Ethics Training for Small Businesses
February 18, 2015
The call for ethics education and training is a concern that, if disregarded, will have solemn repercussions. Corporate America has suffered for that very reason: sweeping ethics misfortunes under the carpet and attending to ethics as a sideline issue. Today most organizations have little or no training or expertise in ethics, let alone philosophical approaches to business. The question then remains as to the optimal method of conveying the message. If the transmission of the curriculum is not effective, then the message for declaring ethical behavior or retarding unethical behavior may not be heard. The best method to teach this concept should take center stage and become a high priority of any business.
One problem with teaching ethics is the lack of discussion of real life situations. Many courses are concerned with simply issues and models displayed on elaborate PowerPoint presentations. The course of study tends to concentrate on the extraneous factors rather than trying to build individual deterrents. The emphasis on deterrents by using real life situations enables the students, employees, and listeners to make good decisions and arrive at situations in which tough decisions have to be made. In a recent survey of a large police department the message was very clear; they want to hear the details of the unethical behavior and the punishment that was given. The same should be true for any organization or small business to gain the attention of the employees.
Ethics training can be a success if the correct method of delivering the curriculum is provided. While lectures have a place in education, it is probably not the most worthwhile method of delivery for two reasons; first ethics training has dramatically changed over the past few years and second there is much debate on how adults learn best. Sermons on ethics by lecturers do not get rave reviews. The resistance to learning from this method is high. Many of us have sat through a long-winded boring speaker telling the audience of how to live their lives and how to best to make good decisions. Adults learn from real-life experiences, discussions, reflections, evaluations, and it is pivotal the subject be relevant to the work environment.
Ethics training is a waste of time if the optimum method of delivery is not carefully chosen. Trainers have tried case studies, role-playing, films, publishing codes of ethics, teaching the wisdom of the great philosophers, and lectures, none of which will make someone ethical if they desire not to be. While the methods do have some benefit, the consensus for the desired method is real-life occurrences. The recipients of the training want to hear what the offense was and what the punishment was. There is also agreement ethics education can be presented using a combination of some of the methods.
Ethics decision making is a dilemma for everyone. The training should be a clear outline of ethical behavior. The depicting of the organization’s culture, the relevancy of the curriculum, and the presentation of situation-specific examples can avert potential scandals.
Posted by Donald L. Redden, PhD