Tips and Advice for Creating a Safe and Ethical Work Environment

July 17, 2019 | Reskill Your Workforce | 5 min read
Tips and Advice for Creating a Safe and Ethical Work Environment

In addition to blogging about compliance and environmental health and safety, my colleague John Arendes, Skillsoft’s Vice President and GM of Global Compliance Solutions, and I are regular contributors to many industry periodicals and magazines. Here’s a selection of our most recent contributions, all of which provide useful and practical advice as organizations work to promote a safe and ethical workplace.

An article in Corporate Compliance Insights by John and Katie Smith, Executive Vice President and Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer at Convercent, offers four strategies that organizations can use to ensure ethical behavior is fundamentally rooted in company culture. John and Katie provide proven tips compliance and ethics leaders can use to build trust and increase engagement within their organization. These best practices include setting organizational expectations for all employees, creating an environment where it’s okay and safe to be vocal, demonstrating organizational justice, and taking measures to monitor for examples of retaliation.

For example, John and Katie explain that to avoid mistrust, organizations must monitor for retaliation. You’ll first need access to the relevant data and developing a partnership with HR is a great way to do this. Their suggested monitoring ideas include:

  • Performing 30-day, three-month and six-month check-ins with reporters and implicated parties (for all serious allegations or just for those that have a higher risk of retaliation).
  • Monitoring employees that exit the company or who suddenly switch departments.
  • Comparing involved parties’ compensation against their peers. Has their compensation lagged, and could retaliation be part of the reason?
  • Reviewing involved parties’ performance evaluations. Did their performance significantly decline post investigation? If so, retaliation could be a factor.

Learn more by reading Empowering Employees to Speak Up Against Unethical Behavior.

Too often, organizations approach compliance training with a check-the-box mentality and fail to see that compliance is more than policies and regulations; it is also about creating safe workplaces and reducing the risk potential to all. In a Training Industry article, I present four essential characteristics of successful compliance programs. I also explore how to engage employees, personalize training, offer blended learning, and customize content to the role and of the learner.

For example, I explain that training that includes organization-specific information and is personalized allows managers to be strategic with training and communicate the importance and relevance of training to employees. Incorporating a company’s brand and voice confers authenticity and reminds employees that the training is not a check-the-box exercise but an integral part of the company’s identity.

To go deeper, training content should incorporate images or scenarios that depict real events or scenes from the company. When employees see that training is not just an off-the-shelf solution, they know that the company has invested time and money to develop and tailor relevant content, illustrating the purpose of the training and, as a result, enhancing the learning experience.

Learn more by reading Driving Engagement and Safety with Compliance Training.

In a recent article in Safety + Health, the official magazine of the NSC Congress & Expo, I answered the question: how does creating a culture around training and education empower and encourage employees to assess their work areas for hazards, as well as play an active role in eliminating those hazards? While companies often declare their intent to create a “safe culture,” all too often the reality is it never happens as other initiatives and business goals take precedence. However, such an approach is problematic and one that puts employees at risk.

Fostering a safe, ethical and compliant company culture is less challenging than many believe. It requires identifying and analyzing risks, assigning training that is relevant to each employee’s job duties and responsibilities, and importantly getting leadership buy-in. A safe, people-centric culture needs to have the full support of the leadership team.

Leaders should view training as an opportunity to directly communicate expectations of what is and is not acceptable employee behavior. It is where employees become aware of what their leaders expect of them, how they will be held accountable, and how valuable training is for them and their family. It’s important to empower employees with the ability to be responsible for the safety of themselves and their co-workers. This is the hallmark of a mature safety culture.

Learn more by reading Eliminating workplace hazards trough training.

In another Corporate Compliance Insights article, John explains why it is to the employer’s benefit to help employees deal with information overload and determine what compliance topics and policies are essential to the organization. Much has changed since John started work in 1989 and received the 10-page employee handbook that he could carry around in his work bag. Today over 205 billion emails are sent and received daily, and by the end of this year, estimates put that number at over 246 billion.

John writes about why with such large volumes of communications, it is critical that organizations take measures to ensure employees understand all company policies. Employers must ensure they are helping their employees understand what is essential to the organization. Having an audit trail along with version controls helps ensure the employer and the employee are working together to help keep the business operating at the highest possible standards.

Learn more by reading How to Mitigate Risk with a Comprehensive View of Company Policies.

Lastly, I want to highlight an article that one of our customers, Sarah Waltman, Senior Director of Talent Management at Domtar Paper Company contributed to CEP Magazine. Sarah wrote about the significant benefits compliance committees bring to organizations particularly as they relate to establishing people-centric compliance cultures. Sarah delves into the nuts and bolts of these committees and the role they can play in a company compliance framework particularly as it relates to investing in compliance technology.

Learn more by reading How compliance committees can lead to successful business.

Keep in mind, the full article is only available to members of the Society for Corporate Compliance and Ethics.

If there is a subject about compliance or environmental health and safety that you want to learn more about, please suggest it via the comments section below. We will do our best to write about it in future blogs and articles.

Norm Ford is VP of Operations for Compliance Solutions at Skillsoft.