Why Companies Should Remember This Saying

Written by Audrey Boone Tillman

The World’s Most Ethical Companies are recognized once a year (in this issue, in fact, on page 40), but it doesn’t mean their stories are only told once a year. In this new department of Ethisphere Magazine, we will highlight stories of those involved with the World’s Most Ethical Companies designation. This article is from Audrey Boone Tillman of Aflac and explains her view on how to find the right people.

When I was a girl, my mother used to tell me that “pretty is as pretty does.” The meaning of her words, that morals transcend outward appearances, is more than a lesson for children. It applies to men, women and even corporations.

Aflac, the company I’m proud to be part of, was founded in 1955 in Columbus, Ga., which is a former mill town on the Georgia- Alabama border. It was established by three brothers – John, Paul and Bill Amos – who invented a special type of insurance that helps pay expenses major medical insurance doesn’t pay. After all, they reasoned, a lot of bills roll in when you’re sick or hurt and they go beyond hospital and doctor costs.

Aflac’s policies, known as voluntary or supplemental policies, help cover those expenses. Their benefits help put food on tables and pay electric bills and car payments. They help keep families going in the toughest of financial times.

All of that, though, explains only what Aflac does. It doesn’t explain who we are. Aflac is a company built on a promise: a promise to be here for men, women and families who are counting on us for financial help during some of the worst times of their lives. That’s where “pretty is as pretty does” comes in. A company can make all the pretty promises in the world, but it has to keep them not only to earn customers’ continued trust, but also to grow and thrive.

At Aflac, we keep our promises and do so by starting at ground zero – by hiring men and women who understand the value of their word and the importance of integrity. It may sound strange, but Aflac’s hiring process is also a process of elimination. The first thing we do is cull out job candidates who aren’t good fits for our company’s culture.

The bottom line is that not every individual who’s qualified to work at Aflac, at least on paper, is qualified to join the Aflac family. Our hiring process is rigorous and while candidates’ technical and job-related skills are important, it’s equally important to ensure they are “good fits” and that they live up to what we feel is solid corporate citizenship.

In our search for new talent, we focus on six core competencies. Candidates must be action-oriented, adaptable, customerfocused and great listeners. They must demonstrate commitment to ethics and values, as well as to integrity and trust. If candidates don’t meet those standards, they don’t work at Aflac – no matter how outstanding their resumes.

Once candidates pass our internal tests, they’re welcomed to the Aflac family with gusto. Not only do they immerse themselves in our culture at a comprehensive new-employee orientation, but they also receive the first of what we call “Aflac Swag” – branded bags, mugs and plush Aflac Ducks. They also receive personal, leather-bound copies of “The Aflac Way,” a book that explains our culture of family, values and excellence.

“The Aflac Way” uses simple, homespun language to stress the value of teamwork, respect, fairness, honesty, integrity, ethics and responsibility. Even after nearly 60 years, its teachings remain the foundation of how we at Aflac treat each other and how we treat our customers.

“The Aflac Way” applies to employees throughout their tenure at our company. Not only are its tenets applied to new-hire decisions, they also come into play when we’re making promotions. When a leadership- level position is being filled, we naturally consider a candidate’s overall skill set and performance. We also take a close look how they’ve interacted with others, whether they’ve shown integrity and whether they’re upholding Aflac’s ethical standards.

One critical question that comes into play when adding members to our leadership team is whether a candidate has shown a commitment to transparency. Dan Amos, Aflac’s chairman of the board and chief executive officer, is a huge believer in transparency. He continually reminds us of the importance of accuracy, accountability, truthfulness and immediacy. He makes it clear that problems must be put on the table and dealt with quickly, and that no prizes will be won for hiding the facts. To use Dan’s words, “Bad news does not get better with age.”

At Aflac, we believe that working “The Aflac Way” is what has earned us a place on Ethisphere’s list of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for seven consecutive years. It’s an honor we take pride in because it confirms we’re still doing business the way we set out to do it in 1955. There’s another reason, too: It affirms to employees that Aflac is on the right track and that they can be proud of who we are as a company and as ethical, caring and trustworthy individuals working together to achieve common goals.

Author Biography

Audrey Boone Tillman is executive vice president, Corporate Services for Aflac Incorporated. Ms. Tillman is responsible for driving strategy within the company’s corporate functions that serve the employees, external customers, vendors and the Board. Her oversight encompasses the operations of the Facilities and Strategic Sourcing & Procurement divisions; Communicorp; and the Travel & Meetings division.