Building an Ethical Culture: the Basics

Even within the same industry, organizations can have radically different cultures. There are norms, both tacit and explicit, that address how colleagues interact, how management communicates with employees, and how customers are treated. In terms of ethics, some companies pay lip service to ethical behavior, while others walk the walk.

For long-term success and to attract the best talent, those with a truly ethical culture are the winners.

So how can organizations build a resilient yet flexible culture that values ethics throughout its ranks? First, it’s important to establish and communicate what behaviors are constructive and to be encouraged, and which others undermine an ethical mission. Companies that take the time to ask all employees what specifically works and what is clearly unethical within their respective roles can develop a clear set of guidelines that can be communicated across numerous channels.

The tone at the top also matters a great deal. Employees follow the lead not just of their immediate managers, but look to senior leadership for cues on how to behave. If a CEO demonstrates unimpeachable integrity in all she says—and more importantly, what she does—that can go a long way in shaping what happens at all levels of the organization.

While it’s a simple truth that reinforcing behavior that is desirable and refraining from reinforcing that which is not, many commercial pressures can work against it. Organizations must be mindful, intentional and articulate about which behaviors they wish to encourage and which they do not. Incentives can range from monetary rewards to accolades and recognition. The important thing is to be clear and consistent in providing thoughtful and corrective feedback that is rooted not in punishment but in education.

If people are going to behave ethically, they need to be given the tools to do so. Having a leader focused exclusively (or almost exclusively) on ethics provides a point person within the organization.

Equally important is appropriate training. Syntrio’s online courses are designed to address the most pressing and broadly applicable business ethics and HR compliance training issues. Each customizable course provides practical guidance on employment laws and other legal and ethical concerns that may arise in the workplace. For a full list of our training options, click here.

Syntrio is a leader in the human resources and employment law fields (as well as ethics and compliance) and is prepared to help your company implement a compliance program aimed at reducing the potential impact of harassment, discrimination and other employment law issues your organization may face. Syntrio takes an innovative philosophy towards employment law training program design and strives to engineer engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content.

Contact for more information about our discrimination, harassment, and prevention of retaliation online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on corporate compliance that impact your company.

Since 2007, Jonathan has practiced labor and employment law, with a focus on litigation, individual plaintiff and class action discrimination, harassment, and other employment-specific cases as well as focusing his practice toward advising employers on preventive practice. Jonathan has presented over 100 live employment discrimination and harassment prevention training courses across all 50 states.

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