Business ethics exist to ensure professionals consider interests other than opportunities for their immediate gain. This helps employers and firms guard against unrealized and long-term fallout from improper employee behavior. Once a clear understanding of what ethical conduct means to a firm is established and an honest ethics policy is developed, employees must have these ethical considerations firmly entrenched into their thinking. Ethics training is, therefore, a continual process that helps create a culture of ethics.
With an honest ethics policy in hand, ethics seminars can be a good place to start. By presenting expectations and punitive actions for violating already established examples of ethics violations, employees will begin to develop an understanding of what is viewed as unacceptable behavior. Moving forward, seminars can focus on areas where a firm may not be able to intercede, yet demonstrate consequences continue to exist. It is, however, not the goal of ethics seminars to focus on punitive action, but rather, responsibility.
Strong ethics should ensure employees behave ethically when no one is around to monitor or stop them. Accordingly, setting up employees for ethical successes, not failures, is a way of controlling opportunities for employees to behave ethically. While this training and assessment tool can be somewhat difficult to administer, particularly if the opportunity is obvious, it gets employees into the practice of behaving ethically with clear rewards and minor punishments. Reinforcing these methods with other forms of assessment like determining what employees might consider when making independent decisions can help ensure successful ethics training.
Meanwhile, ethics are a lifelong commitment to healthy business practices. Whether an employee remains at the firm or moves on, ensuring that employee behaves ethically in all situations throughout his or her career requires professional development. If employees do not learn from management what they need to learn, i.e. ethics, they will look to ethical and unethical employees they perceive to be successful for guidance on how to become successful. Through mentoring and one-on-one attention from supervisors, employers can guarantee their employees properly learn how to become responsible, ethical professionals.
Ethics cannot simply be trained or glanced over once a year in a seminar. Ethics must be taught throughout an individual’s career and rewarded by upper management taking notice. Ethical employees are not the result of a training session or manual, but rather, an ethical environment where unethical behavior is addressed and discouraged. Moreover, it is the responsibility of all seasoned employees to recognize the importance of ethics then instill the need to behave ethical into other professionals, especially those just beginning their careers.