May 2013

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Written by Elizabeth Eyre on 1 May 2013 in Magazine

Ethics. It's a big, weighty word that carries a lot of implications for both employer and employee. It should go without saying that organisations - not to mention the people who work for them - act ethically and with integrity as a matter of course, but, sadly, there are so many examples of that not happening. The LIBOR fixing scandal is one of many that leaps immediately to mind.

The government recently introduced legislation to force organisations to be more transparent about the things they do, particularly if those things could be interpreted as unethical or even illegal. For example, cultivating contacts in order to get exclusive leads is standard practice in journalism but, as the recent News International/Metropolitan Police saga clearly illustrated, it is a practice that can go horribly wrong. Organisational culture has a very big part to play in fostering, or even encouraging, unethical behaviour - targets may be set that induce it in team members or senior leaders may be seen to be cutting corners.

Changing that organisational culture, encouraging leaders to display ethical behaviours, ensuring all employees are aware of - and comply with - legislation, leading by example: these are all things that L&D practitioners can do to help their organisations act ethically. You should be the consciences of your organisations - guarding the human side of doing business and tirelessly patrolling its borders to keep out the wolves.

Ethics are one of the main focuses of this month's TJ. Several of our contributors highlight events that demonstrate a lack of commitment to working ethically and research that shows that people are losing faith in businesses and institutions as a result of them. Nicole Dando and Katherine Bradshaw ask what role L&D professionals have in restoring that trust (p23); they conclude that they have a "unique" role in developing a culture that builds trust and enables organisations to act ethically.

In his article starting on p56, Dan Lucy looks at the importance of leaders being ethical and how L&D can help to develop such ethical leadership, through encouraging a cultural approach. He cautions against adopting an approach to ethics that is "focused on policy and procedure", because it infantilises employees, in favour of a softer, culture-based one. Do you agree?

American firm AECOM has been judged to be one of the most ethical companies in the world (by the Ethisphere Institute), and Paul J Gennaro provides a fascinating glimpse into what that actually means in practice (p46). I hope you will find his article both inspirational and practically useful when it comes to finding ways of making your own organisation more ethical.

And, finally, AbduNaser Shhub looks at an ethical dilemma for trainers themselves (p66) - should you use a plant during your training sessions to help participants get more out of them? The ramifications of that are interesting for all concerned - a real watercooler topic! What would you do?

Elizabeth Eyre, Editor



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