Article (January-2017)


HR alone cannot bring ethics to business

Vinod Mathur

Designation : -   Vice President-HR

Organization : -   Consulting Engineers Group Limited, Jaipur


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Business ethical environment is mostly driven by a combination of leadership practices, corporate culture and company programs. With this, HR's role in cultivating an ethics-friendly corporate environment can be put under four broad categories.

1. Vision
Organizational culture is a system of shared assumptions, values, and beliefs, which governs how people behave in organizations. These shared values have a strong influence on the people in the organization and dictate how they dress, act, and perform their jobs. HR professionals must help ensure that ethics is a top organizational priority and it should be embedded in organization Vision and Mission statements. HR executives must either take on the mantle of ethics champion or ensure that some other capable person in the organization does so. Such a champion will need to be highly experienced and respected, having enough organizational clout to make a difference.

2. It starts from hiring
Recruitment process is a sensible event of HR function where manager must ensure that the leadership selection and development processes include an ethics component. After all, leaders at all levels of the organization need to both model ethical behavior and communicate ethical standards to employees for better implementation.Selection procedures can filter out people who, despite making their numbers, are known for cutting ethical corners. And leadership development should include not only ethics theory but real-life examples, perhaps from mentors, on how managers have handled ethical dilemmas in the past.

Among the most difficult aspects of ensuring ethical leadership may be convincing technical panel and top management, that they too should receive ethics training.

3. Policy and Frameworks
Another major HR responsibility is to ensure that the right programs and policies are in place, keeping in mind the government legislation. HR professionals should, of course, be aware of the evolving legislation to make necessary change in current policies.

Fourth and last, HR must stay abreast of emerging ethics issues. This doesn't mean just following legislation, which tends to be reactive rather than proactive. It means looking at the entire social and business environment and spotting conflicts of interest and other ethical problems before they develop into full-blown scandals. A combination of tools can help with this. Obviously, employers need to pay close attention to the questions and concerns that are flagged via employee hotline services and other feedback systems. To gauge what's happening outside the company, HR can turn to environmental scanning techniques that help them see how new developments - ranging from emerging technologies to global culture clashes - result in ethical problems could down the road.

Apart from the above four broad categories, creating and developing ethical workplace culture in an organization is not the only responsibility of HR. However, he should support and promote such actions.

HR along with top leaders should act as a role model who demonstrates the ethical values at work place and clearly communicate the ethical expectation to the workforce. Ethical ambiguities can be reduced by creating and disseminating an organizational code of ethics. It should state the organization's primary values and the ethical rules that employees are expected to follow. Remember, however, that a code of ethics is worthless if top management fails to model ethical behaviours. The organization needs to provide formal mechanisms so that employees can discuss ethical dilemmas and report unethical behavior without fear of reprimand. This might include creation of ethical counselors, ombudsmen, or ethical officers.

There is saying  that "Ethics and Business can't go hand in hand" but for long sustenance of business and organization, one should have very clear message of ethics in its vision. Following ethics may have many difficulties in its road but it is sure that it helps in creation of better brand image which further enhance the business activities.