KPMG is one of the Employers of Choice featured in my book Road to Respect: Path to Profit. I became interested in respect at KPMG after hearing Beth Wilson, Canadian managing partner, speak on diversity in business at the Vancouver Board of Trade in November 2006. I knew that Ms. Wilson and I were singing off the same song sheet when I heard her say that while there is, of course, a clear social reason for business to embrace  diversity, there is also a clear business reason.

Two of the issues Ms. Wilson cited were for talent and the war for clients. The current  recessionary climate offers an additional reason to embrace respect in the workplace – the need for innovation and creativity. The relationship between innovation, culture and profitability is examined in a new book by Kimberly Davis entitled The Firefly Effect: Build Teams That Capture Creativity and Catapult Results. Ms. Davis argues that innovation is a necessary cultural characteristic for companies seeking success in today’s challenging economic reality.

How does one build a culture of innovation? One critical factor, according to Ms. Davis, is a respectful environment. When employees feel safe and respected, creativity flourishes.

In a respectful workplace, employees are not afraid to speak up, or to engage in constructive conflict. On the other hand, disrespectful behaviours like harassment and bullying produce fear based cultures. Fear causes a cone of silence to descend upon employees and is the kiss of death for both innovation and profitability.

When employees are afraid to speak up, when they are afraid to give feedback and challenge  the status quo, it is impossible for either creativity or innovation to flourish.  As Bob Dylan sang so many years ago, the times they are a changing. We are in a new business reality, one that demands a new business model, based on respect, empowerment and collaboration. Those businesses that don’t adapt will, in the words of that famous song, sink like a stone.

Creating a respectful workplace culture will unleash a wealth of creativity and innovation within your employee group. It will attract the best and brightest to your business, and ensure superior ongoing performance and profitability. It is the ultimate win/win for business.

So…what’s keeping you from starting your journey on the Road to Respect?