How often do we hear about an otherwise successful company suffering due to some scandal brought on by one of its employees? In the modern market, many businesses are complex and multifaceted endeavors that often require many, independently functioning, high-level employees with a great deal of autonomy and only infrequent oversight. These circumstances, though necessary for success, can breed opportunities for ill-intentioned team members to take advantage of organizational blind spots. Sometimes an employee sees an opening, and they act on it in disregard of the law and in the hopes of profiting themselves.
The average person, though, doesn’t like being associated with this kind of misconduct, especially when that misconduct might hurt their own opportunities for advancement or the stability of their positions and projects. Over the last several decades, many companies have found that an effective way of exposing these instances of ethical misconduct is to implement ethical guidelines while maintaining regular ethics auditing. We’ll explore what ethics auditing is, and how it can best be implemented in your work space, in the brief article below.
Why Establish a Ethics Guidelines?
There are many reasons a company may want to implement an internal ethics code. The first and most obvious reason is that organizations that conduct themselves openly and transparently are often the most commercially successful. Partners and consumers like knowing they are working with honest people. Further, many state and federal regulations contain ethics components, and it’s important to avoid those costly interruptions to productivity associated with scandal and misconduct. Scandal implies deceit, deceit implies dishonesty, and why would I entrust my money to a dishonest actor? The implementation of an internal code of ethics helps avoid this problem.
What Makes Ethics Guidelines Stick?
Enron had a handbook on corporate ethics. It was one of the most damning pieces of evidence used against them at trial. Merely having an ethics code is not the same as making sure your employees are acting on that code. This is the difference between ethics and compliance. A stated ethic is what a company aspires to, its compliance is what that company actually does. The best way to make an ethics system stick is to enforce consequences against those who break that ethics system. This is measured by way of the ethics audit.
Companies are used to conducting all sorts of audits. Financial audits. Productivity audits. It should come as no surprise that the best way of measuring ethics compliance is by conducting an ethics audit.
Some common techniques involved in conducting corporate audits are their inclusion as a part of other pre-existing audits; i.e., when a productivity audit is conducted there is an ethical component of that interview or questionnaire. An ethics audit can be its own standalone process, conducted by either an internal compliance officer or by an outside party brought in for just this purpose. The most important aspect of any audit, however, is ensuring that expectations are clearly communicated to employees in a way that is not abstract. Bad behavior must be clearly defined, and the consequences should not be a mystery.
Seek Expert Advice
Many businesses find implementation and compliance is most easily accomplished by the bringing in of outside help. Ethical Advocate has years of experience in the development, implementation, and compliance phases of corporate ethics, and EA’s expert team can help a business of any size ensure its compliance with community, and legal, standards.