The dictionary defines “ethics” as the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc. Every company should have a set of ethics in which their company operates under, and implementation should start at the top. The question has been raised who holds the people at the top accountable for the same conduct.
As an HR professional I have always felt that this was the most important part of my job. In order for HR to work there has to be an ethics presence. The ideal scene in any company would be for ALL individuals to have an ethics presence. When ethics presence exists, individuals think twice before doing something that they may regret later on. It really is a group effort.
The saying “you are your brother’s keeper”, “if you see something, say something” is really true. When this exist, there are opportunities to correct things immediately. It is the group who operates within the agreed upon guidelines, so it is also the group who holds everyone accountable.
The time to hire an Ethics Officer is when there is a shift in the morale of individuals in the company. When transparency is no longer there and production goes down because ethics is directly tied in to all these things. Unless a change is made, it will continue to negatively impact the company. The thing about ethical issues is that someone always knows about it but chooses to do nothing about it. If you are part of the company you have a responsibility because it will directly or indirectly effect you.
For an Ethics Officer to be effective there can’t be any sides. It really is about the correct course of action or behavior and helping those in the organization to act accordingly. Who ever is in this role must have knowledge and access throughout the organization. They must be proactive to address situations before they become full blown problems yet use situations as teachable moments. This individual must be able to easily create relationships with individuals and have the ability to confront the toughest situations yet not be concerned what individuals may think about them.
Most importantly they have to have their own ethics in!