Ethical values provide the moral compass by which we live our lives and make decisions – 'doing the right thing' because it’s the right thing to do.

The way we make decisions is important for organisations because the wrong decisions – or decisions which have been implemented badly – can have a significant impact on people’s lives and the reputation of organisations. So when we make decisions based on good principles, and live by good values, we can improve the lives of others and the experiences they have at work.

Even when a decision isn’t going to have positive outcomes for everyone, we can manage it in the best way possible by behaving ethically in the way we carry out that decision, and in the way we treat people.

We can do this by considering different ethical perspectives in our decision-making, challenging others on their decisions, being transparent about what we’re doing and why, and role-modelling our professional values, principles and integrity.

In an era of increased transparency, perceptions are that unethical behaviour is increasing. As well as role modelling ethical behaviour individually, the people profession is often tasked with being the ethical conscience of an organisation. As a professional, habitual ethical practice is intrinsic in decision making and navigating dilemmas.

Internally, establishing a culture of ethical practice improves morale and reduces risks that arise from unethical practice. On a macro level, reputable ethical practice not only contributes towards good relations with customers, but has proven to impact financial performance."

Tina Russell, Professional Conduct Manager, CIPD

Ethical practice standards

Each standard progresses through four levels of impact. Which level do you most embody in your day-to-day work?

Foundation level Associate level Chartered Member level Chartered Fellow level
At this level you will: At this level you will: At this level you will: At this level you will:
Ethical decisions Consider how professional principles and values inform your approach Make responsible choices about your work, applying professional principles and values Make responsible decisions by considering different ethical perspectives, and finding the best possible way forward for all stakeholders Make responsible decisions by balancing different ethical perspectives, and shape how ethics inform wider decision-making and governance
Impact of decisions Take responsibility for your actions Consider the purpose and implications of actions, decisions and people practices for all stakeholders Coach and influence managers and leaders to consider the implications of their decisions on stakeholders Coach and influence senior leaders to consider the ethical impact of their decisions in the short and long term
Ethics and law Act consistently with relevant regulation and law Raise concerns about people practices and policies which are not consistent with values or legislation Challenge decisions and actions which are not ethical, explaining the organisation risks Take a visible lead in solving ethical dilemmas, considering how they will play out beyond the organisation
Transparency Handle personal data and information in a professional manner Provide explanations and reasons for the choices you make and the advice you provide Encourage transparency in decision-making and communication where possible Surface the unsaid in leadership discussions to enable transparency and improved decision-making
Integrity Demonstrate honesty in dealings with others Demonstrate professionalism and consistency in what you say and do in order to build trust Visibly and consistently role-model professional principles, values and personal integrity to build trust Role-model and promote ethical leadership and professional principles and values in organisations and the wider profession

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practice course

This course explains the importance of ethical practice. It will help you to develop this key behaviour to achieve positive outcomes in your role.

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