Networking For Ethics & Compliance Professionals: Addressing Common Concerns

In June 2018, Convercent gathered ethics and compliance leaders to discuss their most pressing questions and concerns

Earning Trust, Increasing Engagement, Overcoming Data Silos to Assess KPIs, and More

Throughout the year, Convercent gathers ethics and compliance executives for roundtable events to discuss the industry’s biggest challenges and insights. In a community where networking with leaders and peers is often difficult, these conversations help us focus on driving ethics to the center of business.

In June 2018, we held two roundtable events: one in Boston and another in Philadelphia. If you couldn’t join us, this post is your next best alternative!

Today, I’m going to share some of the most fascinating insights from our Boston conversation, where Vincent DiCianni joined the panel. Vincent is the President and Founder of Affiliated Monitors, an organization that bridges the gap between business and government through monitoring and independent compliance and ethical culture assessments. I’ve shared his insights from the roundtable throughout this post, as they demonstrate how important it is for companies to focus on the strength of their ethics programs.

What are ethics and compliance professionals concerned about?

During roundtable events, we like to go around the room and discuss the most pressing concerns of the ethical leaders in attendance. More often than not, the concerns being voiced are shared by everyone to some extent. This leads to some deep conversations about how businesses can continue to revolutionize their programs.

Here are some of the concerns and questions that we worked through together:

How can the compliance team earn employee trust?

When employees don’t trust the system, they won’t lodge reports or call the hotline. According to Mr. DiCianni, uneven discipline and enforcement of codes of conduct can be a big contributor to this distrust, because, “How things are enforced can be very telling. The failure to enforce a program is often a weakness in a program.”

If two different people do the same thing wrong, and a favored employee receives no punishment while the other is disciplined, that doesn’t go unnoticed.

Retaliation is also a major concern, but it’s not the only reason for distrust. Sometimes, hotline call volumes are low simply because employees don’t believe wrongs will be righted.

How can the ethics and compliance team engage employees in training?

Time and time again, attendees wondered how they might increase the efficacy of their training. Some of the ideas that were shared included:

  • Leveraging real-life ethics success and failure stories for internal education purposes.
  • Choosing “Ethics Champions” in each office, region, or department. These people have been trained on compliance-based initiatives and serve as the bridge between corporate and employees.
  • Honoring “Compliance Heroes” by giving out awards to employees who have acted ethically.

As you can see, efficacy is directly related to engagement. Trust is also a key factor. For a program to be effective, employees must trust in and engage with the training, then feel inspired to live out those values on the job.

If you’re stumped about how to make training more interesting, try out one of these 10 games and activities. Each suggestion has been tested in the real world, and these ideas are also easy to customize to your company.

How do you demonstrate value to the company’s leadership without “getting in the way”?

“Getting the Board on board” was a big topic of conversation, and it’s something many ethics and compliance officers struggle with (so, at least you know you aren’t alone).

When Mr. DiCianni was asked how this might be accomplished, he recommended looking at it in terms of the program’s strengths and weaknesses. Based on conversations around the table, it became clear that most compliance teams are small. Companies aren’t sufficiently investing in their programs, and people assigned to compliance roles often learn on the job.

That’s certainly a weakness for many organizations, but what are some potential strengths? To identify these, you have to get creative. For example, a small team might have great success with “Compliance Heroes” or “Ethics Champions” programs, and those wins can be shared with the Board.

Similarly, how can we ‘set the tone from the top’?

Several attendees were focused on making sure mid-level employees understand that everyone in the company is held to the same ethical standards. To achieve this, the leadership must understand that they are role models. Every interaction they have is a representation of the company.

As Mr. DiCianni puts it, “The best organizations that have the strongest ethical cultures start at the very top. Sometimes, the leadership doesn’t understand that they are being watched and listened to. Instead, they see their role on the Board as being very structured and limited.”

How can compliance pros have an impact in this arena? It might sound counterintuitive, but to improve the tone at the top, we also have to focus heavily on the ‘tone at the middle’.

What’s the best way to deal with data silos?

From disparate data silos to which KPIs we should care about in the first place, many compliance professionals are at a loss for how to use and manage data. Siloed program and data points from a disconnected ecosystem of tools and software make utilizing data sets outside of compliance difficult… at best. This leaves us asking, “How can we utilize these data sets to accurately visualize risk?”

Affiliated Monitors, Mr. DiCianni’s firm, deals with this issue often. When working with clients, they want to see metrics about performance, training, and other data used to validate the level of effort the company is putting in. The preferred way to get this data is through a third-party, because, “It gives us some data points that are not just being provided by the business itself. We like to think of ourselves as a medium between a company and the government, and data from an independent third-party can be trusted.”

Some of the metrics that Mr.DiCianni and his team look for when advising companies specifically include:

  • Hotline and helpline-based metrics, including whether people are actually using this tool.
  • Anonymous reporting.
  • Surveys, which can be very effective or very self-serving, depending on the content.

The key takeaway about data was this: If you know that your company needs to be better about collecting, managing, and using data, it pays to find a third-party tool that bridges the gaps between organizational data silos. Getting Board approval to invest in a solution isn’t always easy, but here’s some additional reading that can help frame the conversation:

Ethics & Compliance is Undergoing a Transformation. Are You Ready? Series #1

Taking Your Integrity Program on the Offense Series #2

Own Your Company’s Ethical Health and Earn The Trust Of Your Board Series #3

Future networking events for ethics and compliance professionals

Conversations about driving ethics to the center of business are important, especially in light of a rapidly changing business landscape. Nowadays, the most ethical companies are the most successful companies.

Opportunities for the type of candid dialogues that we had in Boston are rare, but Convercent tries to facilitate them whenever possible. As Mr. DiCianni put it, “It’s more of a conversation, not preaching. We were able to really draw in everyone at the table.”

Will you join us for the next big conversation? It’s happening October 9-11, 2018 in Denver, during our annual Converge conference. The theme is putting ethics into action, and you can join industry visionaries, leaders, and experts to learn how to transform your organization and career by connecting ethics to business performance. Learn more here, and we hope to see you there!