29 April 2014

The State Services Commission has pushed out the date for releasing the findings of the integrity survey conducted among 15,000 State servants in late 2013.  The SSC website reports that the results will be now be published in May, having first been scheduled for January and then in April..   The findings will build on the information collated from State Services integrity surveys conducted in 2007 and 2010.

For those surveys SSC was licensed to use the question set developed by the Ethics Resource Centre for the US National Business Ethics Survey (and the National Government Ethics Survey). As the 2013 State Services survey had a changed questionnaire, it may be a challenge to identify and validate trends from the survey response data. However the New Zealand results in general, have been a  favourable reflection of the National Business Ethics survey results  – so what is looking good in the US may be similarly experienced in New Zealand.

The results of the 2013 National Business Ethics survey involving almost 6500 US respondents (from the 34,000 employees polled) were a mixed bag, as has been the case in all previous surveys.  The good news is that observed misconduct in the workplace is the lowest ever recorded. Whereas 55% of US employers observed ethical misconduct at work in 2007, this trended down to 45% in the 2011 survey and in the 2013 survey “only” 41% of respondents reported seeing misconduct.

There was a strengthening in companies’ ethical culture, rising to 66% from 60% in 2011. This cultural improvement may be explained by companies placing greater emphasis on ethical behaviour through training and communications.  81% of respondents indicated that their company provided ethics training, up from 74% in 2011.

Impressively, 66% of companies included ethical conduct as an aspect of performance appraisals, and informed staff of disciplinary action taken when misconduct was uncovered.   Contrastingly, 26% of respondents saw misconduct as an ongoing issue, rather than one-off incidents, and nearly a quarter of which were committed by managers.

There was also a 2% drop over the last two years – to 9% – of employees reporting pressure to compromise their company standards. There was a similar 2% drop in the number of employees (63%) who felt able to report misconduct. Connected to that experience is the 20% of staff reporting misconduct who said they experienced retaliation in some form as a consequence.

The ERC notes that “… High retaliation rates discourage reporting and make it harder for organisations to identify and eliminate bad behaviour. These numbers need to change for real ethical progress to occur. Good ethics is good business.  Shareholders and the public-at-large deserve credible reform, which can only come when corporate leadership builds an engaged culture committed to integrity…”

The NBES results confirm the importance for all agencies of ensuring that the “6 trust elements” are ingrained into their organisational culture – that agencies

  • Have standards
  • Promote those standards
  • Integrate those standards into the way the agency works
  • Managers model the standards
  • Decisive action is taken when breaches occur
  • Staff know the consequences of misconduct.