It’s apparently hard to train someone to make ethical decisions. This is the conclusion posited by Eugene Soltes in his article “Why It’s So Hard to Train Someone to Make an Ethical Decision” (Harvard Business Review, January 11, 2017). Soltes says, "One of the conundrums of ethical decision making is that many moral decisions that are quite straightforward — even easy — to resolve in a classroom or during training exercises seem far more difficult to successfully resolve when confronted during actual day-to-day decision making." In other words, while someone may ace the test in the classroom, they fail when it comes to real-world application.
So what can we do about this? Soltes suggests: "Creating training exercises that better simulate the actual environment, circumstances, and pressures where ethical decisions are made is the first step toward addressing these critical challenges. All high-performance athletes know they need to train in the same environment as the one in which they will compete. It ought to be no different for managers who must continually train and prepare for the big ethical decisions they will inevitably face."
While this is true and a great idea, we suggest you take it a step further. Our solution: Connect a mentoring program to your ethics training so that your learners can have support and guidance in the real world while they work on applying their new knowledge. The sticking point seems to be a disconnect between the environment in which something is learned, and the environment in which the learning must be applied. This makes mentoring the ideal solution.
A mentor (or mentors) can help your employees as they tackle their ethical decision making on the job. Mentors can help people:
- think through the ethical situations they face
- identify the options they have in front of them
- pinpoint the right action to take, and
- give them feedback on their actions and decision making process.
Giving someone a support system for while they are doing their job is not something radical, but we think it should be required. When it comes to something as critical as ethics, this should not be left to chance.
River has vast experience with helping clients set up mentoring programs to support training efforts of all kinds. Contact us to discuss your situation and to see how River can help you.
Start planning how you can use mentoring with our Mentoring Roadmap eBook. Download your copy today.