Coronavirus has progressed companies' ethical thinking

The coronavirus pandemic has been the ultimate stress test for ethical culture within businesses, according to the annual LRN report.

Employees overall said their companies have navigated difficult decision-making well, as 79% of respondents reported their company's ethical culture strengthening amid the pandemic.

Decisions such as mandatory vaccinations and how to implement social distancing rules were identified as examples where companies did not compromise on their ethics over the past year.

As a result employees said they felt more supported than ever by their employer throughout the pandemic. The majority (82%) said their company has emphasised company values, not just rules and procedures, to motivate employees to do the right thing in difficult circumstances.

Margaret Sweeney, chief people officer at LRN Corporation, said an organisation that prioritises ethics and integrity for its people can conduct its business in an honest, transparent, and appropriate manner.

She told HR magazine: “When employees are ethically well-grounded, it makes it easier for HR professionals to pivot during times of crisis because employees are guided by values not just rule books.

“In moments of uncertainty, the organisation with an ethical culture is going to respond better than the one without because employees trust each other and their leadership to do the right thing.”

Sweeney said there is a greater level of trust that helps the organisation handle the challenge, and this provides the space for the HR team to respond effectively.

Despite these positive efforts, research found companies are still reporting failures within ethics and compliance programmes.

Only 40% of respondents reported that their firms simplified or modified compliance procedures to meet the new business challenges during the pandemic.

However, just under half (45%) of companies indicated that their ethics and compliance team, in the face of the pandemic, strengthened risk controls in critical areas like cybersecurity, privacy and donations of critical equipment

The LRN report, The 2021 Ethics & Compliance Programme Effectiveness Report: Meeting the COVID-19 Challenge, surveyed 650 ethics, compliance, and legal executives and experts at companies around the world with at least 1,000 employees.

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