3 Key Components of a Successful Online Ethics Training Program
Ethical lapses can—and have—toppled some of the most senior executives around the country. In fact, The Washington Post reports that “more CEOs were forced out for ethical lapses in 2018 than poor financial performance.” Their improper conduct included such things as “fraud, bribery, insider trading, environmental disasters, inflated resumes or sexual indiscretions.” Their fall from favor is well documented and widely covered by the media. The resulting public relations challenges can, and do, have a significant impact on these organizations’ brands—both from a consumer and an employer standpoint.
Companies operating in multiple countries will find themselves facing even more risks of potential ethical violations and must stay continually abreast of requirements, norms, and mores in countries where they operate. The United States’ Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is an example of anti-bribery regulations that pertain to all U.S. citizens or entities anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, keeping up with ethics requirements and norms is not just “common sense.” Online ethics training programs are vital to reducing the risk to your employees and company from ethical violations.
Educating Your Workforce with An Ethics Training Program
Importantly, companies must also work hard to ensure that employees understand what it means to have an ethical workplace and the types of behaviors and actions expected of them.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) takes ethical lapses very seriously. Their latest guidelines require not only that employers train about unethical behaviors from a legal standpoint, but they must also demonstrate efforts to instill values, promote ethical conduct and integrate data.
Unfortunately, although companies have long provided workplace ethics training to employees related to company culture and compliance, that training has not served to eliminate instances of unethical behavior that can negatively impact a company’s reputation. What does it take to provide workplace ethics training that can have a positive potential impact? Here are 3 components of a successful online ethics training program.
3 Components of a Successful Online Ethics Training Program:
1. Online Ethics Courses Should Go “Beyond the Law”
Research has shown that online ethics courses that simply present information about the law or a policy are ineffective. And, in fact, this type of ethics training can lead to more incidents of ethical breaches. Employees may struggle to understand, or simply be turned off by poor workplace ethics training that delves too deeply into “legalese.” While legal issues need to be covered, they shouldn’t become the foundation for the entire online ethics training program. Instead, providing real-world examples, case studies and using role-play scenarios can help to make the legalese come to life.
2. Online Ethics Training Should be Ongoing
Employees need to be continually reminded of what the organization’s values are and what ethical behavior and decision-making look like. This doesn’t occur in a once-a-year workplace ethics training. Instead, organizational leaders should be communicating and educating employees about ethical expectations on an ongoing basis. This can take the form of updates at town hall meetings as well as in conversations between employees and their managers. Discussions of ethical considerations can also become an ongoing part of how decisions are made. When senior leaders talk explicitly about how ethics come into play in the decisions they make, what may have seemed simply theoretical to employees will take on more real meaning.
3. Online Ethics Training Programs Should Support a Compliance Culture
Online ethics training programs, on its own, is not a solution to solve or eliminate all ethical violations. Instead, online ethics training should be designed to support a compliance culture that provides the foundation that helps employees make decisions and judgments that are ethical and compliant. It’s a culture that starts at the top of the organization and is supported by the board on down through the CEO, C-suite, and management. Their actions and behaviors should provide visible support for an ethical environment and workplace ethics training.
Most of your employees want to do the right thing and are committed to behaving in an ethical way. They can be better equipped to do this if your online ethics training goes beyond the law, is ongoing and is supportive of a compliance culture.