- The coronavirus pandemic proved an ethics "stress test" of sorts, but employers say they emerged with stronger ethical cultures, according to LRN’s annual ethics and compliance report, released April 21.
- Those surveyed — nearly 650 ethics, compliance and legal executives at companies with at least 1,000 employees — generally said that leadership rose to the ethical challenges that the pandemic presented. Boards supported ethics and compliance during the past year, and most emphasized company values to motivate employees to make the right choices. Seventy-nine percent of respondents said their company’s ethical culture is now stronger for having navigated that experience.
- Still, there may be room to grow: "While researchers found many bright spots where leaders strengthened ethics and compliance programs, there are still many areas for improvement, such as making programs more easily accessible to all employees," Susan Divers, LRN senior advisor, said in a statement. Leaders can continue working to improve ethics and compliance programs to help employees cope with the pandemic’s effects and to keep corporate reputation intact, she added.
Many of the ethical challenges presented by the pandemic are familiar to employers, J.S. Nelson, a law professor at Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, previously wrote for HR Dive — but they’ve taken on additional meaning and priority. Employers will need to recognize workers’ individual circumstances, for example, and react with empathy and transparency, she suggested.
Research has indicated that managers play a key role in advancing that goal. When employees are stressed by conflicting work and home responsibilities, they may take actions that harm their reputations, a 2019 study found. But when managers demonstrate appropriate work conduct and discuss employees’ work-related worries with them, such behavior may be prevented, it concluded.
And to encourage everyone to assist in maintaining an ethical workplace, employers should embrace whistleblowers, some experts say; a culture of improvement and one that welcomes critical feedback can go a long way in creating and maintaining an ethical culture.