7 Ways To Develop an Effective Ethics Training for Employees

Sam Thompson
Updated November 25 2021
young woman with laptop in flexible learning environment
Sam Thompson
Updated November 25 2021

What are Ethics?

First off, before we dig into how to develop an effective ethics training program, we must understand what ethics actually are.  Ethics are defined as moral principles that govern an individual’s behavior or the way they carry out an activity. A work environment considered ethical has well-defined codes of personal and professional conduct in place.  These codes not only ensure the company is operating within the confines of the law, following various rules and regulations closely, but are also cognizant of employee comfort and safety.


ethics training for employees


Why is Ethics Training important to your company?

Are the concepts of honesty, respect, integrity, diversity, and fairness present within your organization?  Does your business cut corners to get tasks done, rather than carrying them out in a manner that is most beneficial to customers? Are employees treated in a manner that could make them feel uncomfortable or unsafe?  If you answered yes to either of these questions, your company can one day implode, experiencing high turn-over and eventually failing to reach its goals.


Ethics training for employees is vital to ensure the most successful working environment. Businesses that engage in unethical behavior will realize quickly that these practices are bad for business.  Such companies risk incurring millions of dollars in fines, in addition to losing customers and lowering the value of the company. More than 50% of the largest bankruptcies in the corporate world have occurred due to unethical practices.


Carrying out an ethics training program is also vital for the purpose of establishing what personal behavior is acceptable.  Is harassing or bullying taking place in your company? Are conflicts being resolved in a productive manner? Are employees conducting themselves as professionally as possible? Ethics training for employees is key to quell bad habits or conduct before they fester into more severe situations, affecting morale and motivation.



What makes Ethics Training programs effective ?

So what are the best practices a company must carry out in order to ensure maximum retention of an ethics training program?  As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. It is not only beneficial, but absolutely vital to your company to take whatever steps possible to assist employees in internalizing lessons learned.  Here are some tips to create an effective ethics training program:



1. Establish a solid foundation

First off, you must create a solid foundation of values in your company in order to successfully articulate your company ethics.  There are no shortcuts here. What is the culture of your company? Is it communicated clearly in a code of conduct?


It is easy to assume that senior employees are aware of the values you are trying to impart, but are they?  If senior employees have trouble communicating it clearly, how can you expect new hires to fully grasp it?



2. Pinpoint the types of ethics training necessary

It is necessary for senior management to define which ethics should be instilled and which must be.  Some ethics considerations related to company culture, ethical conduct, both in and out of the office, and ethics trainings related to diversity are vital to maintain a positive company cohesion.


On the other hand, ethics related to regulatory and compliance training, data protection, and customer privacy must be maintained or companies risk facing extensive fines and losing customers.



3. Train employees where they are located

Now that you have defined what kind of ethics training needs to be implemented, you can begin to coordinate the actual training sessions. The amount of money spent on compliance training in the US totalled roughly $90 billion in 2018.  Outrageous, right?  Flying employees from all over the world to one place costs a tremendous amount of money, in addition to having to pay for food, lodging, and a large auditorium to train all the employees.  Skip it if possible!


Nowadays with video conferencing software or online virtual classroom platforms, you can communicate the various requirements of your ethics training for employees simply over the internet.  An instructor can conduct a full webinar that communicates vital information most effectively and ultimately save time in the process by reaching a large audience at once.



4. Ensure compliance, proof of presence, and proof of focus

It is not enough to inform employees of the guidelines of compliance.  You must also ensure that employees have fully absorbed all the information.  When moderating a remote session, it can difficult understanding how focused your participants are.  Reporting on the success of your ethics training program or compliance requirements may require additional reporting beyond an attendance metric.


Some online virtual platforms offer a browser focus alert feature that send an instructor a notification if their employees failed to stay focused on the main browser window by clicking away. Afterwards, instructors can access detailed session stats that summarizes total focus.  You can also assess learner understanding in real time by building multimedia, online quizzes to measure learner success and gauge the overall effectiveness of the course.  This ability to get live feedback is invaluable to make sure all employees are on the same page.



5. Encourage Group Activity

You will obtain quality results if you make your session as dynamic as possible.  Think of the last time you were in a training session in a physical location. Perhaps you were sitting in a large auditorium, being lectured to by a moderator.  How many times did you take out your phone to pass the time? Let’s face it, training sessions can be quite boring if you are a passive audience member sitting in the back row.


Conducting an online training session can help increase interactivity to keep employees more engaged.  When employees are beginning to lose focus, encourage group collaboration by splitting your participants into breakout rooms to talk, share and work together.



6. Role Play

It is easy for an employee to simply explain what behavior is considered good or bad, or to spell out exactly how to fix a problem. But most real life issues that arise are nestled in an unclear, gray area.  Role playing a scenario allows participants to work through ethical dilemmas that might arise in the workplace, debating the variables of the situation and best practices in handling it.


The facilitator might ask each group to present their conclusions to the larger group, allowing feedback and a larger discussion to form.  The facilitator can then focus on the pros and cons of the various decisions. By fleshing out the discussion in this manner, employees will better internalize the lessons learned.



7. Balance the fun/seriousness

Gamification and role-playing can help keep the vibe of the session light, which in turn might make it easier for the participants to walk away with the required knowledge. Remember, there is no reason an ethics training program cannot be enjoyable for your employees. Just make sure to take the details in planning seriously, setting aside enough time, resources, and consideration to make sure the ethics training program checks off all the necessary boxes in terms of reaching compliance.


Ethics training is essential for your company to successfully communicate and carry out its main goals. Effective ethics training for employees ensures your company is situated for success and that individuals within the company will stay committed to their tasks at hand in the best and most comfortable manner.

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