Do you have an ethical organization?

By:  Carol Nibley

I recently read shocking statistics about workplace theft and was amazed to learn that employees steal more than shoplifters. (See http://www2.dothaneagle.com/news/2012/feb/25/employee-theft-costs-retailers-more-shoplifting-or-ar-3300491/ for more information.) Even in non-retail businesses, opportunities are abundant for employees to commit fraud and engage in other costly behaviors. How can your organization reduce and prevent these types of unethical activities?

Here are some suggestions:

First, start at the top. Make sure each owner, business executive, and leader in the organization models the expected behaviors. If leaders lack ethics, employees likely will follow. Make sure ethical behaviors are modeled by organizational leaders.

Second, make every effort to thoroughly background check your employees before hiring them. Speak with former managers and co-workers and ask specific questions relating to your candidates’ integrity. Comply with the recent EEOC guidelines and the Fair Credit Reporting Act in checking criminal backgrounds of each employee.

Third, create a written code of business ethics by which all employees are expected to comply. All publicly held companies are required to have a code of ethics as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation in the wake of the Enron scandal.  The code of ethics should be written, discussed, and followed carefully. Each employee should review this code of ethics on a regular basis and sign his or her agreement to comply. You can find hundreds of examples on the Internet or enlist the aid of an organization such as the Ethics Resource Center (http://www.ethics.org/page/ethics-toolkit) for assistance in creating a code of ethics.

Fourth, make sure there are confidential avenues for employees to report abuses of the organization’s policies. Take action when these abuses are investigated and determined to be accurate.

Finally, celebrate and share the rewards with employees when the organization’s profits increase as a result of everyone’s ethical behaviors.

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