An ethical program is a system designed to raise and promote ethical issues among Company employees by way of instilling core desirable values which an organization thinks are most pertinent to its business processes, and which they are also legally bound to observe. An effective ethics program must have six important components; a code of ethics, communication channel, training program, reporting mechanism, investigation procedures, and an audit system (Brooks and Dunn, 2010).
There are two major ways that an ethics program can be designed; either as a fully integrated system that incorporates all personnel in an organization or as a self-contained program that is mainly implemented at higher levels by senior employees (Dunmon, 2004). Whichever design that an organization chooses to implement which in most cases is a fully integrated program, it is essential to decide the best orientation that the program should have.
Towards this end an ethics program orientation can be structured as compliance-based, integrity-values based, the satisfaction of external stakeholders based, top management protection based, or a hybrid system that incorporates all the above factors (Dunmon, 2004). In this paper, the type of ethics program that I am going to design would be a fully integrated ethics program that considers all the above areas of orientation.
Organizational Behavior Change
Because the change in employee behavior and actions, which is a factor of organizational behavior is the ultimate goal of any ethics program let us briefly describe what employee behavior change entails.
Organizational behavior refers to norms and practices that workers adopt in workthe place in order to achieve preset goals and objectives as defined by the vision of the organization (Alma and Jervis, 2003). Organization behavior dictates how members of the same organization relate to each other and interact, it spells the code of conduct within the workplace and elsewhere and incorporates ideas and concepts found in job ethics and work guidelines.
It is these behavioral values that define the organizational best practices, traditions, vision, expectations, and ultimately the core component of the ethics program. With every organization in a condition of change as well as increasing government regulation, it is becoming essential that outcomes of change such as employee behavior be appropriately influenced to ensure that organizations desired behavioral values are fostered; the best way to achieve this is through a well-designed ethics program.
Aspects of Ethical Culture
An ethic program must have key aspects that are designed to be at the core of the system; in order to determine the priority aspects that should form the essence of the desired ethics program, it is important to keep in mind the major reasons that drive the need of an ethics program in the first place. There are possibly more than six major factors that motivate organizations to implement an ethics program, in this case, the reasons that require the implementation of this ethical program are heightened government regulatory policies such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, mitigation of litigation from stakeholders, legal considerations and economic considerations. This implies that the ethics program that must be designed should adopt both strategies of corporate ethics program i.e. compliance strategy and integrity strategy (Dunmon, 2004).
The ethics program should adopt a compliance strategy because of the need to comply with various government regulations, mitigate criminal litigations and achieve desired behavior change among employees (Brooks and Dunn, 2010). On the other hand, an integrity strategy is necessary to ensure that employees uphold the organization’s values through their actions and behavior which should also be incorporated in the business processes of the Company (Brooks and Dunn, 2010). Integrity strategy also ensures that employee values are aligned with the organization’s vision and mission statement.
As such the elements that I would seek to incorporate in this ethics program are nine in total which includes a culture of ethical leadership from the senior members of the organization, reward system, fair consideration, reliable communication channels, emphasis on authority, emphasis on employee value, organizational unique policies, enforcement officers and other support systems (Brooks and Dunn, 2010).
The elements of ethical leadership ensure that senior executives and managers become the driving force of implementing the ethics program through influence and example. For any form of an ethics program to be credible, it must appear to be fair, just, open, effective, and reliable in order for employees to have faith in it and thereby abide by it; for the same reason, an integrated reward system would be essential in promoting compliance. Finally, an equally important element of an ethics program must incorporate organizational core values as described in its policies and other structures such as enforcement strategies and implementation procedures.
Components of Ethics Programs
The integral components of an ethics program include 6 major considerations; ethic codes, communication structures, ethics committees, ethic officers, education programs, and an element of enforcement such as disciplinary procedures (Brooks and Dunn, 2010). An organization’s code of ethics can be designed in three different ways i.e. as a statement of standards and rules that employees should observe, or as a statement of the organization’s values or as a statement of corporate vision (Dunmon, 2004). I would choose to have the ethic codes written as a statement of organizational values which will make it easier for employees to adopt and therefore easy to implement in the process; in this part of ethic codes, I will include the A to Z of do’s and don’ts that personnel should strive to abide by.
The other major component that I will address is communication; communication is the process by which information is transmitted between two persons or more. For communication to occur there must be a medium on which information is transmitted, such as signs, language, writing, or expressions. Various research studies indicate that the work environment is the biggest determinant of the level of communication among employees (Curtis, 2009).
Besides the work environment, the nature of work is another determinant of the form of communication that is likely to take place in the workplace (Curtis, 2009). The implication of these findings indicate that communication channels in ethics program are determined by work procedures of a Company largely because it will have to rely on the overall communication structure that already exist in the organization.
The role of ethics committee is to spearhead the process of developing and redesigning ethical codes in line with emerging trends. More importantly, ethics committee must ensure that the organization ethical standards are continuously achieved as well as make certain that the Company ethics are compatible with new government regulations and laws that are always enacted. The ethics committee role is very similar to Research and Development department that is found in many organizations because it must continuously work to ensure that organization’s ethical values remain relevant. It must also arbitrate and investigate incidences of noncompliance and possible conflict of interests. Therefore in order for ethics committee to function effectively it must have control to three key organs that are necessary to ensure its efficiency; compliance officers who are responsible for enforcing the approved standard of ethics and who also investigate non-compliance incidences.
The other organ that the ethics committee must have is a training program whose purpose is to ensure that all the stakeholders are well versed with their specific roles that makeup the ethics program. Because it is the committee that researches and comes up with ethic values that should be observed, it is the best placed committee that can design an effective training program for all the various implementing partners. Finally, it should also be the committee that chairs the disciplinary process of personnel who are not compliant to the approved values.
Implementation and Maintenance of Ethics Program
The success of an ethics program in an organization largely depends on the efforts of the various implementing actors, while this involve all personnel in an organizations who are collectively the major determinant factor of its success, there are key specific actors who are strategically placed to significantly determine its success. In this case the following actors will be crucial for the implementation and success of the program; the organization top executive officer, ethical officers, ethic committee and all senior Company personnel. The organization CEO is crucial in implementing an ethics program because he/she is responsible in chatting the way forward of the Company, developing new policies and abolishing old ones.
Because an ethic program must be based on the organizations policies, business processes and its core values, CEO is the most important actor after the ethics committee So is the ethics committee which is single handedly responsible for almost all the aspect of the ethics program from its research, design, implementation, enforcement, review and audit. For this reason I would ensure that ethics committee has great leeway in all matters that involve program implementation and sustenance.
Alma, Whiteley and Jervis, Whiteley. (2003). Core Values and Organizational Change. Melbourne, Australia: Curtin University Press.
Brooks, J. & Dunn, K. (2008). Business and Professional Ethics for Directors, Executives & Accountants. Oklahama: South-Western Publishing.
Curtis, J. C. (2009). Managing Sticky Situations at Work: Communication Secrets for Success in the Workplace. Washington, D.C: McHillPublishers.
Dunmon, C. (2004). Corporate Ethics Programs. Web.