Policies: Improving Ethical Compliance in the Enterprise

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Top Issues Compromising Ethical Standards in the Enterprise

The American Management Association documents the top 5 reasons employees will compromise their enterprise’s ethical standards in A Global Study of Business Ethics 2005-2015, as follows:

  1. Pressure to meet unrealistic objectives and deadlines (70%)
  2. Furthering one’s career (39%)
  3. Desire to protect one’s livelihood (34%)
  4. Environmental cynicism or diminished morale
  5. Improper training or ignorance to the standards

The document (Amanet.org/HRethicssurvey06.pdf) further outlines ways that leaders attitudes are vital to ensuring employee ethical compliance. However, understanding the reasons for each issue and how to divert them individually proves as a useful addition for companies continuously facing the same challenges.

Reducing Pressure on Employees to Meet Unrealistic Objectives and Deadlines:

Initial Bumps in the Road

Pressure for most employees begins with their own and their boss’s understanding of the job scope. With so many positions to fill, large enterprises often use outdated, incomplete or standardized job descriptions for new openings, while relying on pay-per-click advertising to do the bulk of the work in attracting qualified candidates.

Once a candidate is selected and has begun employment, they may find that their duties are not fully understood by the company. They may be required to do more or completely undocumented duties as part of their core responsibilities. Another issue may arise if the entire reason behind the hire of an employee is to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of a department, leaving the fate of that department to the addition of one person, rather than a team’s improvements. This can cause panic towards meeting deadlines with a workload overflow, or not being fully qualified for the actual work that is needed.

Before re-hiring for a position, determine needs, possible improvements to the current team and if an entirely new position should be implemented. This can be decided by reviewing the business process and lifecycle from beginning to end, filling in the gaps and determining the skills required of a person to complete the team. Creating or improving upon the policies and procedures pertaining to hiring employees should include these thorough details to ensure the most qualified and fitting candidates are targeted.

Further Down the Line

So you have a complete team, but employees still feel under the thumb to produce more in less time. One reason to consider is why the pressure is being applied. Is management overwhelmed with an excess of responsibilities? Does everyone understand the policies and procedures of their work?  These seem like small issues, but when they are felt every day, the issue and anxiety grows among employees.

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Management training programs are an investment that affect every level. You see return in the perspective, attitude, organization and capabilities within your management teams, and in turn, they teach by example to their employees.

Ensuring understanding of rules, procedures and resources is another surefire way to reduce pressure to perform unrealistic expectations. If an employee is following all procedures, the emphasis to change should fall on the procedures or allocation of responsibilities.

Healthy Versus Toxic Competition in the Workplace

Wanting to further one’s career is a healthy, common desire in a capitalistic economy. However, the ability to further these odds should never be so minimal that employees engage in a Hunger Games approach to advancement, or partake in illegal activities to prove greater results. Ambitious employees are gems, and having an entire team made up of them should be a strength, not a weakness.

Establishing a fair system for advancement such as quarterly or annual reviews is an approach that keeps employees motivated, but can also increase pressure before deadlines. By adding ethical standards to reviews, and ensuring employees are treated fairly for their actions slowly deters your employees from a “Do Whatever It Takes” attitude, to transition to a more creative, hardworking and honest approach.

Job Security in the Workplace

Within every worker is a need for security, and whether an employee has costly life expenses or top dollar hobbies, there is always a push driving the workingman to his job every day. Depending on how severe that push is, and how high the risk of losing it is, if ethical standards are not a consideration in employee performance, the push to be ethical loses its strength.

Positive Work Environment and Morale Boosting

There are 168 hours per week. Removing forty-five hours for the work week, plus an average thirty minute commute, and you’re left 32 hours for a weekend, and only 6 hours per weekday to yourself (Let’s leave out how much time it might take to actually get ready for work and overtime spent), that is, if you get the recommended 8 hours of sleep.

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When spending the majority of your life dedicated to your work, a miserable environment may cause otherwise happy people to do horrifyingly inappropriate things. Other factors including the items mentioned above, can increase tension among employees and add unnecessary stress, discomfort, and discouragement.

Unfortunately, social issues cause emotional discomfort, and each individual’s emotional needs are more complex than concrete problems with straightforward solutions. Simply adding œmotivational posters around every office will not make a positive environment.

So how do you enforce positive environment and morale? One company uses a 10 foot rule: If you come within 10 feet of another employee, you are required to say hello to them. This sort of thing can often be forgotten, causing recipients of the forgotten rule to feel jilted; Feeling as if they weren’t good enough to receive even the base requirement” or if only receiving the standard œhello, it sure wouldn’t feel authentic! Social rules imply a social problem, and if an issue that discounts different personalities addressed, it causes unnecessary tension.

Social behavior should be influenced by attitude, which stems from feeling a part of a team, having sufficient resources, and being able to collaborate among team members freely and supportively. Team building workshops are a great place to start, along with morale boosting activities, and free flowing compliments.

There are no reasons for unethical behavior among teammates who have everything they need to successfully complete their work, and can do so in a positive way.

Ensuring Proper Training and Understanding to Ethical Policies

We hear this most often, although it is fifth among the broader study. Is that because it is the easiest to cope with? Probably. There are software programs that ensure your employees understand and are certified in the policies and procedures that apply to them. (Too bad there’s not a software for improving toxic competition!)

Proper training and understanding ethical policies, and their importance, stems from the origination of the policies and procedures process.

A comprehensive renovation of your policies and procedures processes should include ensuring that each employee receives policies and procedures that apply to their management level, their department, and their role, as well as the general policies that every employee under a company should follow.

In enterprises, this could mean tens of thousands of folders housing different policies. Considering the distinct rules that apply to each employee and the differences in roles, levels, and departments, using a program that automatically groups and permissions these requirements should be a top priority. ConvergePoint’s policy management software actually accesses the Active Directory, so there are no additional administrative duties required when roles change.

Improving Ethical Compliance in the Enterprise

Addressing each of these causes by detailing their nature within the enterprise should lead to the proper facilitation of corrective measures necessary to improve upon the ethical compliance among workers.

Next Step: Learn more about ensuring compliance through effective policy management and employee training on policies.

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