Thursday, October 11, 2007

Jim Weber's Basics for Building a Corporate Ethics Program

Jim Weber recently summed up some of the basic steps for developing a corporate ethics program. He also spoke of the "emerging connection between being ethical and being profitable." Dr. Weber directs Duquesne University's Beard Center for Leadership in Ethics.
  • First, build a strong ethical work climate—a culture that fosters and integrates ethical decision making into the employees' daily thought processes and behaviors at work. It is important for senior management to consistently discuss the importance of ethics at work, as well as to model that commitment in their actions and thus reinforce the ethical culture.

  • Second, an organization often seeks to codify the values that top management believes to be guides for employees at work—thus an ethics policy statement is promulgated. The policy needs to be distributed periodically to all employees, translated into multiple languages if the organization operates in multiple countries and allow for employees to contribute to the revision of the policy.

  • To reinforce the policy, an organization often constructs an employee ethics training program, where real situations are presented for employees to analyze and resolve, often using the organization's ethics policy as a guide.

  • Finally, an organization needs to develop effective implementation mechanisms to reinforce its ethics program. These mechanisms vary from establishing an ethics office and officer within the firm, to creating an employee help line for workers to use when they have questions about what is the right thing to do or to report alleged unethical actions, to including ethical values in employee performance appraisal evaluations. (Duquesne University magazine, Fall 2007)
Most of these principles—the importance of breeding ethics into the corporate culture, the role of senior management, training, and distribution of the ethics policy in employee handbooks—match up exactly with what GE and Lockheed Martin reported at our recent Workshop for Ethics in Business.

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