Healthcare // Analytics
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7/12/2005
12:41 PM
Mitch Irsfeld
Mitch Irsfeld
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It Takes More Than Ethical People To Make An Ethical Company

OK, let's get serious, no quips about corporate ethics being an oxymoron. We all know that a lot of the recent regulatory fervor was the result of an unethical few engaging in downright illegal activities. And now we're all wearing this compliance monkey on our backs.

OK, let's get serious, no quips about corporate ethics being an oxymoron. We all know that a lot of the recent regulatory fervor was the result of an unethical few engaging in downright illegal activities. And now we're all wearing this compliance monkey on our backs.And don't tell me that it's not a training issue because the heads of large corporations are not trainable. We'll, that last part may be somewhat true, but that's beside the point. Some people are unethical on purpose but the well-publicized scandals where unscrupulous execs hosed shareholders, employees, partners and businesses everywhere, aren't really typical of the way that businesses get in trouble over ethics issues. It's usually the little things. Seemingly innocuous things get said; an e-mail falls into the wrong hands; access is granted to the wrong person; or someone is just ignorant to the consequences of a particular action.

And that's the reason ethics training has become essential. All the compliance initiatives, all the audits and reports, all the process automation is for naught if every employee doesn't understand how to comply with the ethics policies. And that's assuming there are policies to begin with. Everyone likes to think of them self as being ethical. And companies are no different. If they can't project a public image of ethical behavior, they're sunk.

You can make the chicken-and-egg argument about which comes first, ethics policies or compliance policies, but I think ethics training and compliance training should go hand in hand. Ethical behavior in a corporate setting is a learned skill. It's learning what should be done and said under certain circumstances and what can't be done or said under those same conditions. And like compliance, IT systems can be set up to monitor and report on potential hot spots for unethical activities.

We take an in-depth look at the issues of ethical compliance and ethics training in The Ethical Side Of Compliance, which provides important tips on training and what to emphasize in order to foster an ethical culture within an organization.

Being an ethical company isn't about being ethical, it's about practicing ethical behavior and making part of the way a company does business. In our Case Study, we take a look at a large conglomorate, Altria Group, which works hard at Developing An Ethical Company, and offers valuable insight on developing a code of conduct that feeds into a compliance program.

An ethical company is one that tries to do the right thing when no one is looking and it sure makes the transparency issues surrounding compliance less burdensome when your company is "ethical" to begin with.

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