While you could loosely define ethical behavior as knowing the difference between right and wrong, in the workplace it’s not quite so simple. Now more than ever, ethics trainings for employees needs to cover a variety of topics and a broad range of learning styles. Here are eight ways to develop more effective and engaging ethics trainings for employees.
What is the purpose of ethics training?
What does it mean to have an ethical workplace? An ethical workplace has well-established codes of professional and personal conduct that not only comply with all regulations and laws that govern your business, but also moral codes of conduct that include honesty, diversity, compassion, and good citizenship. Both of these aspects provide two main functions for your business.
Protects your company’s bottom line
Unethical behavior impacts profits when multi-million dollar fines are levied on unethical corporations.
This same behavior can cost the company in terms of lower stock prices, fewer customers, and a damaged reputation in your industry and with vendors.
Makes your company a great place to work
On the other hand, employee ethics training makes a company a great place to work. Consider Patagonia, with their mission statement: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
Patagonia was ranked as one of 2018’s best places to work for new dads and is consistently cited as a company that cares about its employees, their actions, and their impact on the world. Turnover is, as Fortune puts it, “freakishly low,” and a lot of that has to do with the ethical culture of the company.
Ethics training keeps your company profitable and helps employees make consistently good decisions in service to their colleagues, their customers, and themselves. However, not just any ethics training course will do. Developing an ethics training program for employees incorporates the following eight steps.
1. Stand for something (or watch employees fall for anything)
If you are a new company or are new to the idea of articulating your company’s ethics, it can be valuable to have a company-wide conversation that gets to the heart of your company culture. It’s hard to offer ethics training for employees when you are not clear what your company stands for.
Start your employee ethics training by either developing a code of conduct for your company or making sure employees are clear on the one that already exists. Do not assume that even your most senior employees know what it is.
2. Identify the different types of ethical training you can include
All quality training begins with a training needs analysis. In the case of ethics trainings for employees, you might consider focusing on one or more of the following areas:
- Ethical conduct, both in and out of the office
- Customer privacy and data protection
- Company code of ethics
- Common ethical dilemmas
- Company culture
- Customer relations
- Regulatory and compliance training
- Diversity training
Keep in mind, too, that ethics training is not a “one and done” solution to a single concrete issue. The goal of different types of ethics trainings is to teach employees to make good decisions that are consistent with your company’s culture. This may need to be reinforced in a variety of situations over time as your industry changes.
3. Train employees where they are
You know what your employees need, and it’s not a monthly lecture on how to be a good person. You hired them – chances are good that your employees are already quality humans. So train those humans in the way they want to be trained.
While it’s sometimes good to have a round-table discussion about what ethical behavior is and to role-play tricky situations, sometimes employees just need a quick reminder on a regulation update or changes to laws on compliance. Consider microlearning options to deliver this type of information, just in time and where they need it.
For more extended conversations, both eLearning and instructor-led trainings have their advantages. While eLearning allows employees to complete activities and trainings on their own schedule, supplementing online activities with juicy, in-person conversations provides variety and interactions to clarify often difficult material.
4. Get your leadership involved
Let’s be honest. If your leadership isn’t 100% behind ethics trainings for employees, they may be sending the message that ethics are not very important.
Ethical leaders are committed to working with ethical employees. Chances are good they have some ideas about what they’d like to focus on. Get leadership involved and committed from the very beginning.
5. Consider incentives
New research suggests that incentives for employees work. Consider offering gift cards, afternoons off, or other small bonuses for employees who go above and beyond and put their training into action.
6. Create common goals and identity
Part of articulating your ethical company culture and getting leadership involved is the journey to creating common goals and a unified company identity. Get really clear about who your company is and what it stands for. It worked for Patagonia, and on the surface they are just selling clothes.
Make your mission statement the driving force behind everything you do and every decision you make. It can be as simple as being the company that always does the right thing, or the one that won’t rest until the customer is satisfied.
7. Make it fun
We get it. Employee trainings of any kind can be a bit of a slog, and employee pushback can be intense. There are ways to make things more fun, though, even when it comes to serious discussions.
Even though ethics are a serious business, gamification and role-playing can help lighten the mood a bit (or at least get employees thinking in a different way).
8. But, take it seriously
Sure, it’s easy to make fun of ethics training for employees – seems like everyone has a ready joke at hand.
However, if your goal is for employees to represent your company with respect and consideration, functioning as a team where everyone is appreciated, supported, and heard, you need to take this type of training seriously. Give it the time, space, and resources it needs to be done well.
Start developing your ethics training program
With everything there is to consider, ethics training for employees can feel difficult to handle and complicated to roll-out. At EdgePoint Learning, we have all the tools you need to get started. From mobile-first microlearning resources to fully custom eLearning courses, we're here to help.
Whether you need a nudge in the right direction or a complete overhaul of your current ethics training, get in touch today!