President's Message: June 2016
Friday, June 10, 2016
Dear PIHRA Members:
“The time is always right to do what is right.” -- Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”-- C.S. Lewis
“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” -- Albert Einstein
The SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge provides us with many opportunities to reflect on what we should do to develop both our personal skill set and our company’s business strategy. One of the competencies which, in my opinion, cannot receive too much attention is Ethical Practice.
SHRM defines Ethical Practice “as the ability to integrate core values, integrity, and accountability throughout all organizational and business practices.” But it is not enough to define Ethical Practice—we have to achieve it. We have probably all seen businesses that draft a phenomenal set of core values, and then do nothing with them. They may even put framed posters on the wall with lofty quotes written in beautiful calligraphy, only to see everyone simply walk by them each day on the way to the break room. But Ethical Practice is too essential to ignore, or to take for granted. It must be part of the culture. I believe the time it takes to develop and implement ethical standards will be returned many times over if a company can show its employees, clients, and competitors that Ethical Practice is a vibrant cornerstone of the business.
Looking over the “key behaviors” of Ethical Practice SHRM outlines, my personal focus is on three overriding elements I would describe as:
- Personal practice
- Communicating the message
- Holding everyone accountable
What do I mean by “personal practice”? We need to lead by example. We need to act with honesty, integrity, and transparency. It is not enough to talk the talk, we have to walk the walk, and we have to do so consistently. If not, we let ourselves down, destroy trust, and undermine effectiveness. We must, I believe, couple these goals with a commitment to ensuring that all stakeholder voices are heard, and that everyone is treated with respect. By doing so, we will establish ourselves as credible and trustworthy resources to whom employees may voice concerns, and to whom they will look for leadership. As Stephen Covey said, “Moral authority comes from following universal and timeless principles like honesty, integrity, treating people with respect.”
Another essential element of Ethical Practice, I believe, is communicating, to all levels of the workforce, that ethics, honesty, and integrity are valued. Doing the right thing is not just encouraged, but expected. Critically, as SHRM emphasizes, employees must also know they are empowered to report unethical behavior or conflicts of interest without fear of reprisal. Management’s door must always be open to a concerned employee.
Finally, we have to hold people accountable, including ourselves. If we make a mistake, we must own it. If a C-suite executive makes a mistake, the executive must accept responsibility. And, as difficult as it may sometimes be, we must be willing to challenge other executives and senior leaders when potential conflicts of interest arise or ethical boundaries are breached.
Ethical dilemmas can be complex, and the issues they raise are not always clear. A strong network of colleagues can help provide the guidance and support that may be needed when we are faced with a difficult problem. If you are conflicted about the best way to proceed, reach out to a trusted co-worker or one of your PIHRA friends to help you work through the problem.
Next President’s Message: Communication: The ability to effectively exchange information with stakeholders.