Future-proof your workplace with a dose of digital ethics

  • Posted on May 10, 2019
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
digital ethics tips

This article was originally published on B&T.

The often-quoted Voltaire probably wasn’t thinking about today’s businesses and the challenges associated with the technological revolution when he said, “with great power comes great responsibility”. Nevertheless, with “purpose” crowned the corporate buzzword of last year, it’s time for organisations to step back and holistically consider how they operate. Organisations now need to balance their books with the impact their work has in order to attract and retain employees and customers, as well differentiate themselves from the competition.

To add to these pressures, the impact of unintended consequences from technology is greater than ever before. A recent report from Avanade highlighted how easy access to a broader set of technologies, automation, AI, IoT and the continued proliferation of data collection expand the number and type of ethical challenges for today’s organisations.

A new generation
Things are going to get even trickier for companies to meet the demands of their customers and staff, and the reason lies in the new generation.

Millennials are set to make up 40 percent of consumers by 2020, and 50 percent of the Australian workforce by 2025. They bring with them the desire and expectation to change the world for the better, and having grown up as digital natives, seek a deeper and more open connection with brands through digital channels.

By developing a digital ethics framework, and actively implementing it, companies can meet the expectations of a new generation of workers and be better prepared for the workforce of the future.

New considerations for businesses
The good news is businesses now have the opportunity to comment and lead social change. The most recent Mercer talent trends study shows that “job seekers care as much about the way the company conducts business, as they do about the business it is in”.

There are a number of steps businesses can take to improve their ethical performance and doing this will make a real difference. In fact, Edelman’s latest Trust Barometer showed that six in ten people look to their employer as a trustworthy source of information on contentious social problems and important topics like the economy and technology.

There is no one checklist or training manual — this is a human issue with human behaviour at the centre and requires a human solution. Digital ethics is also something that must be actively considered and planned for by each organisation. For example, at Avanade we created a digital ethics framework that informs all our decision-making to ensure we are driving purpose with profit.

While no all-encompass solution exists, there are practical steps any business can take towards a more ethical way of operating:

1. Make hard choices and be transparent about the ethical principles that resonate with your diverse employees and customers. This might mean that some customers or suppliers don’t align with your values and you have to work through that.
2. Don’t be silent or insular; join a forum in the community to share and learn about best practices to implement in your organisation.
3. Publish an ethics playbook to give employees a common ethical direction as they design and build new products, services and experiences.
4. Hire ethical hackers to identify the social risks of new services and technologies.

Organisations can seize this opportunity to modernise on a holistic scale, seeing it not just as an IT upgrade but a change driven by multi-disciplinary teams, looking across people, processes and technology.

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