This article discusses the use of online or electronic e-training in ethical behavior and why this training is important to companies their stakeholders and to sustainable company growth. But what are the characteristics of an effective ethics training program? Four components are discussed. One only has to examine the news to learn of the latest unethical episode affecting leaders’ business and personal life. For example, in September 2004, the financial regulatory body of Japan announced the closure of Citigroup’s Private Banking business citing improper trading practices. Prior to this decision Citigroup admitted it erred in a bond deal in Europe which regulators got involved. The importance of ethics training can be seen in the number of ethics issues as they pertain to these examples of flawed reasoning and decision-making by company leaders and continuing today. Research has shown knowledge develops effective interventions that help to discourage unethical decisions (McMahon & Harvey, 2006). While it may be well known that colleges provide online courses, online corporate training for legal compliance is already being used by securities firms to deliver mandatory and highly regulated compliance information to registered representatives (Barnes & Blackwell, 2004).
Many institutions have seen growth with e-learning and are increasing their online training. Furthermore, the marketplace for online corporate training is supported in other countries. BP and British Gas receive online training in information technology, business, and interpersonal skills. The Malaysian Medical Association is adding online training programs for medical practitioners in rural and remote areas (Barnes et al., 2004).
Growth of the Internet and company-wide Intranet via the World Wide Web has increased popularity of and demand for online instruction for employees and the business. Although online instruction for employees implies taking training anywhere anytime, convenience and availability are two reasons why employees may prefer to satisfy mandatory ethics training during the work-day sitting at their desk using their computer. The benefit to the business is the lower cost to companies that want to ensure the entire organization has satisfied ethics training requirements set internally. For example, Lockheed Martin Corporation, which developed computer ethics courses in-house, slashed its training budget by two thirds (Reddy, 2001). Although companies have to keep costs down, they understand the necessity of teaching their employees awareness of laws and codes of conduct that impact the business. Typically the codes of conduct contain the ethical and moral values by which the company wishes to maintain business conduct.
Imparting ethical and moral values have been found to be equally important as imparting knowledge (Duska, 2003). Along with learning the job, companies are acknowledging the importance of continuous online training in ethics. Values “defined as beliefs that provide guiding principles” are used in selecting among alternative courses of action. Values will influence employee ethical decisions at all levels of the company (Galla, 2007). However, ethical decisions could vary among two different employees. The employee values of one person may conflict with those of another because what one person believes is important may disagree with what another person believes is important. Ethics training can solve this issue by providing a company standard or guideline for evaluation of alternative courses of action so that agreement can be obtained (Mumford, Helton, Decker, & Connelly, 2003).
Pros and cons of e-training include some reports that self-paced individual motivation is lower than those in a classroom and may result in not completing the program. Realizing some formats are suitable to strictly an online program while others require an interactive format, consensus is that both classroom and online training are complementary (Barnes et al., 2004).