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Ted Rogers School
Ted Rogers

The Early Career Employees (ECE) project aims to explore and respond to challenges faced by employees in the earliest stages of their careers. We believe that these challenges are unique, important, and require a fresh look and serious inquiry through the lenses of ethical leadership, learning, critical thinking, and decision making. 

Early career employees face a unique set of pressures in today’s economy. Junior people are typically eager to be seen as team players, anxious to fit in, and uncertain of relevant institutional policies and norms. They typically lack job security. And they often lack the skills to escalate issues within their organizations, and may be putting themselves at risk if they do so. These pressures suggest factors that could jeopardize an employee’s integrity, and lead to significant ethical missteps. 

These pressures will likely increase during the next decades, with growing disruption through advances in artificial intelligence, climate change adaptation, and urbanization. These disruptions have been identified by the Ontario government as key challenges to developing and sustaining a resilient workforce and economy in coming years.

Early Career Employees: Ryerson University Students, and students at every university in Canada, zero to five years after graduation

As a leadership centre located at one of Canada’s top business schools, with the largest undergraduate enrollment in the country, in close contact with the head offices of major Canadian corporations, TRLC is well positioned to create positive impact through strategic initiatives in this area. 

The ECE topic emerged as a priority in 2016. During 2017, we put resources in place to develop a robust program integrated across three areas: teaching and learning, research, and stakeholder engagement and exchange. The ongoing activities in these areas are laid out below. 

From its earliest stages, the ECE project has been informed by discussions with key stakeholders, including corporate partners, international researchers, other leadership centres, as well as early career employees themselves. We invite you to become involved through the opportunities below.

We are grateful to the Rogers Family Foundation for their generous support of the Centre and its programs.

Case studies are used as a key teaching tool in business education. Reflection on and discussion of case challenges is central to the way university students learn how to think critically and prepare to manage ethical challenges in business. 

However, cases typically used in business classes target challenges facing senior managers and C-Suite executives. There is a clear mismatch between the scenarios discussed and the kinds of challenges that students face in their early careers, regarding ethical decisions they will have to make at work, as junior or early career employees. 

Our project aims to fill this gap by creating a new collection of ethical leadership case studies. These cases are based on real challenges that we know our undergraduate business and MBA graduates will face 0-5 years after graduation.  The content of these new cases is informed by existing research across marketing, finance, accounting, hospitality and tourism, and human resource management. We are also conducting original research (see below), and gathering insight from early career employees themselves.

Senior executive advisors are co-writing some of these case studies with TRSM faculty, and contributing their reflections on early challenges that they faced. These executives are also offering insight on how these early challenges were a benefit in helping them to form their leadership identity.
The GameLab @ TRLC builds games to promote ethical leadership. Join our newsletter for updates, game links, workshop invitations, pilot opportunities, game research insights, and public events. 

Our 2017-18 projects include interactive fiction games based on ethical leadership case studies, and Snap! Challenge scenarios in the workplace requiring quick decisions that can have serious consequences. Our first game is an interactive fiction game based on a case study by Chris MacDonald, Chaos in Cambodia: Responsibility for Worker Safety in the Global Supply Chain.

Different games will target different soft skills required to navigate ethical leadership challenges. These include critical thinking, decision making strategies, and action under time pressure. We're developing these through a series of Snap! Challenge workshops, working with students in the Masters of Digital Media program. We are also working with some Canadian corporations on a small scale to explore the use of these games in corporate training. 

For more about Game Lab, see here: GAME LAB.


The heart of our ECE project is the relation between four areas of research supported at the Centre. We are co-producing research and pilot projects with partners in education and the corporate world to explore these intersecting areas in relation to early career employees:

Critical Thinking and Decision Making
-  Identifying  the distinct kinds of challenges facing early career employees
-  Understanding the skills and abilities needed to address these challenges, including problem identification and interpersonal skills
-  Identifying how adult learners acquire these skills and apply them in the workplace
-  Preliminary study supported through the Jim Pattison Ethical Leadership Program
-  Literature Review and Bibliography

Corporate Ethics Training
-  Our 2017-18 Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr. Sahar Ahadi, is conducting a research project on Corporate Ethics Training in the Canadian Financial Services Sector 

Online and Experiential Learning
-  Exploring best practices for effective soft skills development through online learning
-  Conducting a literature review on evaluation of online training for improved decision making
-  Creating a case study on the development of our serious games program involving Research Assistants in diverse departments

Workplace and Organizational Cynicism
-  Senior Fellows Dr. Kristyn Scott (Principal Investigator), Dr. Hasko Von Kriegstein, and Director Dr. Chris MacDonald are conducting ongoing studies on the relationship between organizational and workplace cynicism in relation to ethical performance, funded by SSHRC.

The last theme is especially important to our project. A progressive and innovative program to support ethical decision making in the workplace can be seriously held back by cynicism. In a high-cynicism environment, investments in training and culture are less likely to have strong uptake and impact. 


Exchange activities make it possible to design and deliver appropriate programs that respond to the needs of students, educators, the corporate world, and early career employees.

We are creating assets to enable cross-sector, research-based conversation and collaboration through a few activity streams through the year. These include in-person events, online resources to share existing knowledge, and projects resulting from the lively exchange of perspectives that these make possible. These streams include: 

Snapshots are short, executive summaries of peer-reviewed publications relating to our four research areas. White papers are more extensive reviews of a topic.

Roundtables are short, cross-sector stakeholder meetings by invitation, on focused topics and knowledge gaps. These are a ‘reality check’ on current research directions, and generate ideas for partnership projects, grant applications, and potential collaboration.

Morning discussions on research related to early career employee issues and ethical leadership

In 2017, we held a day-long set of four cross-sector roundtable discussions with closing public keynote. The topic of the day was ethical decision making and leadership challenges facing early career employees. Topics were chosen to build over the day, and invited multiple perspectives from research, government, industry, and corporate training stakeholders, and early career employees themselves. 45 people participated. 


Business Ethics Speakers' Series

Visit our Research Snapshot and White Paper Collection (coming soon!)

Learn from Leaders Program

Receive updates on our cross-sector exchange events

Top 200 Mentoring Program