I am a keen and enthusiastic member of a number of professional bodies. I love the way that they can be a vehicle for helping individuals become, and continue to be, more professional and knowledgeable. My interest has spilled out over the years to provide consultancy and insurance services to some of these organisations.
I wasn’t always so invested in these kinds of organisations. I remember early on in my career wanting to join simply to achieve the designations after my name, to set myself apart from the competition. I’ve even had my employer, on occasion sign me up to be a member of a professional body, in order to start me on some exams.
It is this latter topic I want to pick up on. Most professional bodies require agreement, and adherence, to a code of ethics as a condition of membership. But so many employers, particularly large corporates who are buying memberships en bloc, enrol their employees without the employee even being aware that they are agreeing to abide by a code of ethics, or even seeing that code.
Professional bodies regularly provide codes of ethics with membership renewal packs, make them freely available on their website, and so forth – so it’s unlikely a member will go through their career and studies without picking up that such a code exists. Although they could, of course, opt out of correspondence and so not receive a hard copy – the joys of GDPR!
My worry is that members of professional bodies are simply not conscious of the code of ethics they agreed to. I worry that those codes, that have taken so long to write, develop and publish, are simply not being used, and that customers and consumers are failing to reap the benefit – with employers paying the price through mistakes and poor judgement. The ultimate irony in this could be that people are being unethically bound to codes of ethics!
What’s the answer? I’m not sure.
Could employers ask staff to enrol one by one, giving them a chance to review the code of ethics? Could companies embed similar codes of ethics internally so that employees were already being held up to the standard internally, irrespective of their own awareness of a professional body’s code? I suspect that the answer will be different for organisations of different sizes – but I would love to hear how companies embed ethics and how individuals engage with their professional bodies’ codes of ethics – please leave a comment below!
Richard Talbot-Jones is a Chartered Insurance Broker, MD of Talbot Jones Ltd and FD of NIBE.