Creating Business Policies on Diversity and Ethics

A workplace lacking standards, rules,and tolerance for others’ backgrounds and beliefs can easily dissolve into an atmosphere of chaos and negativity. As a business owner with employees who have varying opinions regarding diversity and ethics, it’s vital that you create a structure that includes the company’s stance on these matters.

Understand Diversity

Before you create policies on diversity and ethics, you should know what each term means. Diversity isn’t just about having employees of different races, cultures, genders, sexual orientations, religions, political leanings, and socioeconomic backgrounds. More specifically, it relates to the similarities that employees bring to the business and the factors that influence their differences.

Ethics pertain to the principles that cause people to behave as they do. It applies to their values, the situational standards of right and wrong, and the choices they make.

Establish Diversity Standards

A diverse workplace consists of individuals with divergent opinions, values, beliefs, and attitudes towards work. Therefore, your challenge lies in devising ways to get these employees to work together in harmony. Setting fair policies that reflect your position on diversity is a good start. 

For example, the policy should promote fairness for all employees regardless of ethnicity, physical abilities, age, gender, geographic location, income, work experience, educational background, parental and marital status, and sexual orientation.

It’s also essential to formulate an environment that includes and respects differences, even if you or others may not agree with those variances. One way to simplify this goal is to try to hire people who have a fundamental ability to cooperate—which makes respecting others’ views easier by default.

While employees are ultimately responsible for how they interact with each other, you can help foster a productive work environment by taking the time to learn what matters to your employees, building on the similarities that they share, and structuring teams that encourage input from every member.

Create Ethics Policies

People in general are forced to choose between right and wrong on a daily basis. If there’s no standard for them to follow, they will abide by their own rules. This disorderly approach isn’t conducive to a healthy workplace.  

Imagine if each of your employees were allowed to always rely on their own judgment when interacting with each other or dealing with company matters. Nothing short of anarchy would arise.

So that your employees know what’s expected of them when handling clients, company affairs and each other, you must set clear and reasonable ethical standards.

The Network for Business Innovation and Sustainability (NBIS) offers the following tips on developing a code of ethics:

— Focus on creating policies that fit your specific business, as one size does not fit all.

— Get employees to buy-in on the policies before you put them in motion. Employees are more likely to accept the policies if they feel they had some involvement in the development process.

— Train your employees to be ethical so they will understand not only what it means to be ethical but also the significance of ethics to the company.

— Establish a safe reporting system that stakeholders can use to report ethical breaches, such as an open-door policy and accepting anonymous reports.

— Address ethical violations promptly, and don’t be afraid to hold people accountable for their actions.

— Emphasize that no one is above the code of ethics, including executives, managers, and supervisors.

When creating ethics policies, use positive keywords, such as trust, quality, integrity, and client satisfaction to emphasize your objective. 

Document Diversity and Ethics Policies in the Company Handbook

Once you know what you want your diversity and ethics policies to entail, it’s time to document them in your company handbook so employees will be aware of them. It’s best to include this information as a separate section of your company handbook so employees can refer to it when necessary. Create one section for diversity and another for ethics.

Because your company handbook needs to be concise yet informative, you’ll need to decide which aspects of diversity and ethics to convey in the handbook. Essentially, both sections should include the most relevant information that your employees should know, such as the company’s views on diversity and ethics, key processes supporting both missions, and acceptable and unacceptable behaviors as they relate to diversity and ethics.

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