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The What, Why & How of an Ethical Compliance Culture

The What, Why & How of an Ethical Compliance Culture

The scenarios of ethical and compliance exposure across business operations and frontline employees are unlimited. Some involve malicious employees, others could be inadvertent mistakes, while some scenarios involve activity that employees should catch and report. 

The most significant exposures to ethics and compliance issues are not in the bowels of the organization, they are at the front lines. The organization must effectively engage employees and educate them about compliance and policies in the context of their role in the organization. 

[WEBINAR] Policy & Training Management: The Foundation of a successful ESG program] – Register here

Compliance is an (extended enterprise) engagement challenge

The challenge is that organizations need to find a way to get everyone involved and adhering to policies to build integrity across the whole organization and the extended enterprise. 

Compliance communications, attestations, and disclosure matter. However, when you look at the typical organization you would think policies and compliance processes are irrelevant and a nuisance. 

The user experience for policy and training management to address an ethical compliance culture has been typically poor in most organizations, resulting in time-consuming and redundant processes, a check-box mentality, and a lack of centrally-coordinated efforts for policy and compliance communications. 

Integrated policy and training management

An ad hoc approach to compliance, policy, and training management exposes the organization to significant liability and a poor ethical and compliance culture.

Organizations have ended up with multiple sources of policy and training. Interaction with these systems has consumed human and financial capital. The result is emails and documents that fly about, slip through cracks, are never responded to, or are simply forgotten. 

One organization found that eighty percent of their compliance and ethics staff time was spent managing and chasing documents and emails for compliance, and not actually managing compliance.

Another organization spent two hundred hours building an annual report on compliance because all the data was trapped in thousands of documents and emails that had to be aggregated, tabulated, and then reported on. 

If compliance, policies, and training programs are a mess, organizations are not positioned to drive desired behaviors in compliance and ethical culture or enforce accountability in compliance, ethics, and the new era of corporate integrity with ESG: environmental, social, governance.

With today’s complex business operations, global expansion, and ever-changing legal/regulatory and compliance environments, well-defined compliance, policy, and training management program is vital to enable an organization to effectively develop and maintain compliance and adherence to values to govern and ensure with integrity. 

Strong compliance & ethical culture means employee engagement

For compliance and ethics to be successful, particularly in the era of ESG, organizations must engage employees. 

It is no longer good enough to just have well-documented policies and controls. Organizations must demonstrate policies are active and operational across the organization.

Policies are critical to the organization as they establish boundaries of behavior for individuals, processes, relationships, and transactions. Starting at the policy of all policies – the code of conduct – they filter down to govern the enterprise, divisions/regions, business units, and processes. 

Unfortunately, most organizations do not connect the idea of policy to the establishment of corporate culture. 

Without policy, there is no written standard for acceptable and unacceptable conduct — an organization can quickly become something it never intended. 

An organization must establish a policy it is willing to enforce — but it also must clearly train and communicate the policy to make sure that individuals understand what is expected of them. An organization can have a corrupt and convoluted culture with good policy in place, though it cannot achieve a strong and established culture without strong supporting compliance processes with employee engagement. 

Employee engagement requires compliance technology that is relevant, intuitive, easy to use, and interactive. Employees live their personal and professional lives in a social-technology permeated world. Compliance engagement needs to engage employees and not frustrate or bore them. It must be easy to use and interact with.

Using technology to enhance the employee experience

To deliver on the vision of employee engagement requires employees to have an interface to compliance, policies, and training. 

The challenge organizations must consider in employee engagement is how does it accomplish the following:

Get everyone involved

Organizations must deploy systems that are contextually relevant to employees without them having to wade through a lot of information, tabs, screens, or reports to get to what they need. 

The employee experience needs to be interactive and appealing. Policy and training should provide the information needed, along with links to relationships to other information the employee needs but may not be aware of.

Align messages with values

Compliance engagement must communicate in the context of the organization’s objectives, strategy, culture, and values. It is critically important that employees understand the why of compliance, ethics, and policies. 

Employees and stakeholders need to understand that compliance is more than regulatory bureaucracy and troublesome requirements, but is something that is relevant in the context of their role in the organization. Ultimately, it is about the ethical culture and integrity of the organization. 

Use technology to engage

Compliance engagement requires the alignment of technology to the needs of employees. 

Compliance technology, in the past, has been focused on technology for risk and compliance professionals, and not on engaging and interactive experiences for all levels of the organization. This requires interfaces to be engaging, social, mobile, and relevant to the broader employees and stakeholders of the organization.

Deliver the right content to get the message across

To engage employees requires policy and training to be delivered through interactive experiences that provide the right context for the employee. This means integrating content and technology into a cohesive policy and training interface that connects everything together with one thought in mind — the employee experience. 

Organizations need to approach employee engagement to address a strong compliance and ethical culture with a strategy and architecture to manage the ecosystem of compliance, policies, and training in an integrated portal throughout the organization.  

Explore more of 2023’s ESG trends

Join me later this month  (February 22) to take a deeper dive into the relationship between and the importance of policy, training and engagement, and to find out how Ekko’s integrated suite of compliance, learning and engagement tools helps heavily-regulated industries to deliver on their ESG goals. 

Not sure you can make it to the live session? Register here and we’ll send you the recording anyway.

Policy & Training Management: The core foundation of a successful ESG program

Michael Rasmussen

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