An organisation’s ethical credentials and values are an increasingly important factor in their ability to attract and retain talent, but it’s not easy for candidates to get a handle on organisational culture from the outside.
Assessing whether an employer can offer an environment conducive to ethical practices is a crucial part of the decision-making process, especially for professionals such as accountants who must abide by ethics codes.
More broadly, being associated with a company with a poor ethics record could have repercussions for a candidate’s future employability. Organisational stigma attaches itself to any company perceived to have acted in a fundamentally flawed or immoral way. A scandal in one section of a firm’s operations could affect prospective employers’ perceptions of that firm’s workers around the world, according to research published in Harvard Business Review.
A new CGMA briefing, prepared in conjunction with the Institute of Business Ethics, sets out some steps individuals can take to conduct ethical due diligence on a prospective employer.
7 key questions to ask
The authors of the report suggest candidates consider asking the following questions at an interview:
- How do you assess your culture or values, and how do you assess to what extent the culture and values are embedded?
- What training do you offer in this area?
- What routes do you have for escalating any ethical concerns? Do you have “speak up” procedures and, if so, how are they managed?
- How is individual performance assessed in relation to the desired and/or stated behaviours?
- What action do you take against staff members who breach company policies or are found to have breached any regulations?
- Have you identified any areas of concern in staff engagement surveys or customer satisfaction surveys, and how are they being dealt with?
- Would the organisation welcome appropriate challenge in regard to issues of integrity?
The benefits of opening up a discussion on ethics and culture
Employers who are interested in best practice will welcome these questions, as they will be looking for candidates who can talk about ethics issues and demonstrate how they have handled them in the past.
In organisations that take ethical concerns seriously, it’s a particularly important requirement for senior management roles, as leaders help to set the tone from the top. Recruiters will also be looking for these qualities in finance candidates, as they have a duty to challenge and provide an objective view to support decision-making.
—Samantha White (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.