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Thousands of articles point us in the direction of improving our organizational cultures and with good reason. Organizational culture is what defines and propels our missions, our strategies, and our profitability. It keeps our employees happy and motivated to continue working for us. Having a strong organizational culture, or workplace culture, is important. Often overlooked, however, is the importance of weaving compliance and ethical conduct into company culture. Too often, organizations view their ethics and compliance programs as a set of stated guidelines or check-the-box activities designed to catch rogue employees. That is not enough. The scandals and organizational crises that continually dominate our headlines should be enough to teach us that lesson. Nearly every organization implicated in acts of malfeasance has formal, established Codes of Conduct, leadership commitments, and well-structured audit capabilities. Yet, persons of influence walk right through those barriers. We need to understand that traditional approaches to tackling corruption just don’t work very well on their own. Compliance frameworks and processes to stop corruption only work if other elements of organizational culture work with them. That’s because  “rogue employees” and “bad apples” who operate outside the system aren’t really what bring down organizations. Rather, it’s the culture itself, how the group thinks and operates, that causes demise. Rarely does an employee check the Code of Conduct to determine what’s appropriate behavior. No, he just looks around takes cues from his peers. Under pressure to reach a sales quota or risk termination, for example, he’ll employ whatever tactics necessary, including the illegal ones, if that’s what others around him are doing and not facing punishment. Compliance must be a part of culture.To build an ethical culture, you must start with a positive culture of integrity that includes the following:Shared values that emphasize the organization’s commitment to business ethics and regulatory compliance.Continuous encouragement from executive leadership, senior management, and middle management to act ethically and in accordance with stated compliance regulations.Continuous encouragement to report ethics violations (concerns may be raised without fear of retaliation).A shared sense of responsibility for complying with the law and organizational policyA commitment to hiring and promoting employees based on character and competence.Incentives and rewards for adherence to ethical values.Swift and fair handling of internal matters.

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