Experienced Ethics Professionals Elevate Your Corporate Culture with Comprehensive Ethics Programs

Proven methods improve efficiency while protecting against civil liability and fraud

In business, efficiency and ethics go hand in hand. When business processes and controls are lax, invariably the ethical climate in the organization suffers. However, an emphasis on efficiency alone cannot help a faltering culture restore its ethical core. Restoration of an ethical corporate culture requires leadership and commitment to processes and principles that put ethics front and center. At North American Forensic Accounting, we have studied ethics in the workplace extensively. We know what causes deviant behavior, i.e., behavior that strays from ethical norms and undermines an organization’s mission. We know how to address the problem by building an organization-wide ethics program that rewards ethical conduct and punishes negative behavior. Our system helps companies reduce the risk of liability for sexual harassment and other abuses, as well as losses from fraud. Our NAFA experts can show you how to articulate company values, set expectations for conduct, train workers, and establish processes that enhance your company culture and drive business success.

Creating a Code of Ethics for your organization

As a business leader, you cannot assume that all workers come to your company knowing how to behave. A Code of Ethics sets guidelines for conduct. More than a list of prohibitions, your Code must state values that your company is committed to promoting. These values must resonate, so that employees from the top of the company to bottom can get on board. To establish your Code, you should:

  • State your values — Your company exists to make a profit, but that end does not justify unethical means. Start by thinking of the image you want to project in the marketplace. How do you want consumers to view your company? Wholesome, honest, reliable, dedicated, professional? These are the values you must internalize as well, by promoting them among your workers. Now try integrating those values in a strong mission statement that articulates why you’re in business and how you plan to do business, both internally and with the public.
  • Draft your Code — Given what you’ve said your company stands for, how should employees behave in their various roles? Set specific expectations for conduct and establish processes for dealing with deviant behavior, including potential sanctions. Your Code should state expectations for a range of interactions, including customer-facing comportment, coworker relationships, and employee dealings with your vendors. Be sure to include incentives for ethical behavior and mechanisms for remedying negative behavior, such as reporting, review, and investigative processes. For guidance, you can read Codes published online by reputable companies whose success you might emulate.
  • Get employees buy in at the start — Codes that are handed down from on high are less effective than Codes that workers themselves participate in drafting. Depending on your resources, you might set up a drafting committee with participants from every level of your organization. When your committee is finished, you can present the Code as the work product of your rank-and-file, rather than an edict from management.

Finally, it’s imperative that management commits to the Code, especially those supervisors charged with daily oversight of your workers.

Promoting your company’s Code of Ethics

A Code of Ethics is only relevant and effective when it is lived. Implementation of your Code demands that various departments, especially Human Resources, make it a central theme of your business operations. The Code must be evident in:

  • Hiring and promotion — Since you only want to onboard and advance ethical individuals, these processes must rely on a consideration of ethics.
  • Training — Even if you screen candidates for ethics, you need to reinforce your values through training, or they will adapt to the culture as it is. Companies trying to reverse a negative culture must conduct training in the new Code across the board. Later, HR can conduct retraining as needed.
  • Reporting procedures — The companies must provide employees with a process for reporting conduct that violates the Code. Management’s process for responding to reports must be clear and transparent.
  • Review procedures — Every internal review your company performs should examine performance under your Code. Adherence to the Code should be a prominent factor in employee performance reviews, and those reviews should recognize and reward compliance.
  • Sanctions — The Code must provide for employee discipline. Employees must be granted due process for alleged Code violations, and punishments, up to and including termination, must be clearly stated.
  • Role of leadership — Management’s role in the implementation of the Code cannot be overstated. Therefore, communications from leadership to rank-and-file should regularly refer to the tenets of the Code. When considering new management, the company should only advance candidates who have shown a commitment to the Code.

These guidelines are crucial to the successful implementation of a corporate Code of Ethics. However, every company has special circumstances that require special attention. NAFA has the extensive experience necessary to advise your company on the specifics of your unique situation.

Managing conflicts of interests that can undermine your organization

Your employees have outside interests. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be human. But sometimes those outside interests can work in opposition to your company’s objectives. Take for example, the case of an executive who contracts with a startup founded by one of his children. This scenario could not only be a bad deal for the company, but it could set a precedent that undermines the ethical climate of your entire organization. Your Code of Ethics must articulate what constitutes a conflict of interest and require a full disclosure of conflicts as they arise. You must also provide a process for addressing undisclosed conflicts when they come to light.

Contact North American Forensic Accounting to learn how you can implement a comprehensive ethics program

North American Forensic Accounting believes that an ethical climate can drive business success. To learn more, call us at 347-286-4860 or contact one of our offices online to schedule an appointment. NAFA serves clients from offices throughout the United States, including in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York City, Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, and the Tampa Bay Area.