In my last post, (It-Pays-to-Be-Good) I wrote about the hard-nosed evidence that companies that are good to (1) their employees, (2) their customers, and (3) their communities and the environment substantially outperform their less worthy competitors.

Here is the essence of these three pillars:

#1--Good Employer

The hallmark of a good employer is getting the balance right between viewing people as a cost and an asset. It requires a revision of the arms-length, layoff-prone relationship with workers common over the past three decades. It involves heeding workers’ growing desires for employment security and career development. But it is not a return to the employment-for-life mentality that held sway from the 1950s through the 1970s.

In fact, good employers combine greater care for workers with a more rigorous, analytic approach to people management than is the norm today. Through wise use of data —about interests, abilities, performance, and how these tie to overall goals —employers set up employees to thrive.

And as people continue to place greater importance on a "worthy" employment experience, leading firms are seeking to foster an inspiring culture, in part through a compelling mission.

#2--Good Seller

Good sellers foster reciprocity —the seeking of win-win exchanges that leave both parties better off —as a non-negotiable corporate value.  This emphasis upends the buyer beware mindset that has governed much of commerce for centuries.  Increasingly, the public is calling for a new sensibility — seller take care.

As the recent experiences of Bank of America and Verizon have shown, "technology-fueled people power" has created the means for the public to impose this sensibility on the firms with which they do business.  For example, last fall when Bank of America announced a $5 fee for its customers to use their debit cards, Molly Katchpole (a 22-year-old recent college grad) quickly organized a national petition campaign on Change.org that was a big part of forcing Bank of America to back down a few weeks later.  And then in December, when Verizon announced a $2 fee for paying your bill on line, Molly once again organized a campaign.  But this time, she got the policy reversed in less than 24 hours!  The world’s Davids have newfound powers against the world’s Goliaths.  As never before, people around the globe have the capacity to reward virtuous corporate behavior and punish bad behavior.  And they are doing so.  

#3--Good Steward

Firms that are good stewards care for the environment and the communities that it affects. It means limiting the ecological harm a company’s operations inflict through pollution and energy consumption. But it extends past doing less damage to doing more good. To creatively helping solve environmental problems.

A firm that’s a good steward also demonstrates deep concern for localities in which it operates. Concern for the people who buy from it, certainly, but also for those who live or work nearby. Community stewardship encompasses traditional philanthropy such as donations to hospitals. But it also includes more active engagement in communities. It means helping to solve social problems with skills or resources specific to the firm.

Where to Get Started?

The economic evidence that my co-authors and I compiled in Good Company: Business Success in the Worthiness Era (see especially Chapters 5 and 6) indicates – not surprisingly – that it is impossible to be a good company (at least for long) without being a good employer.  Next week, I’ll be providing more detail on exactly what that requires.

Laurie Bassi is CEO of McBassi and Co. Reach her at bassi@mcbassi.com or follow her on Twitter at @goodcompanybook