“Cyrus Mistry breached Tata ethics”- screams a headline in a leading newspaper. The talk with my walking companions has invariably centred around this topic not particularly about Cyrus Mistry’s ouster but more so on the ethics and work culture in India today. A close friend bemoaned that millennials lack work culture or ethics. Do they really? I wondered aloud but before I could come up with a counter argument, my friend said rather indignantly, “Earlier we used to spend our lifetime working at one office but today’s youngsters keep jumping jobs like there is no tomorrow”. Is this trend an indicator that age old tenets like honesty, integrity and dedication no longer exists? Certainly, not. However, the recent cases of scandals, frauds, and irregularities in various organizations in our country has raised the issue of ethics in workplace.
Be it a business conglomerate or a small/medium enterprise, an organization that fosters professionalism should never compromise on work ethics to achieve their goal. So, how can we cultivate an ethical work culture? Before we delve into that, let’s understand what exactly is an ethical organizational culture. It’s a place where the top management or the leader personifies integrity and encourages an open and honest communication and where employees have the freedom to speak about any wrong doings. As per the ‘Ethics in the Workplace’ survey in 2010, employees and clients are increasingly choosing ethical companies to work with and do business with.
At the outset, let us look at some basic work ethics:
- Punctuality and dependability: “Our office timings are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. but I can never reach my workplace before 9.30!”. I am sure you have heard someone in your office say this. Arriving late is no laughing matter. A person who consistently arrives late will have different excuses for his tardiness. Being punctual is viewed by employers as being dependable. Show that you respect and honour your job by arriving on time. After all, It’s not a herculean task to achieve.
- Responsibility: A responsible person will invariably work hard and possess strong work ethics. An ethical work culture is all about responsible employees who work hard, stick to deadlines and is a team player. Indulging in personal work during office hours is an unethical practice that can send a wrong message to your subordinates and employer.
- Self-motivated & Positive Attitude: A person who is self-motivated and exhibits a positive attitude even under stressful situations is bound to create an environment of good will and set an example for others. Good work culture is all about eliminating negativity and nurturing positive attitude.
- Professionalism: An unethical work culture implies unprofessional behaviour and attitude. At the same time, we must not misinterpret professionalism as dressing well and looking good. A true professional is someone who is honest, learns every aspect of his job and works to the best of his abilities.
Does every person working in your organization possess the above attributes? If the answer is yes, then I must applaud your HR team for their commendable work.
Human Resource Professionals play a significant role in formulating, advocating and guarding ethics. Their role stems from the selection and recruitment process itself which has to be honest and fair. Ethical work culture goes much beyond the realm of HR. To understand better, read on to understand the ways to build an ethical work culture:
- Set a code of ethics – The principles and core values of the company can become operative if it is articulated in the written form. Every organization should formulate a code of ethics(COE) which is basically a guideline of rules and standards for employees to follow. Though it’s the HR’s task, management should provide ample support and make sure that employees are aware of COE and comprehend it.
- Allow employees to report unethical behaviour – If an employee is a witness to an unethical practice or behaviour, he should be fearless in reporting the same. Organizations must provide its employees a safe and anonymous way to voice their complaints. If required, punish any violators of your ethics policy. One bad employee can ruin the image of the entire company.
- Role Model –If you expect your employees to behave in an ethical manner, then the leader or the top management should become an embodiment of morality. If the leaders become the role model, employees are more likely to behave in an ethical manner. Parag Pande, Managing Director-HR sums it up succinctly, “It’s important for top management to be seen as ambassadors for strong values and ethics. This will ensure employees look up to them as role models and modify their own behaviour accordingly.”
- Organize Workshops/Training Programs: Setting business goals or marketing goals for the upcoming year is a common practice followed by several companies but organizations should also work towards providing training on workplace ethics. Ethics training programs or workshops should include group discussions, one to one meetings with top management, case study analysis etc. Such training programs will emphasize that your organization is very serious when it comes to adherence to ethical behaviour.
- Implement Work ethics assessment – Central Test, a global leader in the development of psychometric assessments recently carried out a research among its clients. They discovered that 74% of HR managers believe their organisation suffers significant losses due to unethical behaviour, while 81% expressed interest in an assessment specifically designed to measure it. If you want to assess the honesty, dependability and rule compliance attitude of a candidate, then implement work ethics assessment. It’s a scientific tool designed to identify individuals whose principles and values are in sync with your organization and it can also envisage counterproductive work behaviour. ETIX, is one such tool designed by Central Test to help companies evaluate the risks of counterproductive work behaviour and implement preventive measures. Central Test believes that ETIX can give companies and institutions the opportunity to review their practices, raise awareness of ethical responses among employees and partners, and implement appropriate management tools and training programmes. This can be used for both recruitment purposes and internal development.
A company which strives only to achieve profits but is unscrupulous in its business dealings have minimal chances of survival. Ethical work culture is crucial to an organization’s success as it ushers in strong team work, high productivity and unswerving integrity with stakeholders. Hence, Nurture it for consistent growth trajectory.