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Many companies focus on incentives and benefits to entice and maintain staff, but a positive company culture can be just as influential. A thorough ethics training program and culture of ethical behavior makes staff feel safe and valued – factors that impact whether staff work their hardest and pursue professional development within your company.
Why an Ethics Training Program is Crucial
Every employee will face ethical dilemmas in their career. This can be especially true in accounts receivable. Ethics training is important because it creates a roadmap for employees to follow. Offering this guidance eliminates the possibility of leaving employees to guess what is expected of them, possibly leading to compliance issues.
For those in debt collection, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) governs agency behaviors regarding harassment and other unethical collection behaviors. If a collection agency highlights the need for strong ethics, above and beyond the minimum requirements, non-compliance is much less likely to become a risk factor.
There are many other reasons to maintain an ethical office culture that benefit both employees and the company as a whole.
Present Clear Guidelines
Company culture is created from the top down. Owners and managers set the tone for how a business is run. That’s why it’s important for leadership to create, present and follow clear ethical guidelines for behavior. Here are a few places the guidelines should be present in your office:
- New Hire Training - New hire training is the best time to present the standards your company expects staff to follow. When you go over time off policies, work hours, and other items related to your workplace, be sure to take time to present the code of conduct your new employees should adhere to.
- Compliance Management System - Provide easily accessible policy and procedure documents your staff can refer to any time they need. New hires may not remember everything on the first day, and older employees may need a reference if they encounter a rare situation they can’t recall proper procedures for.
- Refresher Training - Every office is different but it’s a good rule of thumb to have refresher training or to distribute review materials for employees as needed. This is especially true in industries where ethical dilemmas can lead to compliance issues or possible lawsuits.
- Show, Don’t Tell - Employees will have no respect for rules if management doesn’t follow them also. Leading by example is a basic team management skill and can accentuate your company’s values. Employees will lose faith in managers they don’t feel are following the ethical guidelines and might be less likely to follow rules or trust management if an issue arises.
Ethics Training Program: Internal Ethics
Whether it is explicitly stated or identified, there are often rules for both internal and external ethical behavior within a company. Internal ethics often deal with Human Resources issues like personnel disagreements, discrimination and harassment.
It’s best practice to prevent problems from happening rather than dealing with them after they surface. To avoid turnover, dysfunctional departments or even possible discrimination or harassment lawsuits, again, training is the key.
By explaining how your company’s ethics policies relate to items like diversity, inclusion and respect among coworkers, you are adding more weight to the importance of these issues. Explain to attendees they are not simply there for mandatory training to prevent a lawsuit. Convey that following the ethical guidelines will facilitate more trust and better communication throughout the company.
Systems for Complaints and Feedback
People are all different, and not every problem can be avoided through training and role-modeling. Have systems in place to sensitively handle difficult situations when they arise, such as a way for staff to file anonymous complaints.
Small problems can also be caught before they get out of hand through regular check-ins with employees from every level and department. Many offices conduct town-hall style meetings to hear feedback from those who don’t often have the opportunity to share their opinions. Allowing staff to be heard can be a big factor in team motivation.
“Skip-level” interviews (where an employee can share feedback about their direct superior to other levels of management) is also good for identifying opportunities to correct unethical behaviors before they become a disruption.
Ethics Training Program: External Ethics
External issues surrounding ethics usually address how your company is being represented to the world. Set clear expectations for how your staff should conduct themselves when interacting on behalf of your brand.
Most accounts receivable interactions with consumers are still done by telephone. Clear company policies can ensure every consumer is being treated with respect, which helps to create a positive customer experience.
- Take into consideration phone etiquette, tone of voice and empathy for the consumer. Sometimes in accounts receivable, circumstances may change from the time a consumer uses a service to the time they are required to pay.
- Ethical interactions with consumers can uncover underlying issues with your billing process or reveal personal financial hardships the consumer is experiencing.
- This positive approach to ARM often causes receivables to increase and complaints to fall. People want to do business with people they trust.
Social Media Management
If you are not using social media in accounts receivable, it’s time you started. However, you need to be careful about how these channels represent your business. Give social media managers ethical training on brand identity, company tone, and appropriate content.
- Be clear about the appropriate use of your company pages by sticking to business-related content and only sharing posts from accounts you trust (industry influencers, other businesses).
- Don’t post anything that may sound too personal or might offend audiences.
- Monitor comments on your page, and always engage with commenters kindly and appropriately.
- In third party collections, some consumers leave bad reviews online. Do not respond in any way that might violate their privacy or embarrass them.
Client and Partner Policies
For third party collections, maintaining a strong client base is how your company makes money. Explain and demonstrate codes of conduct with these clients so sales and other staff members understand what is considered appropriate.
- Sales calls (either by phone or in person) can be a great way to build business relationships. Provide guidelines for what may or may not be appropriate to share on a sales call.
- Trade show and networking events are an opportunity to meet potential clients and strengthen relationships with current ones. Provide clear expectations of how employees should act when attending these events (especially at dinners or after-hours events).
- If clients ever visit your office, set employee expectations for conduct ahead of time to maintain a professional environment.
Remember, the best way to ensure your company values reach every employee is to practice them yourself. Demonstrate the clear ethics expectations you wish every staff member to follow and you will establish a company culture of respect and collaboration.
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- ABOUT THE AUTHOR -
Hannah Huerta, Marketing Specialist
Hannah Huerta is a Marketing Specialist at PDCflow. She creates content for the accounts receivable and payment industry.