Home' HR Monthly : August 2016 Contents 12
HR SEEMS MORE BEHAVED THAN OTHER EXECUTIVES
when it comes to corporate scandals. However, incidents of wrong
doing by HR do exist -- it just normally goes unreported or doesn't
garner media attention.
HR is often seen as the voice of reason or the corporate conscience.
When that 'conscience' is seen to be on the wrong side of unethical
behaviour, the damage to reputation can be devastating.
"Whenever HR is the culprit, the reaction seems to be more severe,
this is because compliance with rules and regulations is often viewed as
the specialty and provenance of HR."
In 2013, Lucy Adams, who was the head of HR at the BBC, was
labelled a liar by a parliamentary committee, and there were sections
of the BBC newsroom cheering on in agreement. Accusations were
that 'lip-gloss Lucy' had allowed the BBC to lose its way by supporting
cronyism and fraud in six-figure settlements to executives.
ON THE FRONTLINE
One study of ethics programs in Fortune 500 service and industrial
firms found that those companies vested ethics and compliance
management as much with HR as they did with legal disciplines.
The study also found that HR and legal departments were equally
involved in ethics training, while legal, audit and control functions
dominated investigations into ethical or legal violations.
If HR is to continue to be the 'conscience' or a leader in ethics, then we
had better be clear about what that means and what it takes.
In many companies, the expression used around ethics is 'compliance
programs', or a code of ethics and code of conduct.
The problem with this is:
1. What is legal may not be ethical.
2. There is a difference between codes of ethics based on compliance
versus those based on integrity and values.
3. Audits are too late and retroactive. They don't deal with problems as
they arise or proactively.
Compliance is based on prevention, detection and punishment.
'Thou shalt not'. Most organisations are still on the low road of a
compliance and audit culture.
Employees who are mandated to follow rules or follow the leader
can end up in a dangerous situation, depending on who the leader is. In
this environment there is less independent thinking or challenge to the
rules. Situations change and rules can become defunct.
If we are to stem the flow of corporate scandals such as we have seen
with VW and 7-Eleven, both of which had public codes of conduct and
ethics, then we need to move up to the high road.
In the new world of technological disruption, where the law cannot
keep pace with change, measures of success for CEOs are as much
about character, integrity and ethical behaviour. All that requires better
moral reasoning and virtue-based leadership.
The high road is when employees are motivated by co-operation, values
and integrity. They can examine and challenge rules and are taught to
independently use moral reasoning and judgement.
The high road results in a culture where autonomous morality is
present and where each person must also think and act morally beyond
rules or instruction. In order to get to the high road, organisations
need to invest in leadership development that supports the concept of
personal power versus positional power.
The benefits and ROI are clear in the potential avoidance of fines,
decreased risk, improved brand image and reputation, access to
increasing capital from responsible investors, and improved financial
performance. ROI is one reason, but the fundamental reason is that it is
the right thing to do.
HR is a leader in this space, but we need to ensure that the profession
understands what it takes to lead, take others on that journey, and be
the role model that is required of the profession.
TAKE THE HIGH ROAD
When HR fails in its conduct, the fall-out is particularly traumatic for organisations.
BY PROFESSOR PETRINA COVENTRY
A MODEL OF EXCELLENCE
Being ethical and credible is one of seven key capabilities
identified as essential for HR practitioners in AHRI's Model of
Excellence which shows what HR practitioners should know and
are expected to do, and what peers expect of them in terms of
behaviours and capabilities. It is the foundation for AHRI's certification
program and underpins AHRI's education and training programs.
To find out more, visit:
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