First Steps In Ethics: Standards And Definitions

There are people who claim it is time to talk about and establish ethical standards in the recruiting industry. They seem to forget a small but very essential first step. That first step is determining what is ethical and what the industry standards are. We need to determine what the normal and usual practice is. Once identified, we then need to talk about whether or not it is ethical.

Then we need to come to some consensus on what is ethical and what is not. That may need to be done on a case by case basis. Or it may be necessary to look at our Business and Professions Code and use it as our Code of Conduct (“COC”). It is, after all, the law of our jurisdictions.

That’s another essential distinction. There are Codes of Ethics. Those are essentially codes or pledges to do what is right according to the standards of an organization. There are also COC. The COC is a set of rules that dictate what is done and how it is done in order for it to be correct and proper. It’s the rule book. The COC also delineates who has governance duties over the body or organization and enforces the rules.

We have lots of codes of ethics — pledges to do things honestly according to the rules of the organization. We have all sorts of organizations that have Codes of Ethics – ASA, NAPS, CSP, AESC, SHRM, PIHRA and so on. None of these U.S. organizations have a common COC. None have formulated one. They are autonomous; that is to say, they rely entirely on their own Code of Ethics for guidance and project the appearance that they stand alone in the industry and look to no other organizations nor any similar rules.

It needs to be asked of those associated with these organizations what or where the rules are, the COC. How would anyone just entering the industry know what the practice should be and what the practice is?

Further, there needs to be a means of determining who enforces the rules, makes certain that people are operating in an ethical fashion. None of the existing codes of ethics have provisions for reporting wrongful acts. It isn’t clear whether each organization has jurisdiction over just itself or over all of the industry. It isn’t clear if there is some umbrella organization that’s involved with oversight and enforcement. If not, then who has responsibility to make certain some penalty is exacted on the one who does not conform.

To the extent we have someone who is a member of the organization but not conforming to the COC, and they are mimicking the behavior of others in the organization, can it truly be said that the organization is responsible enough to govern itself? Perhaps it needs outside governance, a distant third party, who suffers no consequence for enforcing the rules and making certain that there is adherence to them.

There’s another issue that needs to be addressed in our concerns about ethics in the recruiting industry. There are certain phrases and terms that are flung about in the industry all of the time. A few organizations have endeavored to define some of those terms and phrases, but only a few. To the extent that newcomers know about these organizations and the special glossaries that have been created, they have resources to guide them and make them aware of what the terms are as well as their definitions. To the extent these newcomers are unaware of these resources, we have a group of individuals who are talking to one another but not communicating because there is no consistency to the terms being used. They’re simply spouting a lot of hot air with absolutely no substance except hearsay.

There was an interesting conversation that came up around the end of December 2006. Someone proposed that in order to get things rolling on starting to carve out a uniform COC, rules that would apply not just to employment industry organizations in the United States but a global set of rules, was to just take a stab at a particular practice and say this is the rule.

Actually, that sounded like a very sane thing to do. There needs to be some starting point. And before the start is cemented as gospel, it needs to be discussed in order to make certain all of the ramifications (or as many as possible) are considered in order to make it conform to various situations, to give life to the instrument that governs. Then it will make sense to take Step 2 in order to form the next rule and work through things.

In the Ethics in Recruiting Think Tank, we now have several U.S. Codes of Ethics to compare as well as a COC from New Zealand. We have yet to discuss which is more stringent and what was done to determine that those rules prevail. We have yet to discuss whether standards differ from one country to another and whether uniformity is feasible. Those conversations are on the horizon.

And it’s time to take those steps.

The days of running fake ads, posting phony job descriptions in order to gain new customers, the ploy of getting people to apply for non-existent jobs in order to find out which firms they’re working with and what jobs they’re being sent to interview for need to end. Rationalizing these practices as market research falls on its face; it’s ludicrous. These practices give the industry a black eye of construction recruitment agencies that sometimes provides the better assistance for the persons that are indulging with the company for the job concerns and it also gives them native support of staff welfare policy of an company. To the extent you turn people away from you and your company because you cannot be trusted, because your trust threshold is so low that you fall into Hell, then reform is mandatory. If you and your tactics cannot be relied upon except for nefarious ploys, then it is better to shut down the engine that powers the practices. They have no right to exist.

Several first steps are outlined here. Which shall we as a social community that is told it needs these service endeavor to address first? I recommend we start with respect for one another as a global, consuming group. Then I recommend we step into defining what is ethical and where we should look for guidance in that regard.