Most organizations are interested in developing an ethical workforce for a wide variety of reasons – from basic compliance concerns to performance issues.
In a recent issue of Harvard Business Review, an article suggests that our development as ethical leaders is a lifelong evolution. Organizations can be very intentional about fostering that continuing development in a number of ways. Following are some suggestions:
1. Create a “Ethical Laboratory” Culture. Establish the importance of ethics as a key pillar for your organization. Own the fact that all of you will face dilemmas from time to time wherein the “right thing to do” may not be obvious or easy. Encourage discussion and reflection on these issues.
2. Use Real World Case Studies in Training. Go beyond providing information on organization ethics rules and lectures on compliance. Use case studies – ideally actual examples from your own organization – and let people work through the issues in small groups. Facilitate dialogue and guide the group to discover key takeaways.
3. Conduct Ethical “Pre-Mortem” Meetings. At the beginning of a project, ask the team members to each identify potential biases they may bring to the decision-making process due to their own agendas and goals. Making these biases transparent can help people avoid acting from a self-serving perspective.
4. Participate in Organization-Wide Service Projects. Research has shown that serving others can reduce self-focus and help people connect with the needs of others. This can create spillover effects for improved ethical character.
5. Provide Opportunities for Self-Reflection. A “ethical laboratory” culture will encourage people to reflect on and discuss decisions that they have made. It will encourage them to discuss how to do things differently in the future. This promotes a lifelong learning mindset.
As usual, this all starts with leaders who will role model the importance of ethical decision-making and a lifelong ethical learning culture. As leaders take this step, they greatly improve opportunities for developing an ethical workforce.
*Ideas for this blog taken from: Smith, I. H. and Kouchaki, M. “Building an Ethical Company,” Harvard Business Review, November – December, pp 132 – 139.