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Posted by Deborah Millhouse, President, CEO Inc.

Missteps and violations at the top levels of companies across the nation have reminded us just how important ethics in business are. Whether you’re a Fortune 100 company or a franchisee at a local branch, an ethical culture is tremendously important in making sure that your company is well-run and is insulated from external investigation and internal sabotage and theft. The fact is that somewhere in the last two decades, the lines between what is and isn’t acceptable in the workplace became blurred, whether that means pocketing pens on a temp job or jumping companies with trade secrets saved to a thumb drive or throwing a six-figure birthday party with embezzled funds. It is the job of top-level executives to redraw those lines by establishing an ethical culture at the very outset of employment.

Your company’s ethics need to be a top priority even at the hiring stages. You can do this – and in the process avoid being star-struck by a winning personality and a stellar résumé – with what’s called behavioral-based interviewing. Here are the keys:

  • Behaviors performed in the past are likely to be repeated in the future, in similar situations.
  • Ask potential hires how they have responded to ethical dilemmas in the past. Then ask how they would respond in hypothetical situations.
  • Check the candidate’s résumé for seemingly inflated or exaggerated entries. Ask for explanations of each. Overly defensive or quiet responses usually indicate a candidate who is misrepresenting his or her skills.
  • Make sure that each interviewee is given a chance to review the company’s policy, and explain your company’s ethics.

Of course ethical training and reinforcement should occur after the candidate is hired. Ensure that new employees understand that they should review the ethics policy of the company once a year. All new employees should sign and date a copy of the policy for your records and their own. Incorporate ethics training into annual performance reviews and continuing on-the-job training, as well as into orientation for promotions.

Make good ethics a part of every operation and every communication, and your company will be running the right way.

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