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How to Promote Ethics among Your Employees

by Olufisayo
How to Promote Ethics among Your Employees

Organizations aren’t fully immune to ethical lapses. But there remains a massive difference between companies that are consistently plagued by corporate scandals and the ones that have mastered keeping misconduct at bay. This difference is about how well the employees of an organization adopt ethical behavior. This article outlines the practices companies can take to induce ethical behavior within their workforce.

Ethics Starts with Recruiting and Hiring

The equation here is simple. If you hire employees who value ethics, you automatically contribute to a strong culture of compliance. Individuals who share your core values are a lot easier to train than those who lack them.

  • Determine what exactly you’re looking for. Start with listing out a comprehensive profile of the moral values and attitudes your company encourages. Your job descriptions must clarify that your company only accepts ethical practices at work. Don’t hesitate to point out that only the candidates who pass your thorough background checks will be allowed inside the door.
  • Know which questions to ask. List out questions like, “how have you handled any past mistakes you’ve made?”, or “What is your personal definition of integrity?” The candidate’s manner of answering can help you deeply understand where ethics stand in their personal and professional life.
  • Don’t ignore the red flags. If you spot any unexplained gaps between the jobs, unusual or frequent career transitions, or mismatching job titles and experiences – make sure you thoroughly investigate every detail before handing out the job.

Lay the Foundation with Robust Standards of Conduct

Not all employees have a universal sense of behavior that is right or wrong. Lay out your organization’s standards of conduct in writing. From ethical business practices to the type of unacceptable behaviors – craft a detailed list of your workplace standards. Promote these standards by including them in the employee handbook and putting them in common work areas.

Remember to include everything with maximum clarity. Avoid using generic statements such as, “be respectful.” Instead, include statements like “Employees must refrain from using language that makes others uncomfortable,” or “employees must not make any comments on someone’s physical appearance.”

Educate and Train All Staff

You may have created a comprehensive code of ethics. But how will your staff abide by it if they don’t know what it is?

This is where the need for training comes in.

Craft training strategies that are company specific. Just like your written code of conduct, training must offer relevant, detailed, and concrete information instead of generic ideals. A great place to start would be to come up with specific scenarios of misconduct that might pop up in the workplace, how employees can respond to these scenarios, and what repercussions would follow. For instance, create specific examples of fraud, sexual harassment, discrimination, hostile behavior, or other types of misconduct.

Include these case studies in the training. Help employees understand why the given actions are considered unethical, how witnesses or victims can report these issues and the kind of action that will be taken against the violators.

Remember, training is not only meant to be provided during the onboarding process. A once-in-a-lifetime training cannot stop the possibility of serious ethical lapses down the line. To ensure employees are thorough with what is considered ethical behavior, it is vital to offer training that is ongoing.

To ensure your employees soak in every element of the training, making it engaging and interactive is critical. Use roleplay, videos, games, and any creative element that has the potential to get the message across.

Top Management Must Be the Flagbearers of Ethical Behavior

“They’re not following the rules, so why should I?” is a massive ethical glitch that emerges when leadership fails to abide by the company’s ethical standards. If the top management expects ethical behavior from their staff, it’s critical they become the flagbearers of the same behavior. When leaders hold up to ethical behavior, it becomes easier for the entire workplace to adopt similar behavior.

Incentivize Ethical Behavior

Companies often expect employees to be on their best ethical behavior but rarely acknowledge it. For managers, a great way to promote ethical behavior would be to reward it when they see it. When an employee is seen doing the right thing, managers can make the effort to thank them. Ethical behavior should be included in performance reviews and must be encouraged with a variety of incentives, monetary or otherwise.

Make it Safe (and Easy) to Do the Right Thing

Employees tend to stop reporting misconduct when they don’t feel heard or sense the wind of retaliation coming their way.

This is why it’s so important for companies to both take action against the wrongdoer and ensure the complainant remains anonymous.

Provide an anonymous ethics hotline so employees can report without fear or hesitation. Once a report is received, make sure you start the investigation immediately and arrive at a conclusion. Only through prompt action, you can ensure every employee feels heard. This, in turn, encourages more people to come forward with their ethical concerns.

Lastly, adopt an open-door policy to help employees know that the door is always open for any issues or complaints they have. Explain to them that they will always have someone to reach out to with their concerns.

Write Down Disciplinary Measures and Stick to Them

When a complaint of misconduct knocks at your door, you can’t simply wait and let it get diffused on its own. The only way to ensure it doesn’t repeat down the line would be to take prompt action. Create an exhaustive list of disciplinary measures that would be applied to the cases of misconduct. Once an investigation is complete, hold the violator responsible and take disciplinary action against them.

Ethics and Growth Go Hand In Hand

The secret to inculcating strong values of ethics in your employees is to make understanding and reporting ethical concerns as easy as possible. By setting high ethical standards, consistently training employees to be advocates of ethical behavior, helping them report misconducts safely and easily, and taking prompt action against any violator – companies can ensure a lifelong ethical culture.

Author Bio:

Giovanni Gallo is the Co-CEO of ComplianceLine, where his team strives to make the world a better workplace with compliance hotline services, sanction, and license monitoring, and workforce eLearning software and services.

Growing up as the son of a Cuban refugee in an entrepreneurial family taught Gio how servanthood and deep care for employees can make a thriving business a platform for positive change in the world. He built on that through experience with startups and multinational organizations so ComplianceLine’s solutions can empower caring leaders to build strong cultures for the betterment of every employee and their community.

When he’s not working, Gio’s wrangling his four young kids, riding his motorcycle, and supporting education, families, and the homeless in the Charlotte community.

Photo by Kylie Haulk on Unsplash

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