Three Home-Run Ethics Training Strategies You’re Neglecting

by M. Joy Hayes


Suppose that, after your organization’s ethics training, all of your employees walk away with a flawless understanding of all the laws, organizational policies and ethics standards that apply to them. That’d be a perfect success, right?


reputational compliance

Don’t forget that ethics training is part of a larger strategy to ensure all employees meet the organization’s standards. And getting employees to understand the rules governing them is only half the battle. We also have to motivate employees to meet those standards. To optimize the role of ethics training in achieving this, the trainer must be one part teacher, one part salesperson.

So how do we design training programs that both clarify the organization’s standards and inspire compliance? Here are three of my favorite strategies for creating ethics training programs that are both informative and persuasive.

1.  Direct them to the bandwagon

As marketing and psychology guru Robert Cialdini points out in his book Influence, we often look to others for signals about how we should behave. The more widespread a behavior, the more likely we are to follow suit. Also, we are more likely to mimic the behavior of those similar to us.

To leverage this psychological tendency, trainers can share examples of employees complying with the regulations they’re teaching. If possible, they should use examples from within the organization. If this isn’t possible, trainers should look for examples within their industry.

This strategy yields a dual benefit. In addition to leveraging our tendency to “get on the bandwagon,” providing such examples promotes better understanding of how employees should apply the organization’s standards in cases they are likely to confront.

2.  Appeal to their desire to be consistent

Cialdini also observes that people have an obsessive desire to behave consistently with their prior commitments—especially when they’ve publicly displayed those commitments.

How can you use this information to improve your ethics training? You can start by getting trainees to practice the organization’s preferred decision-making procedure on case studies relevant to their roles. As you have them discuss the cases, you can carefully direct how they should frame their responses.  Instead of saying, “The person in the case should…” you should instruct them to begin their responses by saying, “In this situation, I would…” or, “If I confront a similar situation, I will…”

3.  Give them the “why” along with the “what”

Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer points out  that we’re also more likely to comply with requests when we’re provided with a reason for doing so. For example, we’re more likely to allow someone to cut in line if they say, “May I cut in because I’m in a rush?”

We can leverage this tendency by specifying both the consequences for non-compliance and clarifying the rationale behind the organization’s policies.

In addition to increasing compliance with the letter of the law, this will put your employees in a better position to follow the spirit of the law by improving their understanding of the outcomes the regulations are meant to promote.

Bottom line 

As you design your ethics training programs, it’s important to keep your eye on the ball. Don’t forget that the ultimate goal is to get employees to behave legally and ethically. To achieve this outcome, we must clarify the organization’s standards and inspire employees to comply with them.

This article was written by  M. Joy Hayes  and originally published on corporatecomplianceinsights


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.



Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?