How to Educate Your Employees About an Ethical Workplace


Hassina Obaidy



Workplace ethics issues have made more headlines in the past couple of years as a result of the #MeToo movement, business scandals, and code of conduct violations. While they may not be as dramatic as those that have made the headlines, every company has faced an ethics violation to some degree, even if those involved weren’t aware of it.

Thanks to underlying stress related to trying to meet rigid deadlines, unrealistic aspirations, and personal life-changing situations, it’s tough to always make ethical business decisions. And, while a 50+ page employee handbook might have everything an employee needs to know about the company, it doesn’t necessarily teach and reinforce how to be ethical in the workplace.

Companies today need a better, more interactive way to educate employees on what an ethical workplace looks like and how to handle unethical situations to avoid those scandalous headlines. Here are three approaches that work.

Anonymous Q&A and training

Completed ethics training is more than just checking the box once a year. How do you know if it was effective? Are employees aware of their actions and behaviors and the impact it has on others? Sure, there are numerous eLearning systems available with training and courses to complete on their own time, but that’s just one part of teaching ethics.

After your employees have completed an online training, they might feel confused or shocked about their results, or where they land on the Workplace Color Spectrum(TM). Consider hosting an anonymous Q&A as part of extending that conversation, ensuring a safe space, and of course, clarifying the company’s core values. Give your employees an option to ask the experts with a workplace issue.

For example, with Emtrain, employees can submit anonymous questions or concerns and role-play tricky culture situations. Emtrain Answers allows your employees to submit an anonymous question or concern and an expert with a legal background or other relevant expertise will respond with their advice. By giving your employees this option, you’re also creating a sense of trust and acceptance of privacy.

Executive and expert influence

Unethical practices in the workplace lead to widespread disruption and dissatisfaction in the work that employees are doing. Ultimately, It’s critical to get your leadership involved and committed to ethics training from the very beginning. The leaders of your organization set an ethical example for the rest of the workforce. As part of interactive training, executives who speak about ethics will have an even higher impact. Encourage your leadership team to have an open conversation with the company and discuss a real-life story about an unethical situation, whether it happened to them or a recent news story.

In addition to executive influence, why not bring in some experts? Experts on ethics can bring a different perspective in addition to leadership and HR. Experts are also less intimidating compared to executives of the company. Employees will feel more comfortable opening up about sensitive ethical topics to an anonymous person who is not directly tied to the company. Finding the right expert with a human, empathetic approach will create the open, safe space companies strive for and employees seek.

Microlearning lessons

Remember, ethics is a vast topic. Microlearning offers targeted opportunities to focus on different areas of ethical issues. Create digestible content by breaking down the topic into subtopics so your employees will remember. These areas include:

  • Company culture and core values
  • Code of conduct
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Misuse
  • Anit-bribery and corruption
  • Insider trading
  • Antitrust
  • Data privacy
  • Other compliance issues

Microlearning is also useful to keep your workplace up to date on the latest regulations and changes in the law on compliance. Rather than forwarding a link about the new law or changes in the law, consider summarizing the new information in a microlesson with a survey to test your employees’ awareness of the issue.

Every company has its own way of teaching ethics in the workplace. Anonymous Q&A and training, executive influence and experts, and microlearning lessons are just some of the ways to get you started. Ready to do more? Check out our previous blog post for ways to create and maintain an ethical workplace. Looking for help in implementing interactive ethics training? Get in touch!


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