The Human Resources Role in Business Ethics

Human resource leaders deal directly with the many ethical issues involved in running a business. Ethics play a critical role in organizations in every industry. Scandals that make the headlines provide extreme examples of what happens to organizations that do not operate by a strong code of ethical conduct.

Adhering to such a code often falls on the shoulders of human resource leaders. Touro University Worldwide makes business ethics one of the areas of focus in the school’s online  MS in Human Resource Management degree program.

It’s an important area because HR deals directly with all employees in a company. HR managers must therefore adhere to ethical rules. Failure to do so exposes companies to the risk of a damaged reputation and even financial instability.

The Importance of Avoiding Ethical Pitfalls in HR

Whether a company is a worldwide corporation, a small local business, or an e-commerce website, working in human resources presents many situations that involve ethics in business settings.

As noted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), just the recruiting process contains potential challenges. Some of the common issues listed by SHRM include businesses posting job openings that don’t exist (to get an idea of the talent pool in the area), incorrectly describing the duties of a posted job, or hiring someone based on a referral from a senior manager rather than on merit.

Actions such as these can undermine the credibility and reputation of a company. To combat such issues, SHRM has created a Code of Ethics for human resources that cover various areas. They include:

  • Professional responsibility
  • Professional development
  • Ethical leadership
  • Fairness and justice
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Use of employee information

In the core principles section under professional responsibility, SHRM sums up the goal for human resource leaders: “As HR professionals, we are responsible for adding value to the organizations we serve and contributing to the ethical success of those organizations. We accept professional responsibility for our individual decisions and actions. We also advocate for the profession by engaging in activities that enhance its credibility and value.”

TUW Courses on Ethics in Business for HR

TUW focuses on ethics in its MS in HR Management program to prepare graduates for leadership roles. Keeping an organization on the proper ethical course is one of the key functions of the job.

Two courses directly address ethics in business in the context of working in human resources.

Ethics for HR Professionals

Students in this course take an in-depth look at the ethical, legal, and social responsibility topics and issues that influence HR management decision-making. Through readings and case studies, the class stimulates critical thinking and group discussion on various ethical and legal issues.

Facilitating Organizational Change

Making changes in organizational operations is one of the necessary steps to putting a code of ethics into place. In this course, students learn the theories and tools needed to implement effective change. Students learn about all aspects of change, including resistance to change, team development, reorganization, and downsizing. Students also study how the application of theories in the workplace impacts employees and the organization.

Overall, successfully managing ethical issues is critical to success in HR management. TUW prepares graduate students to handle the complex challenges of ethics as part of their education in becoming HR leaders.

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