March is National Ethics Awareness Month! This campaign was designed to inspire companies to craft or strengthen an ethical culture within their organization. How can you celebrate? Keep reading to learn more from your partners at Integrity Employee Leasing!
What Are Work Ethics?
Workplace ethics — not to be confused with work ethic, which refers to someone’s dedication to hard work — refers to the application of moral values to every aspect of a business. Work ethics applies to not only how a business interacts with customers, but also its inner workings and interactions between employees.
The Goal of Ethics Awareness Month
Shouldn’t all businesses be ethical? That’s certainly one goal, but the point of National Ethics Awareness Month is to encourage workplaces to refocus on what they can do to make ethics an inherent part of how they do business, as well as promote involvement in every level of every organization. The goal of any ethical workplace culture is to make it easy to do the right thing and difficult to do the wrong thing — but what does that mean, and what can you do to make it a reality?
What You Can Do
There is no one-size-fits-all ethics program you can implement today, but there are plenty of steps you can take to build a more ethical culture!
Establish a Code of Ethics
If your organization doesn’t have a code of ethics, then that’s the first step you should take toward establishing a better workplace. Everyone – from your C-suite executives to your interns – should understand your business’ standards for ethical behavior. You need to craft a set of values or principles that you expect everyone in your organization to aspire to.
The best way to make sure that everyone takes your new code of ethics seriously is to back up your standards with rewards and consequences. Misconduct happens in every company, whether that looks like conflicts of interest or falsifying timecards or more serious problems like bribery. Having established guidelines on how to handle unethical behavior — and how to reward exemplary behavior — can reinforce your principles for everyone in your organization.
Encourage Employee Involvement
Another important factor to add to your to-do list? Working to ensure an environment where people at all levels within the company feel they can speak freely and frankly about ethical concerns.
According to a National Business Ethics Study of the U.S. Workforce compiling decades of results:
- More than 40% of workers said they observed on-the-job misconduct that violated their employers’ standards
- Only 63% of those workers reported what they say
- 21% of those who reported misconduct experienced some form of retaliation
Having a code of ethics is just the first step. Your organization should have a complete ethics program. This includes formal avenues for your employees to report or discuss any concerns they have about unethical behavior or activities. More importantly, your program needs to include protection from retaliation, so your team members feel comfortable discussing ethics without fear of reprimand.
Encourage Management to Be Role Models
One of the most essential elements of having an ethical workplace is making sure that everyone in the upper-level roles of your company takes ethics seriously. Ethics should be a priority for your company’s CEO, and all the leaders in your business should make an effort to visibly model ethical behavior.
According to the study we cited above, 60% of the misconduct witnessed by workers involved someone in management, and about 25% of the incidents involved senior managers. Bad examples in your leadership team can affect your entire company. If the “higher ups” take ethics seriously, and they are held to your established standards like every other team member, then the rest of your workforce will have an easier time implementing and upholding the ethical principles you establish.
Make Ethics a Part of Everyday Business
Participating in National Ethics Awareness Month and taking all the steps we mentioned is a great start, but the only way to truly integrate ethics into your company culture is to make it a part of your everyday operations. Make ethics a facet of all your decision-making, and be clear about it. For example, rather than talking about how a certain action may be potentially damaging to the company’s reputation, prioritize how it would be ethically objectionable.
You should also integrate your code of ethics into training for new employees. For ongoing employees, talk about ethics frequently to keep it at the front of everyone’s minds, and offer ethics training through workshops or seminars.
Why Ethics Matter
No organization is exempt from ethical challenges. There will likely always be a few people stealing a coworker’s lunch or “getting creative” with the numbers on their timecard. What matters is how you handle misconduct, and loudly and visibly making ethics a priority in your workplace can create a more positive culture for everyone. It supports a healthy and happy workforce, and studies show that it can even lead to better stock performance and more business.
Focus on What Matters With Integrity
Integrity Employee Leasing is here to offer the support you need so you can focus on what really matters: making your business the best it can be. Offload time-consuming tasks like payroll and human resources services to our highly qualified team members, and free up your time to focus on workplace ethics and other important factors. Contact us today to learn more!