Home' HR Monthly : April 2015 Contents 6
HR CAN BE BOTH A CHAMPION AND A GUARDIAN OF
ethical cultures on the job. There are eight areas where attention should
be focused for sustainable success in these challenging roles.
The best place to start is with recruitment selection and induction
procedures; where an employee’s experience with an organisation begins.
Immersion in the organisation’s values, with clear examples of acceptable
behaviours, is critical. Having leaders form part of these onboarding
processes, with examples of what a working life means in the company,
sets a strong and self-reinforcing standard for later ethical challenges that
Second, the structure and nature of ethical compliance programs are
also important. They are best integrated with continuous training and
development plans and senior management performance strategies.
A common failure is when simplistic carrot-and-stick incentives are
attached to one or more ethical behaviours. The broad-based nature
and uncertain real-life contex t of ethics will inevitably thwart such
an approach. It’s preferable to emphasise values in the achievement of
mission-critical milestones and to avoid simplistic ‘single driver rules’.
Case studies and storytelling by managers about prior ethical challenges
and how they were resolved is a far superior approach.
Third, pay performance and promotion procedures are all areas where
staff look for demonstration of ethical behaviours and outcomes. Ethics
should feature in how performance is assessed, and HR should ask
itself core ethical questions to check the company’s processes from this
perspective. Who is getting developed, promoted and paid? Is preferential
treatment evident? Ethical character should weigh more than technical
competence and outcomes in assessing what a person achieves.
Fourth, HR can review how leadership role-modelling occurs. ‘Great
organisations to work for’ set regular sessions where the leaders talk about
the latest ethical challenges and the proposals to tackle them. With input
then sought from those at the coalface! Leaders need also to be assessed
on how they execute pay performance and promotion decisions, as well as
considering evidence of the fairness with which they treat their co-workers.
Fifth, training and development programs are essential to developing
the desired workplace culture. Competence and career enhancement
for the individual are important baseline considerations, but the glue in
these activities needs to come from content that emphasises character
formation, and how values are walked and not just talked about. Role
playing and case studies of exemplary ethics must remain a focus of HR
in putting these programs together.
Sixth, workplace com munications and interactions are a rich
mechanism for delivering ethical excellence. HR should ensure
management is aware of this and that they are being measured
and assessed for their quality, and their alignment with the
organisation’s preferred values and behaviour set. An important
characteristic is to outline challenges facing all your people and
to acknowledge that courage in addressing these is not just to be
tolerated, but openly encouraged.
Seventh, is cultural surveys, properly designed, with HR’s checks that
all critical values and behaviours are captured and measured across all
major work units. Of course, measurement without subsequent action
is a flawed approach. When substandard performance is identified, a
timely remedy needs to be applied.
Lastly, but of paramount importance, is the ‘tone’ set at the very
top of an organisation. The executive leadership group should be
regularly examining, through peer reviews and other ways, who is
being rewarded and how. What are the recruitment,
promotion and firing decisions, and what has
been learnt from these? What evidence is there
of the top people displaying ethical courage
and leadership? What is the best way to
advance the nex t stage of the organisation’s
ethical journey? HR needs to ensure these
questions are on the top -level agenda.
Make a plan and map progress according
to these eight areas for a more ethical
workplace culture and you are bound to
see the progress. The planning
is the easy part. Dealing fairly
with the tough choices they
present is the hard part. But
tackling them sustainably
is what the most ethical
workplaces do, and they are also
the highest-performing and best
places to work.
Continuing this column’s examination of the rationale for having an ethical workplace,
it’s time to look at the eight crucial areas of focus for HR.
BY PETER WILSON AM, AHRI CHAIRMAN
To read past Perspective
columns by Peter Wilson, visit
ETHICAL WORKPLACE CULTURES
25/03/15 4:55 PM
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