Fostering an ethical culture within the workplace


“Fostering an ethical culture throughout an organisation depends on if a leader can practice it on a daily basis and make it visible to all employees,” said Rani Soobramoney, executive head of anti-corruption for Vodacom South Africa, speaking at the Southern Africa Anti-Corruption Summit 2014.

She explained that business leaders need to constantly make decisions based on values as they are not only being scrutinised by staff, but also by external players such as stakeholders. This also serves as a means to mitigate their risks.  

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Setting the tone at the top is therefore the most effective method for businesses to prevent corruption as a leader with a strong tone is not only considered a prerequisite for good corporate governance, but it has a trickle-down effect on employees.

“A company must therefore have an adequate compliance programme in place to prevent bribery and corruption. If the tone is set correctly, the rest of the programme will work effectively as long as top management drive it.”

Challenges may arise however at middle management levels.

“In big organisations particularly, challenges may develop when middle management acts as a filter between top management and lower level employees. This could either have a positive or negative impact on the compliance programme,” said Soobramoney.

“The solution is for leaders to work closely with middle management to ensure that deals are being obtained according to compliance rules.”

(READ MORE: Corruption taints S.Africa’s business community)

Anja Drew, head of controls, compliance and ethics of Africa regional markets for multinational alcoholic beverages company, Diageo, added that creating a culture of anti-corruption compliance in the workplace may be challenging as staff try to meet operational performances and profit targets.

“On a daily basis, we have to meet profit targets as well as ensure compliance. We need to therefore tailor the message sent out depending on the group of employees,” she said.

For instance, factory workers would relate better to a simple message with minimal legal jargon.

“The agenda needs to connect to staff on a personal level in order to change perception and open minds on the importance of compliance.”

She added that businesses should consider using various training tools as people tend to absorb information different to one another.

“Consider other training tools such as podcasts and movie sessions where you can train and engage with staff through various means,” added Drew.

“Remember it’s also about keeping the momentum. For instance, you can hold a training course once a year and send out messages throughout the year.”