BM Do you see a radical upward shift in doing business with ethical values in present scenario?
SS E-Governance initiatives of the government leading to more transparent practices/systems in compliance, have made it that much more complex to avoid practices for any enterprise. In addition, the associated information is available at the click of a button and several assessments relating to business needs require certification of such information by independent professionals.
Therefore, business is more inclined to be observing applicable practices than ever before. Would be wrong to bucket practices which are perfectly legal under the same category as fraudulent practices merely on the ground of violation of business ethics.
BM Is there a perception building around that business profits can only be accumulated with unethical practices? If yes, how organisations can counter this?
SS One or two isolated incidents of fraud cannot paint the entire industry as black with respect to business ethics. We must be clear that an enterprise is required by law to observe certain practices laid down by regulators or driven by regulations and observance of ethical or moral practices by an enterprise or people associated with an enterprise is purely a voluntary issue of governance.
Tax planning Vs Tax avoidance has been a burning debate over the ages and this falls under the same class. To answer, it is wrong to say that businesses today are acting unethically in working towards more profits. Black sheep are part of the system and it is the duty of the system to ensure it weeds out such practices or people and should not veer towards a debate on ethics. Business is meant to make profits, else the problem of NPA will become an all - pervasive phenomenon.
BM What is the role of HR in instilling business ethics in employees?
SS People are centric to practices and ethics and values are instilled in every person associated with an enterprise and HR plays a major role in this exercise be it an employee or a management person. Organisation development is not merely creating machines to work for the organisation but to make sure they deal with all aspects of the enterprise in a humane way which creates value systems leading to branding internally and externally.
BM Should HR act as employees' champion or custodian of employer's business interest in times of ethical crisis?
SS HR is a key driver in building an organisation and therefore, must act as a custodian of the core values of the organisation. In the event of a conflict between a business interest and that of an ethical interest, HR must drive the solution ethically through the prism of Core Values as the conscience keeper of the enterprise. While it is human to error be greedy in any endeavour, it is the humane touch shown by an enterprise through it people practices which makes it stand apart in a competitive economy.
BM What are the challenges for HR fighting unethical practices in organisations? What is the way forward for HR in performing as a strategic business partner in unethical business organisations?
SS Despite robust systems in place, every enterprise finds it difficult to practice what it preaches as part of its core values when it comes to handling a conflict be that with an employee or a customer or a vendor. Business interests normally supersede other interests and HR should stand firm during such challenging times and the lead way in establishing value systems in practice. Adamant attitude or approach is a common problem faced by employees or other stakeholders which needs to be addressed to the satisfaction of all without compromising on values and remains a delicate balance. Of late the cases reported under POSH test this strength of an enterprise thoroughly.