Magazine article National Defense

Corporate Ethics Education Yields Rewards

Magazine article National Defense

Corporate Ethics Education Yields Rewards

Article excerpt

* On the surface, one might think that investing in key business activities such as accelerating technology development or strengthening workforce talent may represent higher priorities and offer greater returns than investing in ethics.

Then again, these investments are hardly mutually exclusive priorities. The risks of not investing in an ethical culture become far greater when considering the possible negative outcomes for customers, shareholders and for other stakeholders should an organization fail to operate ethically.

A company culture that embraces a core set of values is essential to being successful in business today. Contemporary cultures need to be adaptive, innovative, diverse and inclusive. They are increasingly multi-generational. Above all, they need to continue to be ethical.

Particularly in challenging economic periods, it is essential that organizations large and small involved in government contracting commit to sustaining, or even accelerating, their efforts in ethics and compliance programs.

Each aspect of a company's self governance process requires real investment of time and resources. No one need be reminded that in these cost-conscious times, such decisions can come under many different pressures as organizations watch their bottom lines.

Experience has shown that employee education represents an affordable and value-added approach to investing in an ethical culture. Each year, Raytheon Co. invests in ethics education for all employees with the primary goal of promoting an ethically aware culture where our people are encouraged to raise questions and voice concerns without fear of retaliation. Ethics education reinforces the company's code of conduct and company values.

A worthy ethics education program must include engagement at multiple levels in its evolution, not only inside the company but also with external elements. Raytheon's ethics education program evolved in this way to better align our investments to keep pace with the aerospace and defense industries and customers.

All are better served to the extent engagement also fosters common development of best practices in ethics--something we've done with the National Defense Industrial Association and other organizations. In the long term, sharing what works best to effectively educate employees about ethics supports more effective self-governance throughout the defense industry and government alike, and frankly, it is something we owe to our men and women in uniform.

To the point, NDIA's Code of Ethics expressly urges members to "contribute to the common good of our industry and promote industry ethics whenever and wherever possible by sharing best practices in ethics and business conduct among NDIA members." Raytheon supports this as one way to broaden our collective ethics advocacy.

In the spirit of sharing, a key theme of Raytheon's education program is to "Take an Ethics Check." In hour-long classroom sessions, employees view and discuss video vignettes based on actual ethics cases. Our "Ethics Checkpoint" program features easily remembered icons that reinforce a desired behavior that is widely communicated--pause, take an "ethics check," then proceed with the proper course of action.

An "ethics check" approach is easily adaptable for any organization's education program. The important concept is checking before acting, whether it's contacting the ethics function through its helpline or by other means, talking with a supervisor or manager, or connecting with another relevant subject matter expert. …

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