Ethics training might seem like a waste of time. After all, ethics is about the difference between right and wrong, and you learn all that in childhood. But the line between right and wrong is not always clear, especially at work. Ethics training is meant to show every employee in every position how to recognize and respond to ethical dilemmas.
Training objectives for an ethics program should focus on aligning the existing corporate culture with defined company values and its legal obligations. This means compliance leaders should do some advance research. They can work with human resources to review complaints and the results of investigations. Employee surveys can help them to see where general perceptions might pose risks to ethical decision-making. The training program can then be designed to focus on areas of concern.
Training content must be meaningful. Including different types of media will enhance the learning experience. Everyone has a different learning style -- some need visual examples, others respond best to role-playing, others get more out of descriptive reading materials. Using a combination of presentations, video clips, role-playing scenarios and quizzes will engage employees while building their knowledge and developing a corporate culture grounded in ethical behaviors. Large, distributed companies can use self-paced, computer based training modules as part of a training program. This approach can also be used prior to in-seat training to prepare employees for instructor-led sessions.
If your company has professional trainers on staff they can provide a valuable role as trainers and coaches for managers who can be prepared to conduct training sessions with their own staff members. Managers know how to translate generic material to specific job responsibilities. They should also know that they lead by example at all times, even when they're not aware others are watching them. Employees look to management for guidance. They might not ask questions, but they do observe how their managers respond to situations, and will begin to pattern their own responses in a similar manner. Managers who behave ethically will develop a staff that also behaves ethically.
Make the Message Resonate
Training sessions that are interactive and engaging will help to make your message resonate with employees. Ideally, they will believe their time in the training class has been well spent. Class sizes should be small enough to encourage collaboration among participants, and to allow for questions to be asked and answered. A simple set of guidelines that reinforce ethics practices and promote the values of the business will raise awareness without overwhelming people.
A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.