WIPP's myContracting Magazine January 2015 - Page 38

By Lynn Petrazzuolo, President


You know that you operate with the highest regard for ethics, but do you know whether your employees operate by those same standards?

Sure, you include standards in the employee manual, but are you sure they understand government contractor requirements well enough to keep themselves, your company, and you, out of trouble? Do you feel confident that they know enough to make the right decisions if a client put them in a compromising situation?

Often, corporate ethics is the topic of discussion only when individuals demonstrate a lack of ethics. So as a government contractor, how do you ensure that employees know all the requirements, respect ethical boundaries, and safeguard your company’s reputation?

Avanti chose to become a Certified Ethical Company. In 2012 Avanti become the first candidate for certification by the Federal Allies Institute (FAI). This opportunity allowed us to reinforce our corporate expectations where we value integrity, ethical behavior, and employees who are ethical representatives of the company and the contracting community.

The certification process is not difficult but it requires participation of all employees. After an initial meeting with the FAI ethics certification auditor, our corporate Standards of Ethics manual was revised to include all required items, and employees were asked to certify their understanding in writing.

Have you ever noticed how employees frequently sign certifications that they have read and understand company policies – but you are pretty sure they did not fully reading them? To be sure all employees understood and internalized the information, they were told they would be tested on the standards.

After Avanti’s ethics training, FAI’s Ethics Auditor visited Avanti’s offices to interview every employee. What an eye-opener to watch staff respond to hypothetical situations such as “What would you do if your supervisor told you to change the hours on your timesheet?” or “What would you do if you were to come across confidential information from another company?” They (and I) were sure they knew the right answer, but having an outside auditor put them to the test reinforced the gravity of ethical decisions.

So many ethical decisions in the government contracting arena are easy. But, there are a lot of grey areas out there where contractors can get themselves and their company in trouble. I feel reassured knowing Avanti employees may not always know the exact right answer for every obscure situation, but they do know how to recognize those grey areas so that they can seek counsel before possibly putting the company or our clients at risk.

Most companies have an ethics program, whether formal or informal, that defines the values and policies by which the company does business. As a government contractor these values and policies are largely driven by the FAR and asking employees to “do the right thing” is not always enough to keep them, and you, in compliance.