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Steps To Create An Ethics Statement

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By Peter R. Kensicki

The following is a simple six-step process that you may use to develop and implement an ethical Statement of Values at your organization.

The first step in developing a statement of ethical values is to indicate complete support for such a statement by the CEO of the organization and by identifying those stakeholders who need to be served.

Second, invite representatives of all stakeholders to a meeting to discuss the goal of creating an ethical statement of values. The group could be divided into smaller units with one representative of each stakeholder in each group.

An easy way to begin is to ask all stakeholders to list five words or phrases that describe how they would like to perceive the organization. The words chosen are overwhelmingly reflective of values such as “honest,” “respectful,” “responsible,” “caring,” and “fair.”

Interestingly, these same five words reflect not just those residing in the United States, but throughout the world (with one exception–outside the United States, words reflecting a strong value for “freedom” make the top five). But the words ultimately selected must reflect stakeholder interests.

Third, the words or phrases should be expanded into expectations surrounding them.

For example, assume the word “responsible” was chosen by an insurance agency. The expanded version could be: “Responsiblewhen you asked us a question, every employee is empowered to respond, within 24 hours, with the answer, or with the proper person to answer the question, or with an explanation as to why no answer can be given. We take your questions seriously and we will respond in a timely manner.”

These are the Statement of Values. The focus group could be called together again to review and finalize these statements.

Fourth, a system of feedback should be created. It could be a confidential hot line or surveys of stakeholders to see if employees are delivering the values promised.

This system would include a clear designation of one person responsible for the program. Usually this person, perhaps a “corporate integrity officer,” should be someone with line authority and in the top level of management. Appointment of the individual should have the agreement of the employees, if not the owners or board of directors. Employees have an uncanny knack for knowing who is both ethical and who can be in charge of compliance.

Fifth, assure appropriate implementation and monitoring of results.

The best way to assure implementation and good communication varies from organization to organization based on its size, culture or other characteristic.

It is widely held that the CEO plays a critical role in the implementation and communications. He or she should be visibly involved in the entire effort. In fact, some have suggested for this purpose that the CEO be identified as not only the chief executive officer but also the chief ethical officer.

Finally, those employees, suppliers or other stakeholders who do deliver the values should be rewarded. Rewards could be monetary, stock, dinners, extra time off or any other of the myriad of other possibilities.

Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, November 12, 2001. Copyright 2001 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.

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