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Most of the debates concerning business ethics have mainly concentrated on social and ecological responsibility of organizations in the society. In the recent years ethics has increasingly become an internal concern for companies. In the past years the management ignored employees’ interests as they prioritized the interests of stockholders. Human resource has become a very important resource to many organizations.
This calls for the need to ensure justice and fairness in the manner in which this resource is handled. Employers in a typical organization are in an increasingly advantaged position, whereby they dominate and govern the relationship between their employees and themselves. This shows the need for evaluating the role of the management in promoting morality and ethical procedures in dealing with employees (Pinnington, Macklin & Campbell, 2007).
Ethics in the functions of HRM
Human resource department stands as the central entity that should lead in inculcating ethical principles in an organization. For an organization to adhere to ethical standards it depends more on cooperation of its employees. These include meeting the public expectations on ethics and adhering to ethical regulations set by the government and other private bodies.
However, this practice must begin by handling employees ethically and introducing the ethical principles at the time of recruitment and all through the period the employee will be engaged to the organization. Therefore, ethics should be part of the HRM functions (Köster, 2007).
Ethics in Recruitment
A company should act ethically while advertising for job opportunities in the organization. They should ensure that the advertisement contains true information about the job rather than unrealistic information meant to attract the targeted applicant. The management should also ensure that they actually follow the due process in recruitment.
For instance, the company should not use vacancy advertisements as a mere PR process, while recruiting employees through other unacceptable means. A case in point is when the management advertises vacancy for the public to apply, yet they have already picked on a candidate to fill the position (Köster, 2007).
Ethics in selection and orientation
During selection the HR panel needs to examine and discuss the values of prospective employees and use the findings of that process to make selection decisions. During orientation the company should emphasize the values that are upheld by the organization so that the employee can carry on with those values if selected.
The staff at the human resource department should always show the importance of ethics in the organization. The potential employee is likely to come in to contact first with employees in this department before anyone else. This means that the new member will form his/her perception about the organization through their interaction. For instance, the employee’s expectation of ethical behavior will be influenced by the fairness in the selection process (Saiyadain, 2009).
There are measures that the HR department can put in place to ensure that the selection process is fair and ethical. First, the managers should purpose to use selection tests that are in line with the organization’s purpose. The criteria for selection should be clearly set out.
This includes making the process known to everyone who is involved in the process. The management should ensure that those in the panel are trained and well equipped for the task. For instance, they should know to ask relevant questions and to draw conclusions from the respondents’ answers.
The HRM department therefore, has a responsibility to ensure that the employees hired in the organization are able and willing to uphold ethical practices. When HRM hires ethical employees, chances are high that such employees will be consistent in ethical behavior when faced with ethical dilemmas at the work place (Saiyadain, 2009).
Ethics in employee training
Many organizations are increasingly finding it important to include ethics training as part of employee training. They have found that ethics training can be an effective component in dealing with unethical behavior within the organization. Therefore, the organization needs to develop an in-house training on ethics that covers two main aspects of ethics.
Ethical awareness which deals with increasing employee’s sensitivity to ethical dilemmas and ethical reasoning which educates the employees on strategies to be used in dealing with ethical dilemmas. Ethical training can also be helpful to new employees whereby training programs can be developed that provide them with information on the available resources and designated personnel who can provide them with ethical and legal advice in the organization (Ferrell, Fraedrich & Ferrell, 2009).
To ensure that the ethics training is effective, the management needs to put some measures in place. These include setting up a code of ethics for the organization, outlining the process for airing out ethical concerns and ensuring that all staff is involved in the development of the code of ethics.
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In addition, the management should communicate to the employees the organization’s priorities on ethical issues. Furthermore, the training should take in to consideration the characteristics of the organization, such as size, employee base, culture and management style (Sims, 1994).
Ethics in employee reward systems
The HR department can develop reward systems that promote ethical behavior within the organization. This can be in form of monetary compensation, employee benefits or even special employee recognition. Such measures can be helpful in reinforcing individual and group values as well as maintaining enthusiasm in adhering to ethical values of the organization.
However, the HRM department should be very keen when selecting a particular reward scheme. This is because some of them produce negative results from employees. For instance, some tempt employees to do the prohibited things and some instill fear by emphasizing on punishment in case of the employee defaults (Sims, 1994).
Some reward systems promote contradictory norms which the employee in a dilemma. This is whereby, the organization advocate for a certain conduct, while it rewards the other. The management advocates for teamwork; however, when rewarding it seeks for the outstanding employee in the team. The employees will therefore be tempted to compete against each other in the team. Another example is when the management advocates for good customer service among the salespeople, but pays them based on sales made.
This will lead the employees to push for sales on customer without considering how they handle them. Therefore, the HRM should know that reward and appraisal systems can be harnessed to promote ethical behavior in the organization. However, they should remember that the same can also promote unethical behavior (Spencer & Sims, 1995)
It is evident that the HRM can play an important role in promoting ethical behavior in the organization. The human resource department can achieve this by initiating programs that promote ethical culture in the organization. These programs can be incorporated in the human resource functions, which include recruitment, selection, training and orientation as well as rewarding. However, the management should ensure that the programs put in place do not promote the very behaviors they are meant to restrict.
Ferrell, O. C., Fraedrich, J. and Ferrell, L., (2009). Business Ethics: Ethical Decision Making and Cases. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning
Köster, M., (2007). Ethics in Human Resource Management. Norderstedt: GRIN Verlag
Pinnington, A., Macklin, R. and Campbell, T., (2007). Human resource management: ethics and employment. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press
Saiyadain, (2009). Human Resources Management. New Delhi: Tata McGraw-Hill Education.
Sims, R. R., (1994). Ethics and organizational decision making: a call for renewal. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group
Spencer, M. P. and Sims, R. R., (1995). Corporate misconduct: the legal, societal, and management issues. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group