Business ethics is the process of pursuing corporate interests, such as profit and growth, while staying in line with the rules and laws of society, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce website. Your company ethics determine how your employees interact with each other and how your company is perceived by society. By understanding the difficulties of implementing business ethics in an organization, you can develop a more effective ethics policy.
As the business world continues to become more global, you will find a diverse set of cultural backgrounds in your staff. These can be differences in religion, nationality or beliefs based on life experiences. Ethics can often come into conflict with cultural backgrounds because what is perceived to be ethical in the United States may offend those members of your staff that come from a different culture. It is important to take into account not only the broad range of cultures within your own staff when developing and implementing business ethics, but you also need to consider the cultures you will be doing business with.
Part of the problem in implementing a corporate ethics policy is a potential lack of understanding by the people implementing it, according to corporate policy expert James O'Toole as quoted on the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics website. You can create a comprehensive ethics policy for your company; but if the managers and trainers implementing the policy are not aware of the possible nuances involved in implementing it, then there can be problems arising due to misinterpretation. For example, creating an in-depth presentation on one particular set of religious holidays, while glossing over others, can offend some people. The written policy many be comprehensive, but the presentation can cause problems.
Business ethics training needs to be an ongoing task at a company. It needs to be part of the new employee orientation program, and it needs to be done quarterly for all employees. The reason is that employee turnover can create gaps in the ethics policy if it is not reviewed on a regular basis. Giving new employees printed information to review without backing it up with extensive ethics training can allow the information to be misinterpreted or forgotten. Without constant reinforcement of the ethics policy, it can become weakened due to employee turnover.
How the public perceives your company's ethics policies can affect the future success of your organization. It can be difficult to gauge how the public will react to the way your company treats its employees, the charitable contributions your company makes and how your company sells and presents its product to the public. The shifting wave of public opinion can often become a driving force with your ethics policies, but trying to keep up with public perception can become a difficult and frustrating process.