Attitudes in the workplace have changed significantly over the past decade. A recent industry analysis suggests that since the fallout and scandal surrounding the 2008 financial crisis, many companies have instituted wide-ranging ethical reforms, and have further implemented effective systems for policing violations and addressing violators.
We’ve often discussed how implementing such a system–like an anonymous hotline or online reporting system–can help bring about a better, more comfortable, work environment for you and your employees. But time and again real world experience has shown that a plan is only as good as it’s follow-through. Put another way, an ethical system is only as good as it’s enforcement.
So if we know that an ethics enforcement can effectively reorient your corporate culture–and we know that companies with strong corporate cultures tend to do better and make more money–how do we ensure that our ethical codes are properly enforced such that we can reap the rewards of a more confident workforce?
One: Guarantee Anonymity
Anonymous reporting of ethical violations has become an industry staple for businesses of all sizes. The primary reason anonymous reporting has become the primary and most popular means of enforcing corporate ethics is simple–it’s anonymous. Anonymity protects your employees from potentially hostile middle-managers and other coworkers who may feel some loyalty towards an accused friend. By keeping this process anonymous, the biggest concerns a would-be reporter might have can be dealt with from the very inception of this system. In short, anonymity helps build that desired confidence in your workspace.
Two: Take It Seriously
One of the most important aspects of any internal investigation is the seriousness with which the investigation is conducted. Investigations cannot be perfunctory. Taking an investigation seriously is not only important in keeping the accuser safe from retaliation, it is also necessary in making credible whatever conclusion the investigation reaches. If investigators are not taken seriously by staff, an accused person may not feel truly vindicated by the outcome of a case. Every aspect of an employees complaint should be examined before a case is resolved.
Three: Bring In Outside Investigators
It can be difficult for employees to take an investigation conducted by a familiar face seriously. When investigators come from a department that frequently interacts with the subjects of the investigation–or they come from the subjects own department–those investigators may struggle to remain or appear objective. Likewise, an investigator who may have gotten tipsy at a holiday party (or taken part in some other frivolity) may not be treated with as much respect as a complete stranger. For this reason, it’s standard industry practice to bring in outside assistance when dealing with serious cases.
Four: Hire Professionals
The very best thing a company can do to instill employee confidence and quickly and cleanly resolve internal issues is to bring in a team of professionals. A lot of business, especially that conducted by small and medium-sized organizations, require outsourcing.
If you’re running a fast food restaurant, odds are you won’t have a full time plumber on staff. If you have a serious plumbing problem, giving your fry-cook a plunger may not be enough to solve the problem. Likewise, your business probably does not have a full-time, professional, ethics investigator or compliance consultant. To ensure an outcome most advantageous to your organization, don’t hand your employee a plunger–hire a professional, like those at Ethical Advocate.