One of the biggest issues facing Corporate America today is that of business ethics. To each individual and corporate entity, the term “ethics” means something different, and can be interpreted very differently depending on the rules and regulations of specific organizations. WorldCom, Arthur Andersen, and others are prime examples of how greed can overcome the hearts and minds of those running America’s largest companies and drive them to do things of which they would never have dreamed early in their careers.
Companies are forced to implement programs geared toward effectively managing their ethics and compliance issues. These types of programs require the implementation and maintenance on key issues such as risk assessment, training and communication, issue resolution, and board reporting. Once a generally agreed-upon program is implemented, it is important that companies put in place strong training and communications programs to ensure all employees are kept up to speed on how they can conduct themselves in the work environment.
There are a variety of programs on the market to assist companies with their ethics and best practices dilemmas today. The main topics Corporate America currently emphasize include:
- Corporate Compliance. This area of business ethics deals with all the risks a company can face and putting in place key benchmarks to ensure corporations have checkpoints against which to test how well they are doing in a variety of areas, including legal, HR, documentation, and licensure (when applicable).
- Code of Conduct. Companies tend to have loosely stated codes of conduct outlined in their employee manuals; however, as part of the growing awareness of the importance of business ethics, this trend is changing. Corporations are establishing strict codes of conduct by which they expect all employees to adhere, and are communicating these expectations regularly to both new and existing employees.
- Web-Based Ethics Systems. More service providers are partnering with corporations to provide their employees websites through which they can anonymously report unethical or inappropriate behavior. These websites also provide forums through which employees can voice compliance questions or concerns, and receive real-time answers.
Corporations are working diligently to ensure their employees know that they need to operate with honesty, integrity, and stricter rules regarding business ethics. Unfortunately, there are still corporations who do not see the value in developing business ethics practices. These corporations will continue to experience higher turnover rates and increased problems surrounding their own internal practices until they determine to execute an ethics program.