I recently came across a discussion between Markkula Center for Applied Ethics’ Executive Director Kirk Hanson and Craig Nordlund, former general counsel of Agilent Technologies. Nordlund believes the concern for ethics must be shared by everyone in the organization, but suggests ethics programs will be ineffective without leadership from the company’s top executives.
It is hard to argue with his comment stating “ethics programs will not work unless there is leadership on ethics from the company’s top executives”.
However, lessons learned and incidents seem to clearly reveal that leadership from the company’s top executives is not enough.
So why is creating an ethics culture so difficult for organizations? Perhaps ethics training is not enough or not even part of the solution?
The definition of training is a process to teach or learn a skill or job…and like the title of the article (Creating an Ethical Business Culture), I would agree that ethics is more of a culture than a job or skill.
Training is typically a once-a-year task on a learning management system with a one-size-fits-all general training module that everyone clicks through aimlessly because it is on the checklist of items that their organization thinks they need to do.
The definition of awareness seems to be a much better fit if an organization is serious about creating an ethical business culture. Awareness is to be aware of the difference between two versions, watchful and wary and having or showing realization and perception or knowledge. Awareness is not taught once-a-year, awareness (especially situational awareness) is an ongoing process that must be specific to the organization’s culture and supported by top executives.
Every individual is part of the ethical business culture so organizations must also make sure they have a platform to manage, update, communicate, document and measure situational awareness at the indiviidual level…because most everyone knows if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist.