Employees are the first people to see risk and unethical behaviour. The 2019 Global Business Ethics Survey (GBES) shows globally nearly one-half of all employees reported witnessing conduct risk. It pays, therefore, to work with the social life of your organisation to recognise how employees relate to risk management. Skills training must address any organisational contextual barriers inhibiting risk management. Specific employees personal skills training enables them to raise issues before they become the sort of organisational scandals experienced by Wells Fargo’s and Volkswagen where many employees went along with prevailing unethical practices. Key steps in building trust include:
- Tone at the top: Winning the co-operation of the top team to support and participate in moving to a “listening” culture orientation builds trust between leaders and their followers. What leaders say and do sends the loudest signal about whether it is safe to raise concerns and trumps the power of any policy.
- Take a systems approach – Initiatives to build cultures of integrity require “whole of organisation” participation. Only then are employees confident that the same rules and the same behaviour standards apply to all. Organisational justice is a key determinant of a trust culture emerging
- Appeal to personal Identity: Employees have a strong self-identity that they are ethical and rarely self-identify as risk sources. Leveraging of employees’ ethical identity is a powerful lever for their co-operation in risk management.
- Build life Skills – leverage of the new insights provided by the behaviour sciences to forewarn and forearm employees to their biases associated with unethical behaviour. Use a stakeholder decision-making model to widen their frames of references.
- Train managers and employees in “speak up” skills to build a shared organisational language around risk. Organise training in cross-sectional groups to enable employees to “hear” each other’s concerns.
- Peer to peer accountability: Leaders need to hold each other to the organisation’s stated values. Insist managers at every level develop action plans for how they will be role models of values.
- Embed in the organisation: The ethical culture needs to be audited annually and research findings shared with leaders to enable accountability and organisational learning.
Ideally, speak up initiatives will be a cornerstone to the organisation living its values and championed as a culture enabler rather than a compliance protocol.
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