Ethics Matter – A Look Ahead into 2022 for Ethics and Compliance 

Unpack three of the top trends that ethics and compliance professionals should be prepared for in 2022.

The first few weeks of the new year are a curious mix of optimism and exhaustion; if you’re not breaking out a brand-new planner, ready to take on all your New Year’s resolutions, you’re recovering from the marathon of holiday celebrations and commitments that wrapped up 2021. The calendar rolling over to 2022 may not be the miracle we desire, washing away all the trials and tribulations of the past year and gifting us a totally blank slate, but it can provide that extra boost of energy and enthusiasm to tackle your most important goals. Ethics and Compliance professionals were in for a crazy ride in 2021, and this year is shaping up to be the same kind of roller coaster.  

Bust out your crystal ball and join us for some fortune telling for this new year. We’re unpacking three of the top trends that ethics and compliance professionals should be prepared for in 2022. 

TRUST 

2021 was a huge year for trust, especially in the workplace. The headlines were flooded with stories about the Great Resignation, but once you got past the clickbait headlines, the mass resignation of unhappy employees revealed so much more about the state of work. The employer/employee relationship is so much more complicated than the simple exchange of labor for a wage, and the pandemic exposed exactly how much more tending these professional relationships required. Employees who felt unsafe or exploited in the middle of the pandemic unionized for better conditions or quit altogether, searching for a more supportive and safe working environment. If employees don’t trust that their employer has their best interests at heart, then they are now empowered to exit and search for a more trustworthy company. 

So what does this mean for 2022? Building a culture of compliance means baking compliance into every facet of your leadership and strategy, reinforcing your organizational commitment to transparency, accountability, flexibility, and autonomy. Credibility is a competitive advantage, and building that solid foundation of trust is truly non-negotiable in 2022. Simply stating your commitment to your employees isn’t enough; your actions must bear fruit and cement your commitment through tangible, valuable actions. Smart business leaders and ethics and compliance professionals should adopt as their new mantra, borrowing a Latin phrase used in the British Suffrage Movement of the early 20th Century, “acta non verba” or “deeds not words.”  

What does trust look like in action? 

  • Start by asking questions and then follow up. Your employees have valuable insight and are waiting for you to ask for their input. But don’t stop at just circulating a survey! Remember that this valuable feedback will ring hollow unless tangible, obvious steps are taken to put it into practice. 
  • Consistency is king. Anyone who has ever tried to learn a new instrument (hello, other 2022 New Year’s resolutions?) knows that the key to progress is intentional practice. In business, this means sticking to your goals over time. Repetition legitimizes—and when it comes to building trust, those repeated behaviors will end up solidifying your reputation as a trustworthy employer.  
  • Measure twice, and then again. Make your data work for you in 2022 by leveraging both the qualitative and quantitative data at your disposal. Your automation (more on that below) and more hands-on measurements like surveys and focus groups can help you identify areas for improvement and places where trust really shines.  

AUTOMATION 

2021 was full of headlines about NFTs, Artificial Intelligence, big data, cloud computing, and high-performance computing. According to McKinsey, digitally enabled productivity gains made in 2021 have accelerated the Fourth Industrial Revolution and there is no going back. Sure, record-breaking NFT deals and new space exploration are exciting technological innovations, but for the often over-extended and under-resourced compliance officer, task automation will be the real MVP of 2022. Whether you’re onboarding a new hire or managing disclosures, the old manual analog systems can’t measure up to the new robust digital opportunities.  

How can automation make 2022 better? 

  • Follow-up on the regular. Remember the old infomercials, touting the ability to “set it and forget it”? Advancements in automation allow for regular follow-up, triggering time-based check-ins without manual reminders. For example, following up doesn’t just give whistleblowers peace of mind that their reports are being investigated and acted upon, it also leaves a record of your commitment to ethical action. 
  • Leave a trail of breadcrumbs to follow. Do you check in with new hires after they’ve wrapped up their formal onboarding? Do you regularly connect with veteran employees to make sure they’re still engaged and tuned-in? Have you followed up with employees after major life events? Automation is a brilliant way to strengthen professional connections (and trust), through frictionless and regular check-ins at every point in an employee’s tenure. The data collected by these automated tasks will serve you in the future, no matter what 2022 has in store. 
  • Benchmarks aren’t just for the gym. When paired with prescriptive analytics, automation is revolutionary. Look at your data and identify any hot spots, specifically hard limits and benchmarks so your next steps can be predictive, rather than reactive. Program your KPI’s into your automations in order to solidify new workflows or initiatives. 

HYBRID WORK 

Remember how we were all going to return to the office in 2020? Omicron is sure having a laugh at our expense in 2022. The pandemic is far from over, so we’re going to have to fully embrace hybrid work this year. Practically every aspect of work, from meetings, to onboarding and training, has gone digital during the past two years. Sure, some folks have made the transition back to the office, but with global case numbers and positivity rates on the rise, most are hunkering down for another quarter (or more) of remote work.  

What does hybrid work look like in 2022? 

  • Use digital interactions to solidify your commitment to trust and more. Traditional in-office work benefited from watercooler talk, impromptu conversations, and internalizing unwritten rules and expectations. Use every digital interaction as an opportunity to solidify your company’s values and expectations. Don’t stress new hires and veteran staff members alike by making them guess at anything in 2022. 
  • Facilitate connections and relationships. Remember the spontaneous conversations and IRL meetings? So much gets lost in the digital space, so make connections a priority in 2022. Remember to mix one-on-one interactions with bigger group activities, in order to allow for different communication styles and personalities. 
  • Express yourself! Authenticity is paramount these days, with a majority of our social interactions still happening in the digital space. Use every Zoom meeting or Slack conversation as an opportunity to connect with other humans who are probably feeling the same digital burnout as you are. Take the time to publicly celebrate the accomplishments of your team and cement your dedication to your team. Good vibes are in short supply these days, so make yourself a magnet for authentic connection by shouting out the good things as you see them. By emphasizing authenticity, you’re also making space for the hard conversations that are another side effect of the pandemic. So many people are out there hurting, bearing a heavy emotional burden, so any invitation for safe connection could be a game-changer. 

 

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