Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Human Resource and Workforce Development (EdD)

Degree Level



Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders


Claretha Hughes

Committee Member

Yuanlu Niu

Second Committee Member

Xinya Liang


business ethics, adult education, public trust, ethics training, diffusion of innovations


Ethical scandals have continued to batter corporate America into the twenty-first century. Companies such as Enron and MCI WorldCom became household names overnight because of ethical issues that shuttered the organizations’ operations and stunned shareholders. Training has served as a primary mechanism for companies to impart ethical values in employees and leadership teams. However, despite the ongoing focus and resources dedicated to education and associate development in this area, historically there appears to be no diffusion of ethical standards within organizations. There is a lack of consensus in current research regarding the effectiveness of organizational ethics training and its ability to diffuse ethical standards to employees to influence their behaviors.

This mixed-methods study utilized Rogers’ diffusion of innovations theory as a framework to investigate how ethics training impacts the diffusion of ethical standards throughout a financial organization and its frontline sales force. It examined the theory’s five innovation characteristics of relative advantage, compatibility, trialability, observability, and complexity. The study also incorporated the work of Moore and Benbasat, utilizing their validated diffusion survey instrument as a primary avenue for data collection and examining three additional diffusion attributes that accompanied their research—image, result demonstrability, and voluntariness.

This paper serves as a new starting point for diffusion studies because the current body of research is silent in how diffusion of innovations theory informs the effectiveness of ethics training. It provides recommendations for future research in the fields of diffusion and human resources and workforce development education. It also offers a unique perspective and opportunity to identify a root cause of America’s ethic scandal epidemic.