“One [of the HR execs] said some HR directors at the banks had expressed regret at their failure to stay the hands of their chief executives – but added that another had admitted privately that, in his case, there would have been no point in trying…
Patrick Wright, professor at Cornell University… found that there are concerns about the way ethical issues can get downplayed, or even completely ignored, because nobody else in a senior role will raise them. Guess who gets volunteered to do so? “The HR director is told: ‘You need to get this on the table’,” he says. Not easy – especially when you have little idea how much public support you will receive from your colleagues. Perhaps, Prof. Wright suggests, the HR director needs to become a kind of ‘chief integrity officer’, who could avoid being penalised if the chief executive’s appetite for integrity turns out to be limited.”
First of all, there’s the question of whether an integrity enforcement or integrity-fostering function could be what prevents corporate excess and therefore some of the scandals we’ve witnessed. I mean, can you imagine? Let’s play out a hypothetical chief integrity officer in conversation with Merrill Lynch’s outgoing CEO: “I don’t think that getting an $87,000 rug would be an integrity filled decision. Do you? Especially given our climate? Let’s re-think that!” Yeah, right! I mean, I sure wish someone had that conversation with him – but part of me wonders if we should simply raise our level of expectation and demand that people behave with integrity as a core value, sans an integrity officer.
But HR as integrity officers… I’m still digesting that one. Do we want that function? Are we the best to handle that role? Besides individual decisions or actions and assessing them for integrity, it would be about fostering a culture in which decisions are made with integrity and are ethical. And we’re good at looking at doing the right thing, and not just the legal thing, plus I think HR is ultimately a (if not, the) culture champion… but is the chief integrity officer a role that’s right, and right for us? Jump in the conversation… I’m not quite sure how I feel about this one, but if you’re telling me this could have prevented some of these corporate scandals and perhaps, the financial crisis, well then… sign someone up! I know some HR leaders who could fit the bill!
Jessica Lee is a VP of TA at Marriott International where she leads a team that enables the company to think big, broad and boldly about all things talent acquisition and in effect, keeps them relevant and ahead of the curve in how they attract and acquire top talent. Don’t be fooled by that fancy pants title and description though, she’s still an everyday HR gal in the trenches at the core. SPHR certified, a decade and a half into trench HR life… she can whip up a corrective action plan or source for your purple squirrel in a heartbeat.