Successful ethics programs need to be grounded in reality. The context within which the organisation exists, how people are managed and how the organisation succeeds are the critical success factors for ethical organisations The starting point is a survey of employees. Good leaders don’t try and second guess what their employees think or how they will behave in a given situation. They need to know what assumptions their people are likely to make and also how the ‘mood in the middle’ (middle manager influencers) is impacting on culture.
Benefits of Ethics Surveys
Surveys allow you to test or measure 5 important aspects of ethical culture:
- Do people know the rules? Are they aware of ‘behavioural’ policies?
- Do managers behave ethically? The perception of the ethical tone
- Comfort in speaking up – do people know how to raise issues?
- Awareness of reporting channels – how do I escalate an issue and who is the appropriate person?
- Do employees who have observed misconduct know what to do?
Ethics surveys are an important signal to regulators that management and the Board are regularly assessing conduct risk. Ultimately, they become the preserve of the Board Ethics Committee or the Board Fraud and Risk Committee.
Ethical surveys, or ‘pulse checks’, are important at 3 stages of an ethical framework:
- Before you begin building the framework. A famous saying is “In order to know where you are going, you need to know where you’re starting from.” Ethical surveys will tell you your starting point and give you a map of your current ethical challenges.
- At regular points along the journey. Even if you have been implementing an ethical framework over time, it’s important to gauge how you are doing. Does the framework still work for people? Has the culture shifted since you began? Do adjustments need to be made to the implementation or resources?
- As a cultural intervention. As part of a broader cultural review you might want to conduct an ethics survey as input to a cultural re-invention.
The most important thing is to focus on behaviours not opinions or attitudes; “I have seen”, “I have experienced”.
Managing Values’ Principals pioneered the ethical survey 21 years ago and have successfully conducted surveys across Australia and across Asia. Our approach is behavioural. In other words, we seek to understand what people do or see, not what they think. “Is your manager ethical?”; “is ethical conduct rewarded?”; “Do people understand what is expected of them?”; “Are unethical people promoted?”; “what corrupt conduct have you observed?” The answers to these questions and many more are critical to the successful management of the organisation.