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Deloitte as an Ethical and Inclusive Workplace Essay

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Updated: Jun 12th, 2020

Introduction

Deloitte, which is a large accounting firm in Australia, faces challenges employee engagement and satisfaction. Such challenges are pronounced in the company’s female workers compared to their male colleagues. A major cause of this issue entails inadequate opportunity for professional development and promotion. To deal with the challenge, the company established a women’s development initiative, which failed to yield fruits. The situation led to media’s (The Age) criticism that Deloitte engages in ethically questionable HR practices (Festing et al. 2013). Written from the position of a HR consultant, this paper conducts as a diagnosis of the failure of the women development initiative with the help of ethical theories. It then recommends how to foster ethical and inclusive workplace at Deloitte.

Diagnosis of Failure of the Women Development Initiative

Deloitte’s problem of female employee engagement and satisfaction arises from the workers’ perceptions of denial or non-creation of opportunities for development and self-promotion. A remedy for this problem involved the creation of women development initiative, which according to the case study, involved holding a one-week workshop that was aimed at building women skills, including boldness, negotiation, and self-promotion (Festing et al. 2013). However, the program failed soon after it was launched. It never addressed the underlying challenges that the female employees were facing. An emerging question here is, ‘what are the reasons for the failure of the female employee engagement and satisfaction program?’

When female employees attempt to deploy the skills that they learned from the program, a survey that was conducted in the company showed that the ‘assertiveness’ skill never worked. Female employees felt that they were patronized by the organization’s assumption that they did not have confidence (Festing et al. 2013).

The women’s problem that led to their low engagement and satisfaction levels was not just a mere lack of a satisfaction and engagement program. Rather, the organization suffered a cultural problem of gender discrimination. How unethical are Deloitte’s the HR practices? Guided by the rights theory, the utilitarian presumption, the caring speculation, the virtue hypothesis, and the distributive justice ethical theory, a discriminatory organizational culture is dishonorable. However, before examining ethical matters concerning Deloitte’s HR practices as criticized by The Age in the context of the rights, utilitarian, and the virtue theories, it is imperative to establish the correctness of the problem diagnosis. This goal is only accomplished by understanding the constituents of an organizational culture.

Organizational norms, values, and ways of thinking define an organizational culture (Zahidul et al. 2011). This culture has to be aligned with the organizational programs. As suggested by the survey, one of Deloitte’s ways of thinking is that women lack self-assurance. Therefore, even though the company runs the program with the aim of increasing the level of female employee assertiveness, it upholds the assumption they (female workers) cannot be assertive since this trait requires a confident person. Therefore, Deloitte’s claim is not true. Besides, it lack of commitment to the initiative is not ethically right.

The utilitarian ethical theory calls for people to look beyond their self-centric interests to enhance total good for all individuals (Garriga & Mele 2009). Using the utilitarian theory in the case of Deloitte, it is imperative to evaluate the repercussions of an individual action so that an ethical action is the one which does not harm any party that is subjected to its consequences. To this extent, the company’s HR practices are unethical such that the organizational culture regards female employees as lacking confidence. This biased perception harms them in terms of developing assertive, bargaining, and self-promotion skills. Therefore, from the utilitarian theory, the program has failed since the existing harm on some parties (discrimination based on gender) has not been eliminated.

The virtue ethics of care emphasizes morality when determining ethical actions as opposed to conformity to a set of rules (deontology) (Bennet 2011). Under this school of thought, actions are ethical if one can foresee another person acting in the same capacity towards him or her. It also insists that actions are ethical if they are helpful to their target. Viewing women as lacking confidence is not helpful to them. Other parties such as the male workers may not appreciate being regarded weak in some areas. Consequently, from the context of the virtue ethics theory, the program failed because the company did not correct this unethical cultural practice.

According to the rights theory, ethical practices should not erode the rights of different parties (Caldwell, Hayes & Long 2010). Female and male employees are the primary parties to conflict. Hence, with reference to Deloitte’s case, the two sides led to the failure of the program. From the principles of the rights ethics theory, it is fair to not only create assurance but also to demonstrate it by altering the organizational culture that does not view women as equally capable of showcasing strong confidence and assertiveness just like men. Although Deloitte has the right to create and shape its organizational culture in the manner it wants, it is clearly unethical from the rights theory to label women as lacking confidence.

Recommendations on how to Foster an Ethical and Inclusive Workplace

Nothing is wrong with the female employee development initiative program based on its way of formulation. However, its inherent challenges rest squarely on its preparation for implementation. The program could have been successful if HR’s culture could have been changed first for the department and the entire organization to recognize that confidence does not constitute a personality trait that varies depending on an employees’ gender.

While the women development initiative was appropriate for inducing female employee engagement and satisfaction, Deloitte had developed solutions to the HR-related challenge without creating the necessary change to foster the program implementation process. Hence, it failed to induce organizational preparedness for change by altering its assumptions and norms. Thus, the company should consider accomplishing this process before embarking on the program or any other agenda that is aimed at increasing female employee contentment and engagement.

The elements of an organizational culture comprise some basic assumptions that when adopted and observed by all stakeholders, especially the diverse workforce, can aid in enhancing the success of the organization (Adel, Al-Marzooqi & Mohammed 2007). However, this finding is not the case for Deloitte. While female employees want to be satisfied and engaged through developing assertive, bargaining, and self-promotion skills, this issue may not be central to their male counterparts. Therefore, Deloitte should consider changing its norms and values to recognize the contribution of all employees, despite their demographic differences in organizational success. This goal is only achievable after eliminating any wrong and discriminatory perceptions such as the witnessed variation of confidence levels among employees based on their gender in the organizational culture.

Conclusion

Deloitte failed in implementing a female employee development initiative that was aimed at increasing their satisfaction and engagement levels. The company failed to first rectify its HR’s unethical practices that considered confidence a gender-based variable. This perception eroded female employees’ right to fair and equal consideration in the organizational culture. Consequently, it was hard to implement a program that could enable women to develop skills that were contrary to Deloitte’s norms and assumptions. The paper recommended a change of organizational culture for the company to recognize equal abilities of employees as a success factor to the program, despite their diversity differences.

References

Adel, A, Al-Marzooqi, N & Mohammed, Y 2007, ‘Organizational Culture and Knowledge Sharing: Critical Success Factors’, Journal of Knowledge Management, vol.11, no. 2, pp. 22-42.

Bennet, F 2011, The Virtuoso Human: A Virtue Ethics Model Based on Care, The University of Florida, Florida.

Caldwell, C, Hayes, A & Long, D 2010, ‘Leadership, Trustworthiness, and Ethical Stewardship’, Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 96, no.4, pp. 497-512.

Festing, M, Budhwar, P, Cascio, W, Dowling, P & Scullion, H 2013, ‘Current issues in International HRM: Alternative forms of assignments, careers and talent management in a global context’, German Journal of Research in Human Resource Management, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 161-166.

Garriga, E & Mele, D 2009, ‘Corporate Social Responsibility Theories: Mapping the Territory’, Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 51–71.

Zahidul, I, Sylvana, M, Hassan, A & Sarwar, U 2011, ‘Organizational culture and knowledge sharing: Empirical evidence from service organizations’, African Journal of Business Management, vol. 5, no. 14, pp. 5900-5909.

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