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HR as an Employee Advocate should be the Way Forward



Payal Sondhi - Manager - HR, SILA, Mumbai


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Being ethical means being fair, hence, the HR practices should be unbiased to all its employees irrespective of the gender, caste & creed or age.

BM: Do you see a radical upward shift in doing business with ethical values in present scenario?

PS: Business ethics, also known as corporate ethics involves implementing multiple professional principles on which an organisation functions. There has been a fundamental shift in the way the businesses are conducted today. To begin with, in last few years the government regulations have become stringent, standards like ISO have also helped in standardizing certain practices. But above all, we have now stepped into the era of IoT, every company is now monitored in some way or the other. Now businesses are conducted online in form of emails, Google words, ad banners, Facebook, YouTube, etc. These platforms help in connecting with the consumers at different levels, and if the companies do not adhere by the ethical standards set by IoT, an immediate decrease in the sales and ROI can be observed in the marketing initiatives undertaken by the organisation.


BM: Is there a perception building around that business profits can only be accumulated with unethical practices? If yes, how organisations can counter this?

PS: Unethical practices like tax evasions, improper disposal of toxins, exploitation of workforce etc. are all easy means to make money, however, it can act as an advantage for a short - term. As observed in multiple cases, in the long - run, not only does the organisation loses its goodwill, the stakeholders also lose confidence in the practices of the organisation. The organisations should have a dual focus of creating a positive impact on the stakeholders along with making profits. It’s necessary to have a core value system in place and to build the organisation around those values. This process requires a top - down approach, the top management to begin with, should practice & preach the values for their employees to follow it further. The corporate culture of the organisation should be aligned with these values, this is also known as the code of conduct where an organisation’s mission, values, and principles are linked to the standards of professional conduct. This also acts a benchmark for employees and managers in conducting day-to-day operations.


BM: What is the role of HR in instilling business ethics in employees?

PS: HR managers are in an exclusive position to help build an ethical workplace culture because of the role they play in hiring, training and evaluating employees, allowing them to influence the organisation at multiple levels. Being ethical means being fair, hence, the HR practices should be unbiased to all its employees irrespective of the gender, caste & creed or age. HR should provide means to the employees to communicate with the top - management on a regular basis to ensure that the communication channel is ongoing, something on the lines of an open - door policy. Also, involving the employees in the CSR initiatives of the organisation will give them a sense of ownership & pride as they are representing their organisation.


BM: Should HR act as employee’s champion or custodian of employer's business interest in times of ethical crisis?

PS: HR acts as a bridge between the employees & employer all the time and its mandatory at the times of ethical crisis to keep the communication channels open. HR needs to balance the roles in these situations to ensure that they don’t lose the employees’ confidence in the management & vice versa. Same set of principles should be applicable to both the employees & the employer in terms of accountability & HR should ensure that it is being followed through completely.


BM: What are the challenges for HR fighting unethical practices in organisations?

PS: Identification & rectification of unethical practices is the most critical & difficult task for an HR professional. They must ensure that –

  • A transparent corporate governance framework is followed in the organisation
  • Whistleblowers are rewarded in the right manner
  • Create an incentive system – An acknowledgement for the ethics followed in form of ‘A goodwill certificate’ or a gift
  • Corporate social responsibility is integrated in the core strategy of the organisation

Imbibing these mentioned principles in the culture of the organisation is a difficult task, but it’s essential to align employee’s value system with that of the organisation’s.


BM: What is the way forward for HR in performing as strategic business partner in unethical business organisations?

PS: HR should critique the practices of the organisation and explain the long - term risks of continuing with the unethical practices to the management. HR would require to play the role of an employee advocate as well as a change agent to revise the practices of the organisation. As the changes, will be radical in nature, it would be compulsory to change with the customary change in the industry.