What Really Causes Misconduct?

How tracking contributing factors helps you move beyond incident triage

Anonymous hotlines are one of the most fundamental mainstays of corporate compliance programs. The annual In Focus: Compliance Trends Survey from Compliance Week and Deloitte has not only shown that the hotline is one of compliance function’s top three responsibilities, but that nearly three quarters of compliance officers analyze hotline call data as a primary method to gauge the effectiveness of their program.

Unfortunately, as a result of their tenure in the compliance space, there’s been little real advancement or innovation in the way that incidents are received, managed and resolved by the compliance function. PwC’s 2014 State of Compliance Survey showed just 20% of organizations planned to prioritize their hotline in the next year. Starting a few months ago, the Convercent team asked ourselves (and our customers): Can a hotline and case management system serve a larger, more proactive purpose than for highly reactive triage that occurs—literally—on a case-by-case basis?

Insight into behavioral and organizational trends help compliance teams address those influences.

And why not? A company’s hotline and case management system are some of the compliance team’s most consistent means of collecting information from their workforce about real and potential issues. And we already established that the information from the hotline is used as a bellwether of overall program effectiveness. Isn’t it logical to expect, then, that this front-line tool might also arm ethics and compliance executives with insights into larger behavioral, organizational and environmental trends so that they can better understand (and ultimately address) the things that influence and enable incidents and misconduct to occur in the first place?

Why, Hello, Contributing Factors

This week, Convercent added a new feature, Contributing Factors, to our compliance case management solution. It helps the compliance team record the story behind their cases by recording the specific behaviors, and reasoning, of the responsible parties that led to their misconduct. By and large, this data is currently tracked in spreadsheets (if at all).

How It Works

As case managers and investigators work on a case, they document determinations about its contributing factors within the same workflow that they use to log evidence, notes and case status. They’re able to choose influences from a predefined list and associate them with a specific issue type in the case.

Contributing Factors intentionally offers case managers a combination of predefined picklists and free text descriptions. By doing so, they’re able to get deep metrics and analytics from the standardized data that the picklists yield, on top of the rich details for individual cases provided in the descriptions.

Users are able to choose from two different categories of Contributing Factors:

Behavioral factors: An individual’s behaviors or tendencies that drove them to commit misconduct. Examples might include:

  • Lack of sensitivity
    I wasn’t aware my conduct would have that effect on others.
  • Lack of awareness
    I didn’t realize I was breaking any rules.
  • Legitimate rationalization
    It’s an outdated rule.
  • Rationalization based on company loyalty
    I was making the company money.

External and organizational influences: Influences outside the subject’s behavior that created an environment that contributed to the issue. Examples might include:

  • Financial or performance incentives
  • Pressure from management or a peer
  • Weak controls
  • Remote or inadequate supervision

Why It’s Long Overdue

Ultimately, the real value of this feature comes from data you collect over time. As you report on and analyze the data captured from Contributing Factors, your compliance team will have information that will help them move beyond short-term incident triage. Armed with a better understanding of the factors that influence and contribute to noncompliance, you can perform real root cause analysis and ultimately implement corrective actions that are proactive and preventative in nature.

You finally understand that a sales spiff implemented for your regional sales directors is rewarding short-term, business-at-all-costs wins and that they’re in turn putting pressure on their reps to cut corners.

Think about all you could do with this information at your fingertips. You now know that it’s not malice, but lack of awareness, that’s causing a high rate of retaliation claims in a region. Or you finally understand that a sales spiff implemented for your regional sales directors is rewarding short-term, business-at-all-costs wins and that they’re in turn putting pressure on their reps to cut corners.

Moving beyond the increased value your hotline is able to provide, the benefits of this insight are twofold: (1) you ensure more appropriate corrective action and responses in the short term; and (2) you can better prevent problem recurrences over the long term by addressing macro and systemic issues related to employee behavior and awareness, organizational culture, communication, hiring practices, compensation, reporting structures and more.

We have to give credit where it’s due: this enhancement was inspired by and developed with feedback from our customers, like so many of our great product features. We’re thrilled to have had the opportunity to mobilize this vision and further empower the compliance function to make a real, significant and widespread impact within their organization. We can’t wait to see what they do with this new capability.

P.S. As with every product release, all of our hotline and case management customers have instant access to this great new feature.