No matter your industry, your long-term success as a company strongly correlates to how well you’ve managed to define your ethics and compliance, both inside and outside the organizational structure. A mistake made by many businesses – small or large – is to leave this in the realm of the abstract.
Conflicts and confrontations seem to be part of almost every organization’s life. Every other day we are faced with news of misconduct in the workplace, where numerous prominent figures in media, business or politics now have the secrets of their unethical behavior blasted on speakers for the entire world to hear.
But these moments aren’t just about sexual misconduct, though since mid-2017, when Harvey Weinstein was first accused of assault, it seems like the cat was let out of the bag for any figurehead in a similar situation. With the data breach at Equifax, the bribery accusations at Samsung or Uber’s long list of allegations – and the list goes on – you may be wondering if the world is that much worse today than it was decades ago.
The answer is no, unethical behavior and corruption are not just traits of today’s society. Instead, we’re becoming more aware of them now than before, or we’re more likely to listen to accusations concerning them. The real question we should be asking ourselves is: what can we do to stop it?
A possible solution would be to create a culture of ethics and compliance in the workplace, a set of rules all employees must follow and a system to sanction those who do not.
Benefits of a Code of Ethics and Compliance
A code of ethics provides companies and employees a structure on which to build an organizational culture of accountability and transparency. While in some cases, the law already covers conduct within the workplace, companies can take this extra step to establish a code of behavior inside the workplace.
That means there’s less room for mistakes, as both employees and employers have a set of guidelines to respect. Furthermore, having a clearly defined organizational culture can help improve employee performance even in the management sector, particularly when the set of values reinforced within the code of conduct is in line with the individual’s own set of values.
How to Implement a Code of Ethics and Compliance
The contents of the code of ethics, meaning the particular “do’s and don’ts” decided upon, can vary based on every organization’s specific needs. They can include broad codes relating to how employers should interact with each other, or they can be more specific to the particularities of their work responsibilities (like how to address clients or what is the correct line of communication within a department).
However, we can single out some general tips to help successfully reinforce it:
1. It Must Be Written Down
Take this first point as the “golden rule” of office ethics code. If an organization wants to create its company culture successfully, then it’s imperative to have a written code of ethics and compliance.
It also needs to first apply to all employees and then be accessible to everyone working in the company. Creating a strong office culture is nearly impossible if your code only applies to particular employees. Even those in the upper management should comply.
A case study on the culture of an Australian private hospital found that employees could successfully comply with the ethical code of the institution. However, the study found a discrepancy in how the executive branch interacted with other hospital departments. The study cites the lack of a support system and incoherent communication as the main challenges in developing a unified hospital culture.
2. Nominate a Person Responsible for Overseeing It
As with any task that must be carried out in a company, the entire process goes a lot smoother when you assign a person to oversee it. That is beneficial both for the company and for the employees.
For one thing, employees know who to address whenever an ethical problem appears and bring their issue directly with them, thus avoiding possible mishaps; this is a great benefit for the employing organization. Generally speaking, people from the HR department are assigned to this position, since they already have a better overview of company employees.
3. Monitor and Address Any Issues Quickly
The individual in charge of overseeing the compliance program should also monitor office events and predict if any possible tensions can lead to problems later on.
When such an issue is identified, companies can conduct training sessions for the staff through which they can reinforce their values and standards, as well as possibly defuse any larger-scale issue that may appear.
During these sessions, your employees can work on their issues and improve communication and collaboration skills. Particularly with non-severe ethical violations of your company code, these sessions can be a lot more beneficial to the well-being of your business.
4. Have a Consistent and Clear Communication Approach
Everyone in your company must fully understand the mission and values of your business, so the ethical code must spell out what you look for in an employee and what type of behavior is frowned upon.
It’s vital to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to the company values. You won’t be able to construct an office culture if the core principles of it are left to interpretation. Healthy communication can build trust, and employees can feel more encouraged to participate in office culture and contribute to growing it in the future.
To Sum Up
While a strong office culture won’t necessarily change people’s values, it can influence the way they behave within the workplace. Moments of crisis might still happen even if you have a code of ethics and compliance in place, and it would be insane to say otherwise.
However, these precautions are essential in today’s office environment to ensure that things run as smoothly as possible.