How to create a culture of compliance and ethics in the workplace

What does a highly ethical organization look like?

A highly ethical organization sends out a clear and consistent message of its expectations; employees are aware of their standard or code of conduct and put it into practice each and every day in their work. It’s an organization where everyone understands the culture of transparency and full disclosure. Because of this, employees feel comfortable about speaking up when they perceive a potential ethical dilemma personally, or see a potential problem within the organization. When the entire work force is acting based on shared values and standards, the organization has a more influential force to reach its goals.

What are some ways to train people about an ethics program and ethics in the workplace?

It’s important for every employee to be trained on the organization’s standard or code of conduct at the start of and routinely throughout their employment. I recommend requiring specific ethics training for every new employee upon hire and at least annually thereafter for review. In my experience, it is beneficial for employees to hear real-life examples of ethical dilemmas as well as their resolutions. These examples give employees an opportunity to apply the standards of conduct to real situations and it creates an applied learning experience that will be remembered.

Organizations should also consider designating a qualified point person who is responsible for managing and emphasizing ethics in the workplace, such as a compliance officer. This person must display sound ethical judgment and character as the role model for the organization. He or she should also engage employees and earn their trust in order to influence the entire organization’s culture of compliance. This person is the advocate and resource for all employees as they strive each day to ‘do the right thing.’

Debbie Wheeler is the regional compliance director of Tenet Healthcare Corporation, Florida region.