Do your research taking advantage of all these sources of information and use your critical thinking to arrive at the best decision possible.
Keep an opened mind – So, you looked at data from multiple sources, applied critical thinking, and arrived at a conclusion. But still, going into a discussion with the assumption that you are right is wrong. As mentioned in point number four, if you assume you are right and are not listening, you will fall into point number two.
Learning to develop your critical thinking skills will go a long way in helping you analyse data and arrive at the best decision possible more often than not. Comment below if you know any other way in which we can develop critical thinking skills, we would love to hear from you!
Our online master’s degree management programmes help you become a better leader, and master’s degrees, in general, will help you in developing your critical thinking skill. Chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our education advisors for more information on all the programmes we offer, the application process, and information on discounts we might offer.
Star Trek is the best tv series ever made! That is, at least in my opinion. I have watched almost every single series of Star Trek several times. It makes me happy. You might be wondering why I have started off talking about a tv series, and the answer is that it shows us what humanity can achieve—our unlimited potential as a species.
But the reality is we are lightyears away from achieving even a fraction of this potential. And I am not just talking about the challenges we faced in 2020 (which doesn’t seem to be improving in 2021). Even before the pandemic, our global society was struggling and teetering on self-destruction. Poverty, global warming, population, crime, natural disasters, fake news, illiteracy, unemployment and untrained labour, and healthcare are just some of the challenges we faced even before COVID-19.
Society has been struggling with questions such as – how can we ensure healthcare for all? How can we ensure economic development and technological progress that benefits humanity?
Typically, we would just bump this responsibility onto the government, the United Nations, or to some NGO. And while the lion’s share of the responsibility does rest on them, the fact is, if we need to achieve anything, we all need to work together – citizens, government, companies, NGO’s, everyone.
To simplify things, let’s say our goal is to ensure economic progress and social justice for all while preserving our environment. What is the responsibility of a company in this? Well, companies’ success depends on people – employees and customers. If employees have job security and job satisfaction, they will work hard, be loyal to the company, and invest in its success. Likewise, if people have the money and an understanding of the company and its products and services, they will invest in the company. Therefore for a company to truly succeed, it must contribute towards the development of society as a whole.
Typically, a company would view corporate social responsibility (CSR) as something they have to do to keep the government happy and maintain a positive brand image. These are just some of the side benefits of an acceptable CSR policy. If properly executed, CSR could be an excellent tool to develop society, benefit all company stakeholders, and contribute to the company’s growth while minimising the impact on the planet.
How a company implements CSR will depend on several factors such as location, government, industry, etc. The COVID-19 vaccine has just hit the markets worldwide and was developed in record time by several pharmaceutical companies. Consider the pharmaceutical industry as an example to highlight what companies in this sector could consider when developing an effective CSR doctrine.
Offering safe and quality medication to as many people as possible.
An effective pricing strategy that can benefit all players involved.
Ongoing support to patients. If the company can show that they are not just interested in the sales of their medication but is also committed to the patients’ recovery and wellbeing, they would have earned the customers trust and loyalty.
Having effective human resources, training, and safety policies that ensure all employees are taken care off.
Compliance to all laws and regulations of the land (both local and global).
Reducing environmental impact and carbon footprint.
Hence, for a company to have an effective CSR doctrine, they should contribute to being an economically efficient, socially equitable, and environmentally sustainable development. While ensuring growth and profits by encouraging innovation, reduce costs, fostering a sense of ownership among all involved in a project.
An effective and well thought out Corporate Social Responsibility doctrine can spark innovation that will drive your company onto new heights.
Do you consider CSR to be a driver for positive change in society, a spark of innovation for the company, or do you think CSR is just another thing a company has to do not to be shown in a negative light by its competitors? Comment below, we would love to hear your views!
Our online master’s degree management programmes help you become a better leader, and CSR is an integral part of it. Chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our education advisors for more information on all the programmes we offer, the application process, and for information on discounts we might be offering in these particularly challenging times.
Cutting corners, that is what we as human beings do. Now, that by itself is not wrong, finding a more comfortable, simpler way to get a job done is smart. But the line that separates ethical behaviour from unethical behaviour is narrow, and if you are not careful in your search for the smartest way to work, you could just end up crossing that line!
Before proceeding with the blog, I would like to wish all our readers a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy new year 2021!
What is ethics?
It is merely the belief of what is right or wrong based on the individuals’ morals/values, which in turn might be dependent on the society or culture to which the individual belongs to. So, what does this mean? Simply put, ethics is very individualistic; what I believe to be right or wrong might be antithetical to what you believe to be right or wrong.
Having said that, as a society of human beings living in the 21st century, we generally have a consensus on what humanity considers ethical and unethical behaviour, as a result of which, laws are created to uphold and protect what we believe is ethical behaviour. Now, some of these laws might differ from region to region; however on the whole, most laws are put in place to protect the innocent and to uphold what society considers ethical.
Formal laws typically represent a consensus on ethical standards.
For companies and organisations, the laws and standards that are used to judge the ethics of an individual can be extended on a much grander and more detailed scale thus incorporating the ethics of society on a corporate level. So, if a company is known to follow the law, by implication, it is an ethical company. But that need not always be the case.
Yes, laws can be looked on as a standard for companies to follow; however, they are just a basis for an ethical discussion. Because at the end of the day, the legal ethics will depend on whose eyes they are viewed from. For example, while stealing is considered illegal everywhere and therefore unethical, it is unfortunate and criminal that in some countries child labour is still legal and therefore ethical (at least from their point of view), even though a majority of the nations will consider it unethical (and in my personal opinion, it is).
There are several factors, such as values, morals, culture, etc., that can have an impact on ethical decision making. For example, if you ask a group of individuals a precise and narrow ethical question, you might get as many answers as there are individuals answering the question because each person is influenced by their upbringing and life experiences.
There are also some circumstances when an otherwise unethical behaviour may be looked upon in a favourable light. For example, a town devastated and cut off from aid by a natural disaster might force some desperate people to contemplate unethical actions like breaking in and entering an abandoned home or store to scavenge items and materials required for survival. Is this behaviour ethical or acceptable? Maybe not. But until we are put in a situation like that, who are we to judge?!
The point is when we make a decision, all we can do is to make the best decision we can at that moment.
Ethical decisions in organisations
Most organisations today have a diverse and multicultural workforce. While this is undoubtedly beneficial, there are also a number of challenges to be overcome, especially when aligning decisions with ethics. Not everyone is going to agree with the ethicality of a decision! Also, you don’t want an organisation where everyone thinks the same – “groupthink”.
So, how do organisations work towards overcoming these challenges?
Code of conduct/ethics – Organisations need to start a ‘written code of ethics or conduct’. It has to be a written, physical document that is easily accessible, prominently displayed (on notice boards, company intranet, etc.) in the organisation, widely circulated among employees, made a part of induction for new employees, and made a condition for employment. What a code of ethics does is outline what the organisation considers acceptable behaviour, giving a baseline of what is ‘okay’ and what is ‘not okay’.
Ethics programme – Set up training programmes for employees that will educate them on what the organisation considers ethically acceptable decisions. The best way to learn is by example, so ensure that most of the training is situation-based. Show examples of decisions made in the past, the challenges the decisions makers faced while deliberating, their logical reasoning, and finally why they arrived at the decision they did. Make it into a case study to get an understanding of what the new employees think and the decisions they would have arrived at in the current work environment.
Ethics hotline – Most organisations do not want unethical behaviour to go undetected for a long period of time. The longer unethical behaviour takes to come to light the greater the damage to the organisation. Most people do not want to be labelled a ‘snitch’; it is a good way to lose the trust of co-workers and get isolated within your organisation. It could also have an effect on your reputation, which will, in turn, have an impact on your promotions and future employment. But for the benefit of the organisation, unethical behaviour needs to be brought to light, and the sooner, the better. Setting up a hotline that guarantees anonymity, and gives protection to the whistleblower against retaliation will encourage reporting against unethical behaviour. However, the organisation also has a responsibility to investigate comprehensively and arrive at an independent conclusion to not only protect against false reporting but to protect all the parties involved.
Leadership by example – We throw the term ‘work culture’ around quite often. Work culture is corporate behaviour which is set or determined at the top and trickles down to the rest of the organisation, and ethics forms an integral part of this behaviour. Most people in any position of authority usually set an example of ‘do as I say, not as I do’, which clearly send the wrong message to their underlings, and this is what usually ends up being the norm that is followed. There are very few leaders that are able to set the right, positive and ethical example because of the temptation to bend ethics in favour of greater profits. Actions speak louder than words and leaders have to set the example at the top for the organisation to follow.
These are just a few guidelines an organisation can follow to develop and encourage ethical decision making. What are the steps followed by your organisation to encourage ethical decisions? Any instances that you know of where companies have cut corners in their search for easy profit, and what were the consequences? Comment below.
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Once upon a time (about twelve or thirteen years ago), I decided to try my hand at starting a manufacturing business. Why? I was in my 20’s, with an MBA and a few years of work experience under my belt, and I had a dream – to leave my mark on this world, to become the next Henry Ford or Steve Jobs, and I figured, if things go to hell, I was young enough to risk it and still have time to bounce back!
There is of course a lot more to this story and my thought process that lead to my decision, but this is not the point of this post. The point is, when you do decide to start a business there is this steep learning curve, and as the business is your own, there are a lot of factors that must be considered while making decisions.
Like me, if you came from the corporate world, still early in your career with limited managerial experience, you probably just had to look after a very specific task – sales, marketing, a small part of finance, etc. But when you are the head of your own business (no matter how small), you need to be involved in everything! Business Plan, Finance, Revenue, Marketing, Sales…
When you have so much on your plate there is a risk of your dropping the plate and causing it to break into many tiny pieces (the “plate” here is your business :D).
Understanding how business works, the points to consider before making a decision, and knowing and correctly identifying the different sources of information on which to base your decisions is paramount for the success of your business. This is where strategic management takes on a whole new importance in your thought process. It does not matter how big or small your business/company is, start thinking strategically!!
Three principles underlying strategy: (1) Creating a “unique and valuable” [market] position (2) Making trade-offs by choosing “what not to do”, and (3) Creating “fit” by aligning company activities to one another to support the chosen strategy
Prof. Michael E. Porter, Ph.D., Harvard Business School
The simplest definition of strategic management is “the formulation and implementation of the major goals and initiatives taken by an organisation’s top managers on behalf of owners, based on consideration of resources and an assessment of the internal and external environments in which the organisation operates.” Strategic management provides overall direction to a business and involves specifying the organisation’s objectives, developing policies and plans to achieve those objectives, and then allocating resources to implement the plans (source: Strategic Management for Voluntary Nonprofit Organizations, Roger Courtney).
A system of finding, formulating, and developing a doctrine that will ensure longterm success if followed faithfully.
Dr. Vladimir Kvint, Chair of the Department of Financial Strategy at the Moscow School of Economics of the Lomonosov Moscow State University
So, how do you go about making your life (business really) easier by implementing strategic management?
First, identify your goals – let’s say your goal is to increase annual sales, but what does that actually mean? It is just too vague. Quantify and be specific. As an example, our goal is to sell 100 ballpoint pens and 200 ink pens by the end of the next financial year.
Now, how do you go about achieving this goal?
Start by identifying what goods you are going to be manufacturing (in our example they are pens), then the market to which you will be selling these manufactured goods.
Next, organise the resources you will need to achieve your goals, like putting in place purchasing and supply chain management to ensure a timely supply of raw materials, people and equipment to carry out the manufacturing process, marketing and sales team to bring in clients, and employing or contracting an adequate support staff (if you are unable to do it yourself) to carry out other support functions.
There are also a number of external forces that can have an impact on your business strategy. One of the tools most used in understanding these forces and helping in developing a strategy is Michael E. Porter’s Five Forces Framework which is a business analysis model that helps explain why various industries are able to sustain different levels of profitability. The Five Forces model is widely used to analyse and determine the corporate strategy of a company.
Porter’s five forces are:
Competition in the industry
Potential of new entrants into the industry
Power of suppliers
Power of customers
Threat of substitute products
Understanding the principles behind strategic management might take time, but when it comes right down to it, you will find that it is basically logic. The challenge is in getting the right data from the right sources on which you can base your decisions, and of course the methodology you use to analyse the data to arrive at your decisions. A wrong strategic decision may end up costing you dearly.
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