In business, the lines between right and wrong can sometimes be blurred. When your employees are in a situation where the right thing to do isn’t always clear, how will they respond? Business ethics is an area of employee training that sometimes gets overlooked. However, it’s critical to enable your employees to understand the importance of ethics in the workplace. Use ethics training to show employees how to make ethical business decisions that help the company reach its goals.
Understand the Value of Ethics Training for Employees
Unethical behavior in the workplace can have serious implications, leading to fines, imprisonment or bankruptcy. Ethics training can prevent the negative consequences your business may face. The benefits of ethical decision making include:
- Higher profitability: Your company’s bottom line is protected from fines that result from unethical behavior. In addition, you may avoid plummeting stock prices that happen as a result of negative publicity.
- Reduced risk: With ethical behavior, you can reduce actions that may put your business in jeopardy, financially or otherwise.
- Increased engagement: Employees value working for companies that focus on ethical behavior. This results in lower turnover and higher retention.
Build It Into the Company Culture
Ethical behavior needs to come from the top down. It should be part of the company’s vision, mission and core values and be woven into the company’s work culture. Include your focus on ethics in your company’s new employee package so every employee has the chance to become familiar with them from the start.
Be sure to regularly remind employees of the areas in which your business takes great care to perform ethically. These may include:
- Customer privacy
- Employee and customer data protection
- Money handling
- Customer relations
- Employee behavior
Develop a code of ethics for your employees and share it with your team. This can be included in the employee package and posted in the staff room. Some organizations have their employees sign a statement saying that they will uphold the code of ethics in the workplace.
Discuss Potential Ethical Dilemmas in the Workplace
Ethics training can be as simple or as complex as you need. In many organizations, ethics training starts off with a simple conversation. One idea for an ethics training activity is to discuss potential ethical dilemmas employees may encounter in the workplace and decide as a team the best course of action.
Divide your employees into groups of three to six. Give each group a potential situation they may deal with at work. Examples include seeing an employee take a few dollars from the cash register, hearing a colleague use an offensive term and seeing a manager bully an intern. Ask each group to discuss what they would do in each situation. Have them determine an ethical and unethical course of action.
This activity can also be turned into a role-playing game. Ask the groups to act out the scenario with a few different outcomes, and have the larger group decide on which is the most ethical resolution.
Research Real-World Ethical Examples and Consequences
The consequences of unethical behavior in the workplace may not seem tangible to your employees until they see some real-world examples. Take some time to research unethical behavior from corporations in the news and the consequences of those actions. Have your team review the details and talk about how those consequences affect the employees, customers, partners and community members. An unethical business decision can affect many people, so it’s important to see the full ramifications.
When implementing ethics in the workplace, ask employees to brainstorm possible situations that they may deal with in their day-to-day tasks. Divide the employees into small groups and then have them list out the consequences of those ethical dilemmas. Who will be affected if they make an unethical decision? How will they be affected?
On the other hand, it’s also important to see what happens if they make the ethical choice. How will they benefit? How will the business benefit? This will help employees to relate the consequences to their daily lives.
Anam Ahmed is a Toronto-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience helping small businesses and entrepreneurs reach new heights. She has experience ghostwriting and editing business books, especially those in the "For Dummies" series, in addition to writing and editing web content for the brand. Anam works as a marketing strategist and copywriter, collaborating with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, lifestyle bloggers to professional athletes. As a small business owner herself, she is well-versed in what it takes to run and market a small business. Anam earned an M.A. from the University of Toronto and a B.A.H. from Queen's University. Learn more at www.anamahmed.ca.