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Use scenarios and bring your code of ethics to life

Training based on realistic scenarios can engage employees with corporate ethical values

Make it engaging and fun!

We love to hear stories and we love to tell them. From huddling in a cave to our modern sophisticated society, stories continue to be our preferred way of communicating and sharing our experiences of life.

Whether it’s an after dinner speech or a day long training session, most situations where we seek to make a connection are improved by the telling of a good story.

Employees receive corporate communications in different forms every day – from their manager, from the CEO, from HQ, from different departments – and ensuring that messages about ethical practice reach and engage them amongst all this corporate chatter is a particular challenge.

The goal of any ethics programme is to embed ethical values into company culture so that they are reflected in the way that business is actually done. This requires more than just imparting knowledge and raising awareness of expected standards. The challenge is to communicate their relevance and importance at all levels and locations in a way that impacts on understanding, decisions and behaviours.

Business ethics training can sometimes include material that seems distant to staff and how they do their day-to-day job. A set of compliance dictats communicated with slides animated with clip art is unlikely to engage anyone.

As Tim Schultz, director of business ethics and compliance at Raytheon, puts it: “A lot of training is ‘death by PowerPoint’; you have a different training experience when you watch a scenario. When you can visualise a situation, you will remember that before you’re going to remember 30 slides.”

Real world experience

To be effective, learning needs to fit with trainees’ experience of the way their world operates, and be practical and applicable to their lives. Using scenarios in a learning situation supports these three elements – experience, practicality and application – and also adds a fourth dimension of participation.

If the desired learning outcome of ethics training is ultimately to encourage personal responsibility for the ethical conduct of the organisation, it is imperative that trainees are engaged in the learning process. Scenarios can foster that engagement.

Scenarios are a means of communicating an organisation’s ethical values, standards of behaviour and approach to speaking up about misconduct. But above all, they are stories, and as stories they engage and inspire people.

By linking learning to real life and the experiences of the participants, scenarios are arguably a more effective training mechanism. When done well, trainees are able to identify with the characters, situations and relationships portrayed even if they have not directly experienced the ethical issue being communicated. This connection is the key to creating the motivation to learn and embed the message of the training.

Real challenges

Using scenarios gives staff practice in talking about ethical dilemmas and “voicing values” thereby giving them the confidence to act appropriately when faced with real life challenges. Scenarios provide a values perspective on right behaviours, rather than simply a compliance one.

They communicate new ways of thinking about ethical issues as different viewpoints are shared. Scenarios give employees practice at applying ethical frameworks and company standards to workplace situations. Scenario training is an opportunity for a “dry run” so that employees will know what to do when confronted with a real situation.

One of the key benefits to using scenarios to communicate ethical values is their flexibility: they can be brief Q and As in a code of ethics; fictionalised case studies in a staff newsletter; printed on a pack of cards for team leaders to use throughout a business; serialised “ethics soap operas”; dramatised performances at an away day; or used in group discussions as part of a dedicated ethics training workshop.

Scenario must-haves

So what makes a good scenario? A new good practice guide from IBE suggests there are a number of factors.

Before starting to develop scenarios, consider the corporate context and motivation for the ethics message or training. Is the company’s approach to ‘doing the right thing’ compliance – or values-led? Is ethics part of routine annual training? Or has there been a ‘misconduct crisis’ or merger or acquisition?

Next, profile the intended audience for the scenarios. Consider seniority, autonomy, roles and functions, and take into account local and national cultural differences.

In order for the scenarios to be effective, they must be relevant to work life at your organisation. Identify salient ethical issues for the company/sector using the code of ethics, identified risks, staff surveys, data from speak up lines, and sector headlines in the media.

Sandra Franklin, compliance officer at Stryker says: “Using case studies based on the industry of the trainees has real meaning – it reflects what they do on a day to day basis. A case study is never really relevant until it comes into your own territory.”

Source material can be gathered from within the organisation. Ask for stories and relevant situations from ethics ambassadors and business heads. But remember, if using real cases, to ensure they are made sufficiently anonymous.

Make it fun

Consider the style of the scenarios: is humour appropriate? Humour can be a valuable tool in training, enabling people to relax and enjoy the training experience, making them more likely to open up and participate in discussions. Eliciting a laugh can be a great way to connect with participants, and for them to connect with one another.

Humour should, however, be used with caution. It goes without saying that any humour should not be based on racism, sexism or anything which goes against the ethical values of the company. Also, be aware of cross-cultural differences; what may be funny in one territory may not translate well in another.

Be aware that some audiences may feel that using humour trivialises the subject and the seriousness of the topic. For example, if the training is part of an internal trust repair workshop following a corporate crisis, emotions may still be too raw to look at scenarios which portray similar events in a comical way. A scenario for senior managers in the wake of a crisis may require more gravitas than a video for recent graduate recruits.

Your organisation is full of stories – use them to communicate the importance of doing business ethically. Creating “watercooler conversations” out of fictional ethical dilemmas is one way to encourage staff to think about how business is done, and ought to be done.

Katherine Bradshaw is the author of Developing and Using Business Ethics Scenarios, the sixth in the IBE Good Practice Guides, available from www.ibe.org.uk

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When the goals and values of shareholders are coincide with.....

JSC "Murmet" was established in January 1995, according to the granted Power of Attorney. Statutory fund was - 20 000 USD plus a second-hand loader "Hitachi." The staff was 15 people.The production yard there was at the territory of company "Murmansk shipyard."The company's mission was not one of the statements on the turnover, profits and market shares. We wanted to become the best company in providing services for the enterprises of the mining complex and shipyards. In such cooperation, we saw the future of our company. The year 1995, it was not an easy time in Russia, and we discussed with the shareholders not the crisis, but the emerging prospects. Responsibility and respectfullness, based on honesty, so the relationship was built between the shareholders and the branch of JSC "Murmet" in Murmansk.
One of the basic principles of corporate culture of Kuusakoski Oy is "..... that each employee of Kuusakoski group has the opportunity to address the Board of Directors on matters relating to significant deficiencies found in the activity within the company”. Each employee could be heard. We had no the so called untouchable. We worked as a team. Relationship between "Murmet" management and the shareholders was built on mutual respect and trust. There were no any information filters. Shareholders had full and objective information about events in the company. In the staff of JSC ”Murmet” there were no employees from Kuusakoski OY. Our cooperation with the mining plants had led to resolving their environmental issues, thereby being mutually beneficial to both parties. Our machinery and our employees worked at the plants, making cleanup and remediation of their landfills, cleaning production yard, recycling old machinery, equipment and vehicles. Everyone was doing his job. Sunken ships were raised from the bottom of the Kola Bay and were recycled by supplier’s companies. Decommissioned ships, standing for a long time at the berths and creating a pollution threat to the Gulf were recycled by the companies, that received funding from the JSC "Murmet" for recycling and buying other decommissioned vessels from shipowners. Shipowners of the decommissioned vessels were now able to release the expensive port berths to use them according to their intended purpose. Shipyards of the Navy, were also actively involved in the disposal of decommissioned surface ships and submarines with the financial support of the JSC Murmet. For the 15 years of operation JSC "Murmet" shipped for export and domestic market about 1.5 million tons of scrap metal, it is 400 ships under the Russian and foreign flags. Not one dollar was not lost. Started paying dividends since 1998. Never was cash payment. In 1995, I got a bank corporate checkbook. Put it in the safe. Never used to get cash. In June 2010, prior to retirement, put the checkbook in the shredder. Shipyard berths and the production sites of the mining companies began to look different. The berths were used to repair ships, and the production sites were busy with the design and construction of new workshops.
The shareholders strictly monitored the situation so, that clients their subsidiaries in Russia, generally met one and only single expression of the corporate face. Company culture has been created, based on the best service for mining companies and shipyards in the Murmansk region. When the goals and values of shareholders are coincide with the goals and values of subcompany's management, you are on the top of business or you will be there soon.
. Sergey Maslov Gen. director, Advisor JSC «Murmet»(Kuusakoski OY) 1995-2010.