With the advent of globalization it has become inherently necessary for every learning organization to adopt an effective ethical culture that would allow them to survive profitably among the competitors. The ethical culture of an organization largely affects its reputation, productivity a well as its bottom line (Ruiz-Palomino, Martínez-Cañas,& Fontrodona, 2013). Adopting a positive ethical corporate culture is absolutely necessary as it would improve employee morale which will contribute to increased productivity, employee loyalty and retention. Increased productivity improves organizational efficiency whereas improved employee retention minimizes the cost of recruiting new employees. Implementation of ethical management thus allows an organization to enhance its efficiency in long run as it can attain superior performance by attracting and retaining high quality staff members, customers, investors and suppliers (Ruiz-Palomino & Martínez-Cañas, 2014).
In this regard, the report aims at analyzing the strategies for improving ethical culture in St. George Bank, Australia. It is one of the largest Australian Bank having its headquarters in Sydney. The bank provides financial services mainly in Western Australia, New South Whales, Victoria and Queensland with few of its back office operations located in Bangalore, India (St. George, 2019). However, there are several ethical scandals reported against St. George Bank in media and the recent Royal Banking Enquiry report that would negatively affect its profitable sustainability. It is thus necessary for the bank to learn to be ethical and improve its reputation by adopting an effective organizational learning practice (St. George, 2019). This report analyzes repeated ethical scandals at St. George Bank through the lens of organizational learning theories. Discussions have also been made regarding the application of relevant organizational learning frameworks and existing barriers to the organizational learning at St. George Bank. Finally, strong recommendations have been provided to St. George Bank in becoming an ethical learning organization.
Organizational learning is referred to as the process of retaining, creating and transferring knowledge within a business organization (Wang & Ahmed, 2003). Over time, an organization improves as it gains experience. This experience allows it in creating knowledge that may serve beneficial for an organization through increased production efficiency or developing better investor relationship. The most effective means of measuring organizational learning is through learning curve that shows how a particular organization produces more of its services or products with increased quality of products, reliability, efficiency and productivity with diminishing returns (Chiva, Alegre & Lapiedra, 2007). Learning curves are generally found to vary as a result of organizational learning rates. However, the organizational learning rates are further considered to be affected by the proficiency of an individual, improvement in organization’s technology, coordination methods and structural improvement. An effective organizational learning technique allows an organization to sustain profitably in this competitive environment through increased profits, accuracy and efficiency (Drejer, 2000). In context to St. George Bank, adopting an effective organizational learning technique will allow it to revive from various ethical scandals that have been hampering its sustainability to a large extent. According to Donald Schon and Chris Argrys, organizational learning is a product of organizational inquiry. This represents that whenever there will be deviations between expected outcome and actual outcome, a group or an individual will be engaged in enquiry and find out the reason for such inconsistency. During the process of organizational enquiry, interaction of the individual with other organizational members will happen and thus learning will take place. Thus, learning may be considered as a direct product of such interaction (Chiva, Alegre & Lapiedra, 2007).
However, there are two major organizational learning theories namely Espoused Theory and Theory in use that would serve beneficial for St. George Bank in solving various organizational problems. Espoused theory emphasizes on official instructions on how a problem can be solved. It is considered to be the most formalized part of an organization (Rogers, 2008). Every business organization will have their own instructions regarding how the employees will conduct their problem solving job. Such instructions are narrow in focus and usually specific, thereby confining the employees to set a path (Anderson, 1997). However, Theory in use demonstrates how problems are actually solved by an organization. It is the actual way things are generally done in an organization. Individuals who are engaged in problem solving activity generally rely on brainstorming and interaction to solve a problem rather than following the espoused theory. This organizational learning theory allows the employees to solve problems and learn in a social manner. If a company enforces Espoused theory, there is a potential mismatch between these two approaches and thus it may be problematic for the organization (Jones, Ross, Lynam, Perez & Leitch, 2011). For creating an environment that is conductive to learning, majority of the business organizations now-a-days is adopting Theory in use approach as it makes easy for the employees to interact easily with the working environment in an unstructured and undefined manner. It is very essential that right environment is provided in order for organizational enquiry to be conducted in an effective manner that would not be constrained by any formal procedures (Anderson, 1997).
There are various organizational learning frameworks formulated by economists among which the application of 4I Organizational Learning framework by St. George Bank would be more suitable. The four I’s associated with the framework represent Intuiting, Interpreting, Integrating, and institutionalizing that links three different levels of analysis and describe learning within an organization (Dutta & Crossan, 2005). Interpreting and intuiting can be found in the individual level; integrating and interpreting takes place at group level; institutionalizing and integrating can be found at organizational level. The framework helps in conveying both behavioral and cognitive perspectives of the organizational learning process (Crossan, Lane & White, 1999). For example, considering intuition is important but finding out how the intuition develops is more important. The learning process according to the framework can be discussed hereunder:
It is the preconscious acknowledgment of possibilities intrinsic in an individual’s experience. The process can influence intuitive behavior of an individual but it influences others when they try to interact with that individual (Dutta & Crossan, 2005).
It is the explanation of an idea or insight to one’s self as well as to others. The process of interpreting requires the advancement of language and thus it goes from preverbal to verbal communication (Dutta & Crossan, 2005).
The process involves development of shared understanding within individuals and taking actions in a coordinated manner through mutual adjustment. Joint actions and dialogue play a crucial role for the development of mutual understanding. Initially the process will be informal and ad hoc but if recurring coordinated action is being taken, it can be institutionalized (Dutta & Crossan, 2005).
Institutionalizing involves assuring that actions are being taken in a routine manner. Here the tasks are defined, actions are specified and various organizational mechanisms are constructed to assure that certain actions take place. It is the process of implanting learning under the effort of groups and individuals into the systems, procedures, strategy and structures of an organization (Crossan, Lane & White, 1999).
Adopting the 4I framework in the organizational learning of St. George Bank will serve beneficial in creating an effective ethical culture within the organization that will further contribute to provide best possible financial services to the customers. This will enhance customer satisfaction and thus attract more number of customers to invest in its financial products. Moreover, an effective organizational learning being implemented through the framework will also allow the bank to recover from several recent ethical scandals that were highlighted in the media (St. George, 2019).
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