I begin my third year at Indiana University, I’ve become accustomed to my professors stating guidelines for ethical conduct in the syllabi they issue the first class. Such guidelines include class conduct, professionalism, and forms of plagiarism. Although most students already have some awareness of what common class conduct entails and to avoid all forms of plagiarism infraction, I for one welcome the refresher. This refresher on ethical conduct led me to question how ethical conduct is established in the workplace.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ethics as: a set of moral principles: a theory or system of moral values.
I highly doubt, every few months, a firm issues its staff a guideline pertaining to business ethics. So how does a business institute ethical conduct and continue to maintain and build from the guidelines? To figure out how to enact ethical practices in a business, I looked over a presentation Kirk O. Hanson, executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, recently gave.
Hanson built his ethical business presentation on a model he devised in 1984 and has continually revised this model over the years. Although there are many elements to this model I’ve picked out a few key practices which I believe best address the important dimensions of managing ethics.
Those essentials include:
Value Statement – A firm’s value statement must be related to the firm’s decisions and actions. The statement cannot illuminate upon practices and values which the firm does not uphold, it must mirror current practices. The statement must not just be “fluff” but share the company’s aspirations with their public. Additionally, a value statement should not just be a declaration of a company’s goal to their audiences but also to the staff. The statement must connect with the staff and act as a “guiding principle.”
Code of Conduct- An ideal code of conduct applies to all employees and doesn’t capture last year’s incidents Hanson detailed. All employees should be able to interpret the code and explicate any questions regarding certain elements. A code of conduct may go wrong if it details specific incidents which the business didn’t have authorization to handle, such as dealing with specific reimbursements and use of computers.
Training and Communication- Best ethical practice are continually reinforced not only to new hires, but also on a regular basis to all employees. Trainers and executives must not just lip service the values or training may come up short. Constant communication of values is a fragment of good ethical practices.
Renewal Process- Top companies such as Johnson & Johnson continually re-evaluate their value statements and codes of conduct on a regular basis. Revising values and conducts periodically maintains freshness of the message and employees engaged in the new message. Hansen explained every three years evaluating and producing new conducts and standards is ideal for a company. This renewal step is a basic component for the model because it allows a company to re-educate its employees consistently on guidelines and build upon their past practices.
For Hanson’s entire ethics model go to: http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/focusareas/business/organization.html
Adapted from “Toward an Ethical Culture: Characteristics of an Ethical Organization”, by Anne Federwisch