Updated: Jan 22, 2019
The purpose given for companies is often stated as making profit. However, companies can exist for a greater purpose. They can exist to create opportunities for people to work so that their potential can be realized to some degree. The greater the degree, the more humanized the workplace becomes. However, when workers are used like “machinery” the work becomes dehumanizing.
There is always a tendency (for the sake of efficiency) to separate humanity from the mechanics of business. Perhaps, when businesses are completely robotic (if that is even desirable) we can achieve total separation and no one needs to worry about values and ethics in the workplace anymore. In fact, we would not have workplace and I wonder if we could still call these businesses either.
In a similar way, we can think of compliance in a dehumanizing fashion. Compliance for many companies is seen as a tax on productivity and something that should be reduced. This may lead to viewing compliance roles as something that we want to reduce and replace with technology.
However, when taking a closer look we notice that compliance has more to do with managing risks than it does conformance to standards and following rules. Managing risk is a human-centric process that requires people to anticipate, plan and act to prevent or mitigate a threat or enable and exploit an opportunity. In fact, not only is risk management human-centric it is very much an ethical process.
For example, safety involves making decisions that involve risk. Risk-based decisions due to their inherent uncertainty are in the category of ethical decisions that a company makes and cannot easily (or at all) be reduced to a set of rules or to a machine. If the risk can be completely eliminated by removing the hazard then rule-based decisions (the kinds that computers can do) might be appropriate. However, should the hazard remain and uncertainty persist then the decision to proceed becomes an ethical choice which is only something humans can do.