Is mandatory ethics training a good idea? Is this just another way bureaucrats waste time? Well, not really. The recent story that Reuters has begun requiring all its reporters to take ethics training caught our eye, but this is only one of many private companies to require ethics training.
In fact, there is a whole cottage industry of private companies that specialize in providing ethics training. As one, Inspired eLearning explains:
Enron is perhaps the most highly publicized case of corporate malfeasance in recent memory. The actions of Enron executives collapsed a company, sent individuals to jail and saddled them with hefty fines, cost shareholders an estimated $43 billion in losses and led to catastrophic losses for Enron employees, many of whom had their entire retirement savings tied up in company stock.
In the wake of Enron’s spectacular collapse, a copy of the Enron code of ethics was one of the hotter items offered for sale on eBay. “Never been opened,” quipped a seller and former Enron employee whose unopened policy proved that having a code of conduct is not enough.
If your company has a written code of conduct, you’ve taken a critical first step toward preventing ethics and compliance lapses. But printing copies of your code and posting them or passing them out to employees is not enough. To be effective, a code of conduct must be part of a larger effort to promote company-wide compliance with the code.
Amen. It’s absolutely not enough to have ethics rules. More is needed, whether in the public or private sector.