Creating an ethical and effective workplace
The following samples are reprinted from the Josephson Institute’s Good Ideas for Creating a More Ethical and Effective Workplace. The paperback book includes dozens of ideas that have been used by companies around the world. A special section details how to draft and implement ethics codes that really work. Purchase securely in the online store »
- Clarify the code of conduct
- Issue guidelines to recruiters and interviewers
- Show respect and sensitivity in terminations
- Take employee suggestions seriously
- Encourage employee volunteerism
When the Arizona Public Service Company initiated a comprehensive ethics program in the mid-1990s, its ethics officers provided senior managers instruction guides and videotaped training instructions along with copies of the company’s lengthy code of conduct. Then they asked managers to call or send e-mail – and to have those under their supervision do the same – if there were questions about the code. Queries flooded in. To manage them, the company developed the “ComplianceGram.” Herbert Zinn, principal architect of the program, outlined the system:
- When the employee makes an inquiry about compliance (usually by phone or e-mail), he/she is contacted personally to ensure a complete understanding of the question. Often an answer is provided verbally and immediately followed up with a written confirmation. This serves as a reminder to employees in case some of the answer is forgotten and it enables them to consider the response at length.
- Employees are instructed to pass on the information and post the written response in a conspicuous location for all to see.
- Periodically, all inquiries are merged into one e-mail and transmitted to department managers. They review points that are relevant to their operations and discuss them with staff members.
- Although the process is time-consuming, Mr. Zinn reported several advantages:
- By committing considerable resources, the company demonstrates its seriousness about ethical compliance.
- It gives the program high visibility.
- It helps compliance officers gauge the effectiveness and extent of the program’s implementation.
- It provides a record of the company’s good-faith efforts to administer a comprehensive ethics program.[av_hr class=’invisible’ height=’20’ shadow=’no-shadow’ position=’center’ custom_border=’av-border-thin’ custom_width=’50px’ custom_border_color=” custom_margin_top=’30px’ custom_margin_bottom=’30px’ icon_select=’yes’ custom_icon_color=” icon=’ue808′ font=’entypo-fontello’]
Employees sense how committed an organization is to ethics even before their first day on the job. During interviews and in the recruiting process, tell prospective employees in no uncertain terms that ethical conduct is the first responsibility of all the company’s members. (Then, of course, senior managers must set an example and do all they can to demonstrate this.) Consider sharing these ethical guidelines with recruiters and interviewers:
The Employer Must:
- Hire in a way that does not promote discrimination of any kind.
- Accurately represent the organization.
- Offer a salary that is within an accepted, appropriate range for the position.
- Honor employment offers.
- Allow candidates ample time to make a decision. Be respectful of their desire to interview with other companies.
In summary, be truthful!
The Candidate Must:
- Have a sincere interest in pursuing a position with that firm (don’t accept a company’s offer and keep interviewing; don’t renege on an acceptance; don’t play firms against one another).
- Be honest and open about future plans (e.g., graduate or law school, transfer/relocation requests).
- Honor any guidelines that have been established between the school and employer.
- Be honest and open about salary or decision date information.
- Make a legitimate effort to respond within the agreed-upon time frame.
In summary, be truthful!
[av_hr class=’invisible’ height=’20’ shadow=’no-shadow’ position=’center’ custom_border=’av-border-thin’ custom_width=’50px’ custom_border_color=” custom_margin_top=’30px’ custom_margin_bottom=’30px’ icon_select=’yes’ custom_icon_color=” icon=’ue808′ font=’entypo-fontello’]
Unfortunately, firms occasionally have to terminate employees. When doing so, use the following pointers:
- Document incidents as they occur and get the facts. Don’t let rumors and secondhand information cloud performance assessments.
- Ensure direct and timely communication with the employee; no one should be fired without knowing why.
- Be sure to warn employees whose performance needs improvement. Then give them a reasonable amount of time to reverse course.
- Timing is critical. Try to ensure that the worker has some private time immediately after you give him the news.
- Keep plans quiet. Co-workers shouldn’t be giving tips and spreading rumors about another’s fate.
- Do not try to make light of the situation with jokes or other attempts at amusement.
- Do it face-to-face, not with an impersonal pink slip.
- Do it privately. Humiliating someone in front of co-workers is inexcusable.
- No matter how incompetent, unreliable, or poorly mannered the terminated person has been, do your best to empathize and show sensitivity – not because she or he is a respectable person, but becauseyou are.[av_hr class=’invisible’ height=’20’ shadow=’no-shadow’ position=’center’ custom_border=’av-border-thin’ custom_width=’50px’ custom_border_color=” custom_margin_top=’30px’ custom_margin_bottom=’30px’ icon_select=’yes’ custom_icon_color=” icon=’ue808′ font=’entypo-fontello’]
The suggestion box is a fixture in many offices. But according to a recent survey, only 41 percent of employees believe the average company listens to workers’ ideas. While many businesses reward people who contribute outstanding ideas, the criteria for such perks tend to focus on boosting productivity and profits – not principles. Bob Nelson, in his 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, lists dozens of innovative programs, a couple of which encourage employees to help create a more ethical work environment. Example:
- The General Mills “ Championship Way” program at the company’s Minneapolis headquarters gathers employees from different departments to discuss how to increase accountability and reduce blameshifting. The General Mills values statement serves as a guide and filter for suggestions. Small groups meet later to discuss how to implement the ideas. Finally, the company rewards employees who make the most helpful suggestions.
What about employees who make suggestions but believe management has passed them over for rewards? Here’s an idea for making the process fair:
- Eastman Kodak in Rochester, New York, tries to encourage employees to contribute money-saving ideas by rewarding them with 15 percent of the savings achieved in the first two years of the idea’s implementation. If an employee’s idea results in a new product, he or she receives 3 percent of its sales in the first year. Kodak reportedly has given awards – averaging $3 million annually – to more than 30,000 people.[av_hr class=’invisible’ height=’20’ shadow=’no-shadow’ position=’center’ custom_border=’av-border-thin’ custom_width=’50px’ custom_border_color=” custom_margin_top=’30px’ custom_margin_bottom=’30px’ icon_select=’yes’ custom_icon_color=” icon=’ue808′ font=’entypo-fontello’]
A company can plainly show it cares about doing good as much as doing well by committing resources and time to support the community. Ideally, this means sending not just money, but employees – on company time. Examples:
- For decades, Coldwell Banker has participated in Habitat for Humanity’s universally praised mission — to build simple, decent, and affordable homes in partnership with deserving families. Employees from hundreds of Coldwell Banker offices across the country support the work of this nonprofit group in a variety of ways: from promotion (e.g., distributing stickers, pins, notepads, postcards, and brochures) to fundraising (e.g., tournaments, raffles, collection jars, and collective employee garage sales) to supporting Habitat volunteers (e.g., sponsoring parties) to actually hammering nails to construct quality housing for low-income families.
- Perot Systems offered to donate $120,000 in groceries and toys to inner-city residents – if employees delivered them personally. The company wanted workers to “walk the talk” by contributing time and energy rather than just money. In addition, the personnel department created a new division to help employees arrange afternoons off to teach English-as-a-second-language classes or to volunteer at senior or day-care centers.
- Ben & Jerry’s Community Action Teams (CATs) consist of employees who are elected by their co-workers to make small grants to local community organizations and to organize service projects that involve local Ben & Jerry’s employees. To get staff members involved in corporate philanthropy, the company maintains a nine-member Employee Foundation Committee to make grantmaking decisions. Chosen by their co-workers and representing various sectors of the company, the members of this committee serve three-year terms, staggered to ensure continuity.
- McCormick & Company, Inc., a manufacturer of seasonings and frozen foods, holds its annual “Charity Day” on a Saturday and encourages employees to show up at work and donate their pay (provided at time-and-a-half by the company) to a favorite charity. More than 90 percent of the staff participates. The company also matches its employees’ charitable contributions dollar for dollar.
- After seven years of service, Intel employees may apply for half a year off, with pay, to pursue public service or teaching.
- If a Levi Strauss employee actively participates for a year in a community organization, the company’s foundation will donate $500 to that group. A nonprofit organization with a Levi Strauss employee on its board will receive a grant of $500, $1,000, or $1,500 depending on the size of its budget.
- The Los Angeles-based Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) holds an annual community-service awards ceremony for its employees.
- Through the AT&T CARES (Community Awards Recognizing Employee Service) Grant Program, employees can apply for contributions to benefit the organizations where they volunteer. An employee may request up to three AT&T CARES individual grants of $250 each in a calendar year to three different organizations.
- In 1989, the Timberland Company started a relationship with City Year, a Boston-based “urban Peace Corps” that brings together young people from diverse backgrounds for a year of full-time community service. Timberland has since invested millions of dollars in City Year. Separately, through its Path of Service program, Timberland employees receive 40 hours of paid time off to serve in their communities.
- Clothes the Deal, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit, provides professional attire to homeless and other needy job seekers. The organization screens clients and offers them high-quality secondhand officewear to help them get jobs. To gather donations for Clothes the Deal, several local businesses hold clothing drives. Apparel stores have offered discounts on merchandise to customers who donate business suits, blouses, and shirts. Nissan Motor Corp. USA and Honda Motors have also sponsored successful clothing drives for Clothes the Deal. For more information or to arrange a companywide clothing drive, visit www.clothesthedeal.org or contact Clothes the Deal at (818) 798‑9186.
- Kelsey’s Pizzeria Eatery isn’t in business just to make dough. The Orlando-based food chain has teamed up with a local middle school to combat youth violence by rewarding students with free pizza if they participate in discussions about guns and violence at school. The youngsters (and their parents) also must sign an anti-guns-at-school contract. Kelsey’s has also helped other businesses conduct similar programs. Contact them at (407) 671-1760.