ethics. The ;rst thing Brett Cohen asks prospective
employees to do during interviews is describe the best
work culture they have ever been a part of.
“You get a sense of their value perspective,” says
Cohen, vice president for human resources and employee development at Elbit Systems of America, a
Fort Worth, Texas-based defense and aviation electronics company.
Particularly when interviewing candidates for senior positions, delve into how they handled di;cult
situations in the past. “Past behavior is still the best
predictor of future behavior,” says Gareth Fox, Hilton
Worldwide’s vice president for human resources in
the Americas, based in the Washington, D.C., area.
Another tactic is to lay out ethically challenging
scenarios to see how a candidate reacts. For example,
Cohen might query prospects about what they would
do if asked by their boss to hire one of his or her friends
who isn’t as quali;ed as other candidates.
Or he might describe a situation where a salesperson knows his or her boss wants a deal closed with
a di;cult client and the client o;ers box seats to a
coveted sports event in exchange for a lower price tag
from Elbit. Would the candidate accept the tickets?
What would the candidate say if the boss asks how
he or she got the tickets?
Candidates for top positions often meet with a va-
riety of executives alone and in group settings. “What
we really want to discuss are the areas of potential
weakness,” Cohen says. “Maybe you will ;nd a fatal
Winnowing candidates through interviews, how-
ever, is getting more di;cult as applicants learn how
to address almost any question or situation through
hiring coaches or by scouring the Internet.
“The bar for interviewers has been raised,” Fox says,
adding that they “have to be really prepared and know
what they want to dig into.”
Hiring managers at Elbit put signi;cant stock in
references, Cohen says, though not necessarily those
the candidate provides, as they will likely provide only
positive reviews. Instead, Elbit employees reach into
their professional networks to try to ;nd people who
have worked with the contender. Cohen maintains that
business connections will give a frank assessment of a
job candidate as a professional courtesy.
“We’ve had good success with this,” he says.
On the other hand, Fox ;nds using references “a
little dangerous.” He says, “You just don’t know what
kind of bias people have.”
Cognitive and personality tests are other tools that
can help determine a candidate’s principles. While
there isn’t a speci;c assessment for ethics, surveys
created by companies such as Hogan and Caliper can
measure traits like ambition, sensitivity, temperament
and style. (However, there are also services that help
candidates prepare for these tests.)
“There is no silver bullet for hiring the right person,” Fox says.
METHODS VARY T here’s also no one way to create and maintain an ethical workforce. A cocktail of di;erent ap- proaches is needed, and there are no recipes that
work across all organizations. However, many HR executives believe it’s important to give employees anonymous channels through which to make complaints.
Training is another crucial ingredient to building a
Two years ago, Pawtucket, R.I.-based Hasbro Inc.
started a 14-week management academy for its top
1,000 leaders, with one segment revolving around
ethics. The toy maker’s values include competence,
integrity, empathy and community involvement, and
the program helps managers learn how to put such
virtues into action. The instruction includes lessons
on how to integrate a diverse workforce and make
sure everyone’s opinion is considered.
“It’s about making ethics part of the company fabric,” says Dolph Johnson, Hasbro’s executive vice president and chief human resource o;cer.
When complaints are received, Johnson says, you
have to give managers the bene;t of the doubt. Maybe
they don’t know they are doing something o;ensive,
he notes. Nevertheless, he might deliver a written
warning to a manager or develop a detailed plan for
attitude and style improvement so there’s a way to
document progress—or lack thereof.
Part of the process of creating an atmosphere where
employees feel safe and respected is letting go of workers who refuse to follow the standards. HR managers
don’t like to see individuals lose their jobs, but retaining people who continually disregard company norms
without punishment threatens the overall environment. It’s critical that no one receives special treatment
because of their rank or contribution to the bottom line.
“Removing unethical employees is just as important
as hiring ethical ones,” Cohen says. “You can never
say, ‘We can’t a;ord to lose someone.’ ”
Elbit’s leaders back their message with money. Half
of workers’ pay is based on job performance, while the
rest is determined by behavior.
“We want an atmosphere of dignity and respect,”
Theresa Agovino is workplace editor for SHRM.
This article relates to Ethical Practice, one of the nine competencies on which SHRM has based its certification. To learn more,