In a world where corporate malpractices no longer make front page news, does it pay to be ethical? If we look at the number of Fortune 500 companies that have been charged with misconduct and unethical practices, the perception may be that it does not. The truth though is that not all organisations that are successful are sustainable. Research does suggest that organisations with a culture of fair and transparent practices and a holistic objective that is not limited to the bottom line are more likely to be successful and sustainable in the long run. Companies with a long-term vision understand that aligning business objectives to ethical values is an investment that will bear fruits. From the opposite end of the spectrum, the one lesson that has to be learnt from the financial meltdown of 2008, is that short-term profit goals have the capacity to bring down behemoths.
Today ethics is not an option, but a necessity, and a priority for organisations. At a time when information flows at the speed of light, and social media provides ordinary citizens the ability to voice their views, shape world opinion, and bring down governments, transparency fairness and ethical behaviour are necessary factors for sustainable growth in business. Ethics in organisations works at two levels, individual morals and organisational culture. In both these, the human resource function has a large role to play. When an employee engages with an organisation the first touch-point typically is the search and selection team. A clear and objective recruitment policy and transparent communication channels create the first level of trust between the employer and the employee. Successful organisations are investing in hiring policies and processes that are unambiguous and directed towards finding employees who not only have the potential to perform but also have the right fit with the organisations culture. During the life cycle of an employee, at an individual level, what directly affects the employee, whether it be personal development or performance evaluation, or for that matter separation are human resource policies. An organisation that is able to create a fair, just and humane HR system helps keep aloft individual morals and significantly removes the chances of individual impropriety. At the organisational level, while leadership has the onus of weaving a culture of ethics it is the responsibility of HR to spread the culture across every level and create a sense of collective responsibility towards all stakeholders. A community approach towards ethics also creates communal goodwill which moves beyond business objectives to serve the society. At a time when corruption is rampant and malpractice the order of the day, the society at large will willingly pay a premium to do business with an organisation that serves a greater goal than its own bottom line.
In this issue we have looked at the various facets of ethics in an organisation with special emphasis on recruitment and selection process and how HR is playing an important part in tackling it tactfully. In a business environment where the quality of our talent makes the difference between success and failure, creating a bond of trust that is based on an ethical culture will go a long way in helping both the individual and the organisation succeed. It is our opportunity to make an impact that goes beyond business-as-usual.