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Ethics: Now You See Them, Now You Don’t

If you do a search on Google for the word “ethics”, it spits out 191,000,000 hits. Considering that we live in a time when breaches of ethics seem to be one of the main newsworthy items in the media, I guess it’s not so surprising. Daily we hear about padded expense accounts, misappropriation of funds, fraud, conspiracy…the list goes on.

Kate Moore, RPR
MQ Editor
On the front lines of business, however, smaller battles are being fought that put these large breaches of ethics into perspective and make us realize how unsurprising it is that they have become so commonplace.

The Ethics Resource Centre is a non-profit organization in the United States dedicated to the advancement of organizational ethics. They have been conducting the National Business Ethics Survey (NBES), “How Employees View Ethics in Their Organizations” on an annual basis since 1994. This year’s survey yielded some very telling results.

While an increasing number of organizations are now providing training in ethics and have policies and procedures in place to support this training, the outcomes one might expect from these efforts have either remained unchanged or actually worsened. The results of the NBES showed that of the 52% of employees who observed misconduct last year, only 55% saw fit to report it, even though three quarters of them had the avenue to do so. Ethics violations included observed discrimination, witnessed theft, safety violations and abusive behaviour directed at an employee.

What does this survey tell us? Training and procedures are all well and good, but the best way to ensure good outcomes is to pair a strong formal training program with a strong culture of corporate ethics. Where top management was seen to display certain ethics related actions, employees were up to 50% less likely to observe misconduct in the organization. Ethics related actions of co-workers made employees more willing to report misconduct at least 10% of the time. And when employees perceived that those who were caught were held responsible and disciplined accordingly for ethics violations, their satisfaction with their jobs rose an astonishing 32%.

If you think about this premise from the perspective of your own workplace, it makes complete sense. Think about the instances where you and your co-workers have observed the conduct of others – arriving late, leaving early, playing computer games on the job or surfing the Internet, taking home office supplies, using sick leave inappropriately – and realized that even when supervisors are aware of this behaviour there are no real consequences. Morale plunges out of frustration, and suddenly there are many more people who begin to fall into similar behaviour to achieve a sense of internal equity. This type of behaviour can snowball, and result in unreported misconduct at all levels of the organization.

It is only when formal programs are applied and ethical behaviour is expected and reinforced at all levels of the organization that things will turn around. As with anything in the realm of human resources, we see that the key to success is consistency in application and accountability – both organizational and individual.

Sustaining Key Employees in the War for Talent

According to Bill Bonnstetter and Bill Brooks the reasons include:
  • People are complex and bring more variables to the job than can be measured.
  • Identifying top performers is often a personality contest
  • Mastery of skills not needed for superior job performance might be included as requirements by biased people
  • Jobs today are more complex than in the past – more intangible – and lend themselves to less tangible evidence of performance.

    Joy Humphrey
    Excel Group
    If the job could talk, it would clearly identify its performance issues: Knowledge, Hard skills, Behavior, Rewards/Culture, Personal skills. The job cannot talk; people do, so we need a system to reduce the biased opinions on performance criteria.

    One system enables you to benchmark jobs and assess the talents they require for superior performance by answering the following questions:
  • What attributes are required for superior performance on this job? (From the work of Robert S Hartman and the Attribute Index)
  • What are the internal motivators that the job rewards?
  • What behaviors are necessary for success on this particular job?

    Businesses today need a complete system that will take them from recruiting and selection to retention and development of talent.

    1. Benchmark the Job! The key accountabilities and critical goals and the key business successes the job is accountable for serve as a reference point.

    2. Assess Personal Talent! An unbiased assessment reveals the Values that motivate a person, the Behaviors they bring to the job and whether or not they have the specific Capacities – Attributes – needed for performance.

    3. Compare the Talent to the Job! Identify the strengths to capitalize on as well as the gaps. Coaching the person in the areas identified for individual development needs to be addressed to goals and supported by action plans

    Commitment and accountability are key. When the job requirements are identified, people can be compared against the standard. When the gaps are identified they can be coached for commitment to improve in very specific areas. When they have committed to improving, holding them accountable is easy.

    Note: Bill J. Bonnstetter and Bill Brooks combined Robert S Hartman’s Attribute Index with proven assessments that measure Behavior and Values. They developed a talent management system, the TriMetrix™ System, that will withstand the test of time.
    Copyright © 2003 Bill J. Bonnstetter and Bill Brooks

    Joy is the western region executive partner with Excel Group Development. She is a Certified Professional Behavioural Analyst (CPBA) and a Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA) with over 25 years’ experience in providing learning and performance solutions.; 1-888-89COACH

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