64 HR MAGAZINE NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2018
ETHICAL PRACTICE MAKE ETHICS YOUR GUIDE
through the company, she adds. Executives must ask
themselves, “How do we institutionalize it?”
About 18 months ago, software maker Conver-
cent hired its ;rst ethics chief, even though the Den-
ver-based business had been operating since 2012.
Convercent’s co-founder and CEO Patrick Quinlan
says when the ;rm was smaller, most new hires had
a connection to someone on the management team.
That changed when the business grew to more than
70 workers and Quinlan decided it was time to codify the organization’s values. The ethics chief, the HR
team and senior management helped create the standards that focus on such traits as honesty, curiosity
Quinlan says that hiring only people you know isn’t
the best path to a diverse workforce and that, as the
company has grown, broadening its employee base
has become a priority.
The company’s website describes how workers can
interact with colleagues and clients in a respectful
manner, and the site has a chatbot that asks users
if they want to discuss a speci;c ethical issue. That
simple query shows that management is concerned
about employees and the culture, Quinlan says.
As CEO, he believes it is crucial that he embod-
ies the code of conduct. Not long ago, for example,
he openly, though gently, reprimanded a colleague
for using the b-word in a meeting. Even though the
word wasn’t directed at a speci;c person, Quinlan
says using a gendered slur is inappropriate in an o;ce
setting and he didn’t want to let it slide. His repri-
mand wasn’t an attempt to embarrass the individual
but rather a way to show the group that the rules on
conduct are enforced.
“When you ;nd a coachable moment, you have to
take it,” he says.
He experienced another teachable moment a few
months ago when he pushed the development team
to work too fast on a project, leading to mistakes. He
directed everyone to refocus the work on quality, and
now he approaches the head of the product group
and asks within earshot of everyone working on the
e;ort, “Are you still comfortable with this release?”
“It’s a small thing, but it is important,” Quinlan
says. “It’s in these everyday actions that you are reinforcing the values.”
PAST IS PROLOGUE F inding managers and executives who will em- brace a ;rm’s principles can be a challenge for HR departments. Job candidates aren’t going to
brag about how they cut corners or padded their expense accounts. And while there are some bright lines
between right and wrong, sometimes ethics can be a
bit fuzzy. What one person considers crossing the line
might be seen by another as just rubbing up against
Still, leaders can instruct new hires on how the organization does business. “Companies have to make sure
people know what the rules are,” Salmon Byrne says.
Even before that, information gleaned at the interview stage can help gauge candidates’ views about
THE GOOD AND BAD NEWS ON CORPORATE ETHICS
THE BRIGHT SPOTS
Misconduct is down. The percentage of employees who
said they observed actions that violated organizational
standards or the law fell to 47 percent in 2017, down from
51 percent in 2013, the last time the Global Business Ethics
Survey was conducted.
Employees are speaking up when they witness bad behavior. The proportion of people who reported inappropriate
conduct rose to 69 percent in 2017 (the highest amount in
17 years), up from 64 percent in 2013 and 56 percent in 2000.
THE PROBLEM AREAS
Workers feel compelled to cut corners. Last year, 16 percent
of employees felt pressured to compromise standards.
That’s up from 13 percent in both 2013 and 2011, and 8 percent in 2009.
There has been an enormous jump in revenge against
whistle-blowers. Last year, 44 percent of workers said they
were retaliated against for reporting wrongdoing;double
the figure recorded in 2013.
Source: Ethics & Compliance Initiative.