Some companies may try to instill a culture of ethical behavior by having new hires sign a code of ethics or attend a corporate ethics training program. Some even distribute booklets to all employees that tout the virtues of moral and ethical conduct in the workplace.

Unfortunately, this is sometimes not enough.

Solid policies can back up an ethics program and give it teeth by spelling out acceptable and unacceptable activity, and appropriate use of company resources. If employees are required to familiarize themselves with company policies, it will be difficult for them to behave as though they did not know any better when they are caught violating them. It will also aid companies in building a case for termination of the employee, if necessary.

You cannot assume that new employees know what is right and what is wrong. If they are hired just out of college or come from a small company where using company email for personal use or accessing inappropriate content was not monitored, they may continue the prohibited activity at the new company until they know the expectations. Once the policies are in place, periodic auditing can help to measure their effectiveness. Nothing
is worse than having a policy that cannot be enforced.

Promoting ethical principles can instill positive behavior at a high level, but reinforcing them with policies will help provide clear and mandatory guidelines for acceptable conduct.

-Joe Malec is a security analyst for Enterprise Rent-A-Car.