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Values and Ethics: Involving Employees
Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

How do you involve employees in developing your organization’s values and ethics framework?

Employee retention and the dwindling supply of ‘talented’ labour are serious challenges for today’s managers. A content and productive workforce takes more than money and unique benefits. Creating a setting where people feel comfortable, safe and equipped to make decisions is often just as important. The development and integration of a values and ethics framework is key to creating this type of setting. The question is how do we do this well?

Developing an effective values and ethics framework requires a commitment to involve and listen to employees in a meaningful way. People want a voice and want to be heard, especially on issues that matter to them. The development of a legitimate values and ethics framework should include a number of involvement activities. Information-based activities are usually “passive” since they do not necessarily provide a means to involve people, who can choose to act upon or ignore the information that is provided. Typical examples include the use of websites, brochures, fact sheets and advertisement campaigns. While information-based activities are key to providing a sound basis for informed input, activities that enable meaningful participation and interaction are essential to ensuring that the framework reflects the values of employees across the organization. In other words, for the framework to be internalized by employees, they “must see themselves in it”. Otherwise, it becomes another meaningless management edict.

Of course, there are challenges. As involvement increases so do the level of effort, expectations and commitment to using the input. Inviting employees to consider all sides of a particular issue means presenting them with balanced, unbiased information. Developing this content is not an easy undertaking – particularly in the area of values and ethics where the issues are rarely black and white. Moreover, creating an environment where employees are able to feel free to challenge organizational practices and unwritten rules and to collaborate and make informed decisions will, in many cases, require them to act in ways they are not used to or comfortable with. Managers must lead by example and model the desired behaviours. They must also create the conditions for success, encourage, support, and above all manage expectations of employees through this process.

Despite the challenges, the end results will be greater than the sum of the parts. Meaningful employee involvement is key to producing a values and ethics framework that employees will relate to and be inspired by. It will also help increase loyalty and organizational attachment.

– Rob Mariani –

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