Can You Measure Ethics and Integrity?

They Are Hard To Keep Track Of Unless They Are In Question.

By Steve Schumacher

In my years as a consultant, I have worked a great deal with organizations on analyzing jobs, building job descriptions, performance reviews, success factors, etc. In all those years I have found it very difficult to measure ethics and integrity. We all know they are vital components of a successful employee, but keeping track of them like other KPIs is a challenge. 

When I have advised leaders on how to evaluate employees I typically would tell them to look at technical skills, interpersonal skills, and big picture skills. These are the areas I encourage leaders to look at when interviewing, promoting, succession planning, and other times when evaluating people is necessary. 

For those of you that are comfortable with measuring output, productivity, quality, safety, etc., measuring ethics and integrity is a challenge. You don’t necessarily count the number of times someone was ethical, or identify how good their integrity was, but you can get some strong indicators of both.

If you agree with me that ethics and integrity on the job are important, here are some things to consider.

Define ethics and integrity. Get a group of employees together and ask them to come up with some specific behaviors that the majority of people would agree indicate solid ethics and integrity. You are asking them to identify ways that employees can be successful in those two areas. Before you publish these items, ask these questions – Can I actually see someone do these things? If two people saw the same behaviors, would they agree that they saw the same behavior? If the answer to both is yes, the lists are probably behavioral.

Interviewing. Now that you have defined ethics and integrity, add questions that reflect those definitions, when interviewing candidates. Do your best not to ask hypothetical or leading questions. Ask behavioral questions that reflect the candidate’s experience from the past. Example:

Hypothetical – “If you saw someone do something illegal or unethical on the job, what would you do?”

Behavioral – “Give me an example of a time you saw a fellow employee do something illegal or unethical on the job. What was the situation? What did you do? What was the result?”

New hire orientation. As a leader, you want to get new employees off on the right foot and set clear expectations of what you expect of them. Obviously, you are going to set expectations around traditional measures of business performance, goals and objectives. This is also the time to set expectations around ethics and integrity in the workplace. Work closely with HR to show that this is not just the flavor of the month. When the new employee shows up on the job, reinforce the expectations around ethics and integrity in your first one-on-one with them. If you can, connect new employees with mentors or coaches that are models of good ethics and integrity.

Performance reviews. Again, work with HR to make sure that your performance reviews allow for evaluation of, and feedback on, ethics and integrity. It is up to you to determine how much weight they are given in the review. Of course, the more they are weighted, the more people will pay attention to doing it right. If ethics and integrity are given short shrift in the review, chances are they will be given short shrift on the job also. Make sure that plenty of training is given to managers on how to do effective performance reviews and give feedback on ethics and integrity. 

Involve other departments. Few of your employees, if any, work in a vacuum. They interact regularly with other departments. Other departments provide services to them, and they provide services to other departments. Look to the leaders of all departments to watch for examples of positive and negative ethics and integrity. You are not trying to create finger pointers or tattle tales. You are trying to create a culture of high ethics and integrity. That creation involves everyone.

Monitoring. Just like any other part of running your business, follow-up and monitoring are the keys to long-term effectiveness. You will get what you INspect, not what you EXpect. Make the topic of ethics and integrity a regular part of your staff meetings. Put together some case studies around the topic and work through them with your managers. When a situation comes up that is a positive example, celebrate it and get the person responsible some public recognition. 

Ethics and integrity are often put into the “soft” category of skills and abilities required for success. I have had personal experiences with focusing too much on “hard skills” and getting burned with some unethical behavior. Do not let that happen to you.

Steve Schumacher is a management consultant, trainer and public speaker with more than 25 years of experience in numerous industries throughout North America, including aggregates operations. He can be reached at [email protected]

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