Got Ethics?

Less risk? Less fraud? Less litigation? Happier employees?

Think that’s an impossible order? Allegiance, a Salt Lake City-based company, says it doesn’t have to be, though most companies “don’t know where to begin” and are sadly behind the curve on adopting an ethical culture of their own.

Its chief operating officer, Greg Heaps, suggests that “today’s employees want to work for an organization that has built a foundation on integrity and that cares about operating an honest company, hiring other principled people, and working with ethical partners.”

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Think fuzzy ethics seems so yesterday, so Enron, so over? Not so much. Companies are still sliding down the slippery slope of warped ethics, from the mild incident at handbag retailer Coach to explosive bribery allegations at Siemens.

Even though Allegiance’s six steps toward maintaining an ethical culture at your company are far from revolutionary, maybe it’s never too late for companies to brush up on the basics:

  1. Establish an enforceable code of conduct. The process should be led by those at the top of the company and should include employee input.
  2. Initial and ongoing training. Training begins once a person is hired and should continue throughout the life of the employee.
  3. Regular communications. Ethics should be a live, ongoing conversation.
  4. Anonymous reporting hotline. Companies should provide employees with a safe, anonymous and confidential way to report inappropriate, unethical, or illegal activities.
  5. Enforcement/action. Companies must be willing to do whatever it takes to enforce the code of conduct.
  6. Rewarding employees that live the culture. Companies should let employees know that an ethical culture is important to the organization and should recognize and reward those employees that help to establish the culture.

Elaine Rigoli has nearly 15 years of experience managing content and community for various B2B and consumer websites. Elaine has written thousands of business and technology articles and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and eWeek, among other publications.

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