Implement an Ethics Training Program

by Muhammad Bilal

What Is The Purpose Of Ethics Training?

What does it mean to have an ethical workplace? An ethical workplace has well-established codes of professional and personal conduct that not only stay in compliance with all regulations and laws that govern your business, but also moral codes of conduct that include honesty, diversity, compassion, and good citizenship. Both of these aspects provide two main functions for your business.

1. Protects Your Company’s Bottom Line

Unethical behavior impacts profits when multi-million dollar fines are levied on unethical corporations.

This same behavior can cost the company in terms of lower stock prices, fewer customers, and inability to do business with those who don’t trust you.

2. Makes Your Company A Great Place To Work

On the other hand, employee ethics training makes a company a great place to work. Consider Patagonia [1], with their mission statement: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

Patagonia was ranked as one of 2018’s best places to work for new dads and is consistently cited as a company that cares about its employees [2], their actions, and their impact on the world. Turnover is, as Fortune puts it, “freakishly low”, and a lot of that has to do with the ethical culture of the company.

Steps Involved In Developing An Ethics Training Program For Employees

Ethics training keeps your company profitable and helps employees make consistently good decisions in service to their colleagues, their customers, and themselves. However, not just any ethics training course will do. Developing an ethics training program for employees incorporates the following eight steps.

1. Stand For Something (Or Watch Employees Fall For Anything)

If you are a new company or are new to the idea of articulating your company’s ethics, it can be valuable to have a company-wide conversation that gets to the heart of your company culture. It’s hard to offer ethics training for employees when you are not clear what your company stands for.

Start your employee ethics training by either developing a code of conduct for your company or making sure employees are clear on the one that already exists. Do not assume that even your most senior employees know what it is.

Identify and Renew Company Values

Companies without a clear set of values may find themselves at a disadvantage when developing ethics programs. Ethics programs are most effective when perceived by employees to be “values-driven,” rather than simply compliance-driven and values-based programs are most effective in reducing unethical behavior, strengthening employee commitment and making employees more willing to deliver bad news to managers. Many companies conduct regular companywide initiatives that involve employees at all levels of responsibility when renewing company values and updating them when appropriate.

Secure Visible Commitment From Senior Managers

Most ethics professionals agree that it is crucial to enlist senior management support for an ethics program to be successful. Senior managers should participate in training sessions, make ethics a regular element in speeches and presentations, and align their own behavior with company standards. If employees view an ethics program as merely an effort to protect the reputation of top management, the program may prove more harmful than no program at all.

Engage the Board of Directors

Engage directors in the ethics process by instituting a board ethics committee or by placing ethics on the board agenda as a regular item for discussion. Consider special training to enable directors to carry out their ethical responsibilities confidently. Many U.S. companies have instituted board ethics committees and training in recent years, a move motivated in part by the many regulations establishing that directors may be held liable for corporate ethical transgressions.

Rules and Regulations

Part of an ethics program involves ensuring that your company is in compliance with all laws and regulations for your industry. Compliance is not only good for your reputation; it can save you thousands of dollars in fines or legal fees if you fail to meet the requirements of a specific regulation. An ethics program can be particularly valuable if you have offices in distant locations that must handle compliance in their particular countries. The Inc. website notes that such programs help employees throughout the world make ethical decisions and reduces the risk of harm to your image or bottom line.

Satisfied Customers

Ethics programs that stress that employees treat customers fairly, provide accurate information and make every effort to resolve problems provide a benchmark for good customer service practices. Unhappy customers are likely to take their business elsewhere, but not before they tell a few friends about their negative experience with your company. Customers are particularly upset when a company doesn’t perform as promised. Your ethics program can not only help you retain current customers, but also attract new customers familiar with your stellar reputation.

Happy Employers

Keep in mind that ethics training is often a necessary complement to the ethics program, according to Workforce. Though this may require extra time and money, a positive reputation will not only help you keep customers; it can also help you recruit and retain employees. When people are eager to work for your company because of its reputation as a good employer, you can attract a much more qualified pool of potential employees.

Better-qualified employees can help your company meet its goals more easily and remain successful. Current employees might be more likely to stay with your company if they feel that they are treated fairly, which can decrease costs associated with recruitment and hiring.

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