Practical insights for compliance and ethics professionals and commentary on the intersection of compliance and culture.

Corporate cultural change: Awareness and dialog, not training

This is the final entry in a series of five posts suggesting best practices for implementing corporate cultural change.  For an overview of all the tips on this subject, check out this preview postThe first post in the series was about tone and conduct at the top and the importance of operationalizing these. The second post discussed how to tangibly encourage organizational justice via consistent, visible investigation and enforcement efforts. The third post focused on policies to have in place, while last week’s post was about the procedures to complement and support those. Today, the fifth and last post in the series will provide ideas for how compliance programs can go beyond traditional training to create a culture which risks and values are addressed and integrated into awareness and communication efforts.

The last four posts have discussed the management controls and organizational structures that are important to implement in order to address needed cultural change and manage compliance risks. Motivating management to act as leadership and vice versa and then taking advantage of their fluency to leverage buy-in for enforcement efforts, policies, and procedures that will contribute to reform and improvement initiatives has been the focus so far. The final area for compliance and ethics professionals to take on in this process is employee and organizational education.

To meet the demands posed by the current cultural moment toward organizational justice and institutional responsibility, compliance programs must embrace a bolder approach to training, going beyond routine, tick-the-box style efforts. The era of un-engaging webinars, slideshows with quizzes at the end, and brochures no one reads, has to be over in order for ethical cultures to develop authentically and thrive sustainably in modern organizations.

Though these typical trainings will always have their place somewhere in a comprehensive education campaign plan, and the value of the generations of work put into developing them should not be disregarded, the content and the purpose of these programs need to be seriously re-imagined.

Consider these best practices for going beyond training, in order to design and deliver engaging and entertaining employee communication and awareness efforts:

  • Target for relevance – Bespoke training is the most effective. Take advantage of your familiarity with your audience, and their needs and interests, in order to create the right mix of theoretical and practical information. This will be based upon a combination of knowledge possessed and interest demonstrated, which should determine how you frame the essential information they need to have. Use ego and leadership rationale to convince senior management to take your compliance risk management theory forward into practical, principles-based behavior and attitude they can model for and require from their teams. Appeal to employees on those teams, on the other hand, by addressing their daily work in your pitch, emphasizing the practical application of the concepts into their tasks and making the information as concise and accessible as possible.
  • Facilitate, don’t lecture – Presenters who just click through slides will have participants who just watch those slides go by, retaining little and feeling no attachment to or interest in the material that they didn’t already have before the session started.   Leave the lectures for university students. Discussion, whether via dilemma analysis, case studies, or information-sharing conversation, will be more engaging and memorable.
  • Make them comfortable – The aim of any education program is to make the participants comfortable. They don’t have to leave as experts and it’s more likely that with too much information, they’ll just end up overwhelmed and uncertain about to what extent they should be self-responsible. Giving too much instruction raises the risk that no information will take hold in their minds. Avoid information overload and seek for familiarity with the concepts instead.
  • Emphasis on communication – Ensure that the lessons learned and insights shared in discussion sessions are communicated out effectively. Craft these messages to be entertaining for those with a fledgling fluency in the topics as well as relevant to the real needs and risks that have been shared.
  • Follow-through for awareness – Education sessions can be as valuable for compliance officers leading them as they are for the attendants. In building an effective compliance advisory practice, relationships are key. Providing employee training that is understanding of their learning curve and pertinent to their business needs will be great branding for the compliance program.

For more tips on next-generation compliance training best practices, check out this post or this post.

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