Human resource management systems are expected to communicate ethical values and so improve company performance. In the absence of a fully separate ethics department, HR departments can struggle with this ethical burden. A 2008 study done by SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, showed that over 50 percent of employers did not make ethical considerations part of their employee evaluations.

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About half of employees did not think they had means to find ethical advice within their company, and even 19 percent of human resources professionals felt pressure to compromise their ethical standards, coming from multiple directions within their companies, though the HR department was the primary resource for ethical information in 80 percent of studied companies. One of the ways the HR department can support ethics management for their company is through the maintenance of a code of ethics.

Briefly, an ethical code for a business should help employees build trust with each other and their company, while clarifying any uncertain or gray areas that may exist in the company’s ethical considerations. Instead of only supporting existing ethical standards, a proper code of ethics should seek to raise the standard and improve employee behavior. The code should show members of the company how to make judgment decisions and encourage such proper decision making, while at the same time providing enforcement protocols to prevent misconduct. When writing the code of ethics, an HR department should be sure to do the following:

Create clear objectives for the code and other ethical endeavors to accomplish within the organization. Bring all levels of the organization into the process of creating the code, gaining support throughout the company. Check on all the latest legislation, both national and state, that may affect the company’s ethical processes, expectations, and requirements, so that the ethical code can be as current as possible. Use the clearest language possible, making the code accessible and simple to understand. Willingly answer realistic problems and address real-life scenarios so that employees will have clear answers to their questions.

List several resources for employees to seek continuing ethical

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education, from other reports by the HR department to helpful Web sites that can provide guidance. Keep in mind that the code of ethics is meant to be used, making sure that it is communicated to all levels of the organization and readily available to any employee who may need aid making judgment calls. A code of ethics is only one part of the entire ethical system in an organization. The HR department should also make use of several other ethical tools to ensure employees are practicing right-behaviors and fully understand their ethical requirements.

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