BM Do you see a radical upward shift in doing business with ethical values in present scenario?
NK In the present scenario as well as in the past, business organizations who have followed the ethical values have survived for long. So this issue has been relevant from ages. We can see number of cases where organizations have grown exponentially through unethical means initially, but in long run they failed miserably. People who believe in unethical practices are short term players but yes, certainly pollute the business environment and society at large. There is no short cut to business success growth and reputation.
BM Is there a perception building around that business profits can only be accumulated with unethical practices? If yes, how organizations can counter this?
NK Perception building for business profits through unethical means may be a result of declining social values in business arena in a small segment and some people only, who gain media hype. But majority of organizations are surviving and growing purely based on strong internal control processes and very strong ethical values and beliefs. Organizations have to build a core set of values and beliefs and it has to be followed like a guiding principle. The culture of ethics has to build upon such core values. Anybody not falling in line or puncturing the efforts of building ethical culture in the organisation has to be given marching orders. Earning profits through short cuts or mal practices cannot have long lasting effect and one day such organisations have a pat heavy price in terms of dimished brand value and reputation. Sustained business growth will come purely based on process efficiency, product uniqueness and customer satisfaction with highly engaged people committed to organizations ethics. Organisations can counter the perception by demonstrating the outcome of highly workplace ethical culture on the business growth.
BM What is the role of HR in instilling business ethics in employees?
NK HR has a definite and big role to play in creating values and ethics in organizations. Any organization will create its core value, but who will implement it? It has to be HR Team only. I know many long standing organizations, where teaching of values/ ethics are done on routine basis and any deviation is dealt very strictly just to set examples. In fact HR Team should take lead in inculcating these values & ethics from day a new employee joins. The need of the hour is to build ethical culture as part of business strategy. Processes for monitoring ethical behavior need to be implemented. For example, performance appraisals of employees may incorporate bonus points for the ethical means adopted to meet targets. In recruitment itself, reject candidates who have falsified information even slightly at the time of employment. Organizations need to give ethics training to change perceptions and thinking of employees at all levels. It can involve group discussions, case studies, and face to face meetings with senior managers to emphasize the importance of ethics. Actually employees help building the workplace culture, it gets strength from senior managers decisions on certain issues involving ethical points.
BM Should HR act as employees champion or custodian of employer's business interest in times of ethical crisis?
NK HR can not take any one side in ethical crisis. HR has to take a practical and balanced approach in between employee and employers. In the crisis, HR has to put best foot forward in correcting the situation from employers perspective and create a win win situation for the organization therby keeping the employees in confidence. But in any situation, HR can not be a silent spectator and allow things deteriorating in terms of ethical work culture.
BM What are the challenges for HR fighting unethical practices in organisations?
NK The challenges to HR is extremely high in this situation and HR has to take a practical approach one by one. No organization can be cleaned in one day, but HR has to make a beginning somehow to reduce unethical practices. Sometimes if employers are just not willing to change, then a graceful exit is the way out. HR cannot be expected to do it all alone. He needs support from different verticals in the organization. If others are not willing to support HR function in fighting unethical practices, it will be impossible to take corrective measures. It has to be a collaborative effort.
BM In an unethical organisation what is the way forward for HR - should HR keep quiet or speak up for employees' interest?
NK HR has to speak up for employees, because ultimately it helps organization developing an engaged workforce and trust in management through HR. It should always demonstrate and stand by ethical practices. Keeping quiet may be a option for some time, but no professional HR manager can see every wrong thing happening around and keep quiet. Issues have to be addressed to reach to a win win situation.