Ethical HR is about treating everyone as equals. Discover how you can solve problems and prevent harm while upholding fairness in the workspace.

Ethical HR upholds the laws, policies and procedures that ensure fairness in the workplace, and it’s the approach I use as an independent HR consultant.

Every time I step into a new workspace, my mission is to help make that business better by transforming how its people are organised.

While there are many ways to approach doing this, I’ve found the best one to be through ethical HR.

How does this work?

The three key points you need to know about ethical HR are transparency, process, and prevention of harm.

1. Process – This is about how you approach implementing ethical HR. Imagine two different detectives. One collects the evidence of a case, analyses it objectively, and uses their findings to solve the case. The other gets a “gut feeling”, tries to make the evidence fit their hypothesis, and insists that the case is solved.

Ethical HR is the first detective. It uses a fair and equal process so the outcome is truly reflective of the evidence. It’s not about manipulating the system to achieve a predetermined outcome.

2. Prevention of harm – This is how you manage the immediate outcome through effective communication. Difficult decisions have to be made and not everyone will be happy with the outcome, but ethical HR means you are committed to ensuring that these decisions cause the least harm possible.

When someone is told they are losing their job, you owe them a perfectly reasonable and thorough business reason. If you fail to explain clearly, they will fill the narrative themselves with the worst-case scenario.

Thoughts like “This always happens to me!” or “This is because I’m worthless” can often be avoided by being explicit about why a decision is being made. They’re already losing their job; ethical HR ensures that insult is not added to injury.

3. Transparency – This is about ensuring that decision-making processes are clear, accessible, and applied equally to everyone, from the newest junior to the CEO.

Every employee must be able to ask to see the rationale behind a business decision so they can understand why it was made. For example, if one employee was granted flexible working and another wasn’t, the latter should be able to find out exactly why they weren’t offered it when their colleague was.

This ensures that fairness not only wins out, but is maintained. This element relies on thorough documentation alongside adhering to all legal obligations.

How can ethical HR help businesses?

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) believes that organisations should ‘do the right thing’ because it is the right thing to do.

It’s a fair point, but there are genuine benefits to taking your ethical values seriously as a business.

An open and fair workplace culture boosts staff morale, which in turns improves profits and reduces sick time. Ethical HR can also help alleviate issues like:

  • The ‘say/do gap’, where leaders say one thing but do another. This tends to leave staff cynical and disengaged, so the organisation is susceptible to ethical lapses and damage to its reputation.
  • Socially dominant personalities ruling the roost. Confidence doesn’t always equal competence, and ethical HR is an effective way of transforming a toxic status quo for better results long-term.
  • A fair and ethical workplace can help with staff retention. With 83 percent of employers now finding attracting and retaining talent to be a growing hiring challenge, this is critical.

The key is an outside perspective

As an independent HR consultant weighing in on what’s going on in a workplace, I arrive with no preconceived ideas about what’s going on beyond roles, functions and fairness.

I don’t know who the boss’ favourite is, who talks over people in meetings, or who never chips in for teabags. That impartiality allows me to make ethical, logical recommendations based on what’s best for the company and the welfare of its staff.

While I care deeply about what I do and how I’m supporting businesses, the recommendations I make do not affect me or my life in any way. Putting it bluntly, I have no skin in the game so you can trust that every decision is made fairly and ethically.

As a member of the CIPD, I have access to the guidance of my fellow independent HR consultants and a support line to maintain my sense of clarity.

I want more businesses to unlock the power of supercharging their staff structure with an ethical HR approach. If you’d like to talk about how to enjoy the benefits of improved staff welfare, let’s start a conversation.