What Can HR do About Ethics?

By January 7, 2014 No Comments

Ethics sticky notes2013 wasn’t a banner year for ethics in the business world, with mega corporations WalMart, Apple and Monsanto all making headlines for activities ranging from the shady to the cutthroat.

There’s little doubt that to build a culture of ethics, tone at the top is everything.  When it comes to acting ethically and responsibly, your staff will take their cues from their managers and the C-suite.  Many issues of unethical behavior can be traced back to a company’s leadership.

But Ian Muir, a former HR director with leading telecommunications and engineering firms in the UK, suggests that HR can have a significant impact on promoting a culture of good business ethics.  Muir has found that making improvements when it comes to doing business ethically most often starts with a solid Board, headed by a solid chairman.

Muir stresses that the HR director must have a strong relationship with the chairman and non-executive directors and leverage those relationships to continually drive home the importance of good business ethics to staff on the front lines.  HR can also be hugely effective in combating unethical behavior by strengthening recruitment processes, improving ethics training and working to eliminate bad apples – those with a history of questionable behavior (although one hopes that anyone previously recognized for unethical behavior was promptly disciplined or terminated).

Additionally, the manner in which HR handles reports of misconduct is equally critical, if not more so.  He adds: “The climate set by management is the biggest influence over how confident people are to speak up and speak out.”  A climate of fear will prevent staff from blowing the whistle, but if the climate “is one of openness, candor, honesty and enables employees to have a voice, then that’s a very healthy sign.”

Read more here.

Published by Conselium Executive Search, the global leader in compliance search.  

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