Integrating Compliance: How to Engage Your Employees

How to engage your employees

Creating a climate that encourages ethical behavior and compliance with corporate ethics policies begins at the top. Management sets the tone—but what then? How does ethical behavior become integrated into the corporate culture? How does it become a way of life?

Once management is committed, there are a number of ways to promote an ethical culture among the workforce.

  • Create a sanctuary
  • Create a consistent policy
  • Go public

Create a sanctuary

“You can set up all the compliance programs you want, but it won’t help if people feel threatened by reporting an infraction if they fear it will hurt their career,” says David Batstone, author of “Saving the Corporate Soul.”

When a company initiates a compliance program, the goal is transparency and accountability. In order for employees to be engaged in the process, they must feel safe talking about ethical issues. This means both open doors and complete confidentiality on the part of management. But that is only the first step.

Employees may suspect that fraudulent activity is happening but are often reluctant to report or “blow the whistle” because they lack confidence in internal reporting systems, or fear retaliation. Employers who want to remove these obstacles should consider setting up ethics hotlines run by third parties, where employees can report suspected misconduct.

The main benefit of a third party hotline is that it provides a direct and confidential communication channel where employees and external stakeholders can report any unethical practices. The hotline personnel would then investigate and report their findings to the top levels of management within the company or its board members so that corrective action can be taken.

A hotline helps to assure that employees won’t turn a blind eye to suspicions of unethical activity. At the same time, it reduces the risk that people will go outside the organization with their concerns, which could cause both financial and reputation damage.

Create a consistent policy

Most companies today are oriented toward the legal aspects of compliance—“We’ve got to obey the rules.” The fear of getting caught is a big motivator. But the best companies are those who say, “We need to promote ethical values as the centerpiece of how we manage our company.

Computer chipmaker Intel Corporation stands out because of its ethics program and its commitment to corporate social responsibility. It has been recognized for leadership in integrating values across the company as well as for expecting socially responsible behavior from its suppliers. However, as the company morphed into a multinational firm it encountered some cultural challenges.

“You’ve heard of bribery and fraud issues in China, Russia, and elsewhere that we define as corruption which in some cultures they view simply as ‘the way we do business,’ ” says Dave Stangis, Intel’s director for corporate responsibility. However, Intel wanted to conduct business on the same ethical basis everywhere it operates, so it developed ethics training programs worldwide involving all of their employees.

“We have very high but simple ethical expectations,” Stangis says. “Not only will you comply with the law, but everyone, including the board of directors and officers are not to do anything that can appear to be an ethical violation.” Training emphasizing case studies and work situations is regularly updated and repeated. (Christian Science Monitor, Nov. 2005)

Go public

There is probably no better way to assure continued participation and support of a company’s compliance program than to go public with it. Not with a roll of drums and great fanfare, but with coherent, consistent exposure, both internal and external.

Begin by recognizing good behavior among employees and groups by recognizing ethical behavior. Use your website and other social media to let customers, clients, vendors, and the general public know that you comply with ethical standards and policies that are appropriate to your industry or profession. Develop a simple policy statement that can be printed or communicated electronically to everyone you conduct business with. When employees know that they are the real live examples of the company’s ethics and compliance viewpoint, they will be far more likely to do the right thing, even when no one is watching.

For more information about developing compliance commitment among your employees, check out these resources: Lighthouse eLearning: ethics & compliance training, and “An ethical cultural shift would make compliance easier” in Western Mail.

Enter your keyword