Workplace ethics training is highly recommended for fostering a trustworthy working environment. Many employees have a general sense of right and wrong, but may not understand the legal intricacies of their business enough to identify and not engage in unethical activities. Additionally, there is sometimes confusion about the often-subtle differences between illegal and unethical behavior. Proper training helps keep each employee informed, while hopefully preventing errors in judgement that cast a negative light on the company.
Code of Conduct
Each employee in the workplace must have a tangible reference to general ethical behavior such as a Code of Conduct. Respect for coworkers and display of personal concern for client needs should be prominent and high on the list. Honesty in the communications process from and to management should be clearly documented, showing employees that their voice is heard and the expression of legitimate concerns will not be used against them. Once these basics are understood and signed off on, each staff member holds accountability for their actions. These may be included in new hire packets or introduced individually, depending on the environment.
Practice Makes Perfect
Ethical behavior must be reflexive and unthinking. One effective method of getting employees into the proper mindset of making solid decisions all the time is to engage in role playing. Training videos on ethics routinely show dramatizations to ingrain these basics by watching examples of good and bad behavior. Similar situations can be acted out in the real world. Different scenarios of varying complexity should be introduced, ranging from basics like overcharging a client, client and employee confidentiality, hiring practices, and race and gender issues. Proper ethics is not exclusive to business, but when people exercise it routinely in the workplace, morale increases from a mutual sense of respect and trust.
Each workplace should have a anonymous whistle-blower feature set in place. This allows conscientious workers to report overt and suspected unethical activity without repercussion. Training in this arena should emphasize the importance of recognizing actual unethical or illegal acts, preventing false reporting and placing honest employees under the spotlight.
Gains from Ethical Behavior
The expense of comprehensive ethics training carries the potential to more than pay for itself over the long term. Aside from potentially costly lawsuits, there are key ways to leverage ethical behavior to improve a company's bottom line. Proper ethics with consumers fosters positive word-of-mouth, improving the chances of repeat business and new clients. Additionally, new marketing dollars are not required to pull in these new clients. Negative publicity in general is always bad for business, resulting in poor Better Business Bureau scores and negative feedback on various Internet forums. Employees that trust their employers and can work with a clear conscience tend to be more productive, helping their career chances as well as potentially improving the company's profitability.