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Compliance and Ethical Behavior Is a Vital Capability for TD Professionals


Wed Nov 18 2020

Compliance and Ethical Behavior Is a Vital Capability for TD Professionals

What does ethical behavior look like to you? Despite many of us going through annual compliance training, do you understand the critical implications to the well-being of your organization and yourself as a talent development professional?

Travis Waugh, manager of policy, training, and communication at Tech Data, explained that “Ethics is a core business driver. It influences turnover, productivity, customer service . . . almost everything that makes a business succeed or fail.” If you look at some high-profile cases of fraud or illegal conduct, Waugh continued, “it wasn’t just one bad actor or one bad decision that gets a company into trouble. It’s a bad culture.”


The Necessary Skills and Knowledge for TD

Compliance and ethical behavior is one of the 23 capabilities in ATD’s Talent Development Capability Model. The capability falls under the Building Personal Capability domain and consists of seven knowledge and skill statements.

To be proficient in compliance and ethical behavior, a talent development practitioner should have skill in:

  • Acting with integrity—that is, being honest; acknowledging one’s mistakes; and treating people with dignity, respect, and fairness

  • Establishing, maintaining, and enforcing standards for integrity and ethical behavior in one’s self and in others

Additionally, the TD practitioner needs to have knowledge of:

  • Laws, regulations, and ethical issues related to access and use of information—such as intellectual capital, personally identifiable information, and customer data

  • Laws, regulations, and ethical issues relative to the development of instructional content such as intellectual property and copyright laws as well as accessibility requirements

  • Laws, regulations, and ethical issues related to human resources and talent development, such as employment law, accessibility, and labor relations

  • Laws, regulations, and ethical issues related to the employment of permanent, contingent, and dispersed workforces

  • Region and market-specific education and labor public policies

What Does This Look Like?

Compliance and ethics shouldn’t be in a silo of its own, Waugh emphasized. During onboarding, for example, organizations can share with their new employees that the company prioritizes ethics, answering the question, “What special ethical dilemmas are new hires likely to face?” and thus designing onboarding to prepare new hires for such situation.

A second example is in manager development programs. Prepare managers to take a strong ethical reputation to heart. Help them prepare to respond to concerns brought to them from their team. Another way to aid managers, Waugh continues, is to “help them work ethics and corporate values into their performance management discussions, in a way that feels authentic and not forced.”


In “hard skills” training, talent developers can instruct on completing a job right—not just getting the job done—and this entails doing necessary tasks legally and ethically, Waugh concluded.

Importance Today

Newsweek’s article, “Employees Want an Ethical Workplace and a Growing Number Are Willing to Protest to Get It,” Daniel Moritz-Rabson notes that “\[Google\] said it would not extend Project Maven, a Defense Department contract that used artificial intelligence to analyze drone video images. Employees had objected, saying their work could be used for lethal purposes. The company also ended forced arbitration for sexual harassment claims after a worldwide walkout.”

“Check-the-box training can’t do anything about culture,” noted Waugh. “In fact, it hurts culture by insulting our employees’ intelligence and making it seem as though we only care about the letter of the law. If we craft great training that addresses real problems with meaningful solutions, we show our colleagues that we really care for them, and we demonstrate our real commitment to the spirit of the law.”

Addressing the current realities, Waugh explained, “Ethics and compliance can’t exist in a vacuum. Just like every other aspect of life, our colleagues’ decision making has been impacted by rapid technological changes, shifting international trade relationships, and a global pandemic.” Recognizing that, “we can start to build training that feels real, timely, and relevant.”

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