Can human resources help employees do the right thing?

HR’s Role in Employee Ethics and Compliance - Talent Intelligence Employee misconduct can cost organizations a significant amount.

Consider the two California State University, Fresno, employees who, due to taking excessive work breaks over the course of a few years, cost the university more than $111,000, according to a report released earlier this year by California’s state auditor. Or the Worklogic case study that pegged the cost of misconduct for one employee at between $209,800 and $337,800.

In addition to lost productivity, employee misconduct can also result in a number of indirect expenses. A 2015 Cornerstone OnDemand survey found upstanding employees who work with people that engage in misconduct and other toxic behaviors are 54 percent more likely to quit.

It’s unreasonable to expect supervisors will be able to observe every instance of misconduct; in addition, at least one survey, conducted by the Ethics Resource Center, suggests the biggest ethical issues in organizations may be occurring at the managerial level today — two reasons why employee whistleblowers play a critical role in metering employee misconduct’s effect.

Employees, though, aren’t always eager to report infractions. To ensure they are, companies need to create a safe, supportive environment where ethics and compliance are emphasized — an undertaking HR can often be the ideal department to oversee.

If your organization is struggling to determine how to solve ethical issues in the workplace, the following steps may help you reduce employee misconduct:

ethics-compliance-helpCreate (and enforce) ethics guidelines

Research has shown having even a minimum standard for employee ethics and compliance principles results in employees being 132 percent more likely to report misconduct. Distributing a clear, comprehensive list of the organization’s employee ethics expectations during the onboarding process will show new team members leadership views ethical conduct as a priority.

Make ethical values a constant conversation

Employees are 11 times more likely to speak up about having witnessed wrongdoing in workplaces when they see consistent, regular communication — such as messages about company values and public acknowledgment and praise for ethical actions — from upper management on issues like trust and ethical conduct, according to a Ethics and Compliance Initiative report released in October.

Recognize the factors that contribute to unethical behavior

oes your culture offer opportunities for advancement and involve reasonable workloads — or are employees overburdened and burned out?

Pressure from management or the board to meet unrealistic business objectives and deadlines is the top cause of unethical employee behavior, according to a global business ethics survey produced by the American Management Association and the Human Resource Institute. A desire to further a person’s career and protect an employee’s livelihood ranked second and third, respectively, as top motives for unethical employee behavior.

Ethics can just be one employee management concern. For more on effectively overseeing employees, view our blog posts on the secret weapon that can help you engage employees, how to manage employees anytime and anywhere, the best way to communicate with employees and 4 communication missteps you may be making.