A number of companies have begun to embrace the reality that being ethical, and acting ethical are vital and integral to business success.
Here are a few reflections for your consideration in planning your ethics training initiatives for 2015. Please remember that the focus of quality ethics training is to teach, model and reinforce the process of thinking ethically.
If your code of ethics is three years old or older, it is time to reevaluate and review it in detail. Now I’m not referring to your code of conduct. A code of conduct is a compliance document and is not really considered a code of ethics.
A code of ethics needs to be designed to focus on what is acceptable or not acceptable, what is negotiable and what is not negotiable. The terms of “right” and “wrong”, can at times, be too subjective or come across as absolute.
A code of ethics is like the rules of a game. If I come to your house to play a game, shouldn’t you explain the rules before we play? And what if you change the rules in the middle of the game? What happens to your credibility? The credibility of the game? So it is with a code of ethics, everyone in the company, needs to play by the same rules.
Here are a series of questions to help the reflection on your company’s ethics initiative and where other ethics training opportunities may lie.
1. Do you have a code of ethics? If not, why not? If so, do all employees have a copy of it? Does the company provide ongoing ethics training to reinforce the code? Is the format working and what processes are in place to make sure that your training is working?
2. With so many different formats for learning, how do you know which one is the most effective? Is your ethics training a “one shot” deal or is it ongoing?
Are all employees, from the top down, required to participate in ethics training? If not, why not? If so, are all employees ware of this all inclusive effort in training?
3. What are the options for your people to confidentially report unethical behavior, i.e. hotline, ombudsman, ethics committee? How well are they utilized? If not, do you know why? If they are, how expedient and justly are you in dealing with the issue? Keep in mind research shows that only 5% of employees will utilize an “in-house” hotline. Why? Fear of confidentiality!
4. What type of initial ethics training do your new hires receive? Is if a “one shot” ethics effort, or part of an ongoing process of ethics education?
Like anything else, it is easy to preach it, but more difficult to live it. It’s always time to re-evaluate how much more can be done to bring ethics into focus.