- Gartner, Inc., a research and advisory company, found in a recent study that only one in four employees think their colleagues engage in ethical behavior. Gartner, formerly known as CEB, surveyed 5,000 employees on what drives ethical behavior in their organizations.
- Although compliance officers cited building a culture of integrity as their most critical objective in 2016, devoting more resources and training to improving corporate culture generated little progress, said Gartner. An analysis of 2 million workers over an 8-year period showed that the decrease in the number of employees who witnessed misconduct was less than 1%.
- The Gartner research found that employees at companies with strong ethical cultures were 90% less likely to witness misconduct and more likely to report any wrongdoing they saw. Also, organizations with strong ethical cultures had 7% higher 10-year shareholder returns than companies with low ethical cultures.
Employers aren't scoring well these days on the ethics scale. Bad business behavior makes front-page news, and the spotlight usually shines on CEOs and senior executives, from Enron back in the 1990s to Wells Fargo and Uber today.
The fallout of misconduct — public scrutiny and sometimes huge legal settlements — doesn't seem to be enough to deter sexual harassment, racial and sexual discrimination, theft, financial cover-ups, retaliation and other misdeeds. This continuous run of scandals demonstrates the need for more organizations to create and enforce ethical standards.
Ethical organizations have high moral codes of conduct and expect honesty and trustworthiness from everyone, from shareholders to customers. The Ethisphere Institute releases a list of the world's most ethical companies each year. Employers can use the list to see how their cultures stack up against the winning organizations.
In her book, Athletes Off the Field: A Model for Team Building and Leadership Development Through Service Learning, author Laurie Haughey wrote that ethical leaders have high-standard goals, which include communicating codes of ethical behavior that shape an organization's brand, having the highest-quality products and services that everyone takes responsibility for producing, and collaborating with diverse advisers for different perspectives.
HR can lead the ethics initiatives in the workplace, helping employers to behave like good corporate citizens and operate in accordance with the law. HR also can set ethical codes of conduct and policies to curb the wave of misconduct in the workplace.