Jun 9, 2015 2 min read

The most powerful ethics measure of them all

Management information about ethics does exist in the insurance market, but it’s patchy at best. It tends to focus on input and outputs, rather than on the consumer outcomes that the regulator keeps emphasising. There is room, and I think an appetite too, for improvement. So let’s take a look at what I believe to be the single, most powerful ethics measure of them all: something that cuts across processes and procedures and gets to the very heart of what is meant by ‘doing the right thing’.

What I like about this measure is the way in which it can be used to address not just what people should do (the ethics angle), but address the integrity angle as well: the capacity of people to behave ethically, even when it is not in their interests to do so. It is a measure of outcomes and it lies as close as is possible to outcomes for customers.

The Capacity to make Ethical Decisions

The ethics measure that I think is so very powerful is the capacity of people to make decisions that are ethical. So, how does it work? It’s quite simple: you use a series of special ethical dilemmas that reflect your organisation and what it wants to achieve, and you overlay each of those dilemmas with a structured assessment of the various outputs that those dilemmas have been designed to elicit. And you do this twice: once around the start of your ethics programme (or a certain phase of it), and another at the end of that particular phase in the programme. The difference represents the change in capacity of those people to make decisions that are ethical: hopefully it shows an increase!

And of course, this is a measure that helps organisations answer another hugely important question: how much progress has our ethics programme actually delivered? If taken together, all those assessments show an increased capacity for more ethical decision making, then that’s a positive signal about what your programme has been delivering. It would also be possible to pinpoint the cross-organisational responses for each of the particular ethical skills being assessed and identify what needs to be done in the next phase of your ethical programme to improve that capacity even more.

Tailored to all sorts of…

These ethical dilemmas can be tailored to all sorts of levels and issues, from the supervisor to the managing director, from an issue linked to a person’s core competency to a trend that the organisation wants people to tune into. And to all sorts of firms, from small to huge, from personal lines to London market. Your people will respond to them, for they involve practical situations that allow people to draw on their experience to resolve them: just the attributes that adult learners respond well to.

Now these are not the type of ethical dilemmas that look for ‘chose A, B C, or D’ type answers. They’re much more developed than that and in turn assess the user on a number of skills. They have quite developed narratives and often open up in stages: just like a good story should.

Consumer outcomes are determined by the decisions people take. More ethical decisions means better consumer outcomes. Using ethical dilemmas to drive improvements in decision making delivers a powerful ethics measure, and message, about your organisation and the people who work for it.

Duncan Minty
Duncan Minty
Duncan has been researching and writing about ethics in insurance for over 20 years. As a Chartered Insurance Practitioner, he combines market knowledge with a strong and independent radar on ethics.
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