What is the message of compliance inside of a corporation and how it is distributed? In a compliance program, the largest portion of your consumers/customers are your employees. Social media presents some excellent mechanisms to communicate the message of compliance going forward. Many of the applications that we use in our personal communication are free or available at very low cost. Why not take advantage of them and use those same communication tools in your internal compliance marketing efforts going forward?

I visited with Louis Sapirman, Chief Compliance Officer at Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) about the company’s integration of social media into compliance. Sapirman emphasized the tech savvy nature of the company’s work force. It is not simply about having a younger work force. If your company is in the services business it probably means an employee base using technological tools to deliver solutions. He also pointed to the data driven nature of the D&B business so using technological tools to deliver products and solutions is something the company has been doing for quite a while. This use of technological tools led the company to consider how such techniques could be used internally in disciplines which may not have incorporated them into their repertories previously.

Not surprisingly, with most any successful corporate initiative, Sapirman said it began at the top of the organization, literally with the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Robert Carrigan. Sapirman noted that the CEO saw the advantage of using social media internally and challenged his senior management team to take a new look at the manner in which their corporate functions were using social media. From there Sapirman and his compliance team saw the advantages of using social media for facilitating a 360-degree approach to communications in compliance. Sapirman comprehended the possibility for use of social media for compliance with those external to the company as well.

Internally Sapirman pointed to a tool called Chatter, which he uses similarly to Twitter users who engage in a Tweet-up. He has created an internal company brand in the compliance space, using the moniker #dotherightthing, which trends in the company’s Chatter environment. He also uses this hashtag when he facilitates a Chatter Jam, which is a real-time social media discussion. He puts his compliance team into the event and they hold it at various times during the day so it can be accessed by D&B employees anywhere in the world.

He said that he seeds Chatter Jam so that employees are aware of the expectations and to engage in the discussion respectfully of others. When D&B began these sessions he also reminded employees that if they had specific or individual concerns they should bring them to Sapirman directly or through the hotline. However, he does not have to make this admonition any more, as everyone seems to understand the ground rules. Now this seeding only relates to the topics that each Chatter Jam begins with going forward.

One of the concerns lawyers tend to have about the use of social media is with general and specific topics coming up on social media and the ill it may cause the organization. Sapirman believes that while such untoward situations can arise, if you make clear the ground rules about such discussions, these types of issues do not usually arise. That has certainly been the D&B experience.

Each employee uses their own names during these Chatter Jams so there is employee accountability and transparency as well. Sapirman said they further define each communication through a hashtag so that it cannot only immediately be defined but also searched in the archives going forward. He provided the examples of specific regulatory issues and privacy. This branding also enhances the process going forward.

I asked Sapirman if he could point to any specific compliance initiatives that arose during or from these Chatter Jams. Sapirman emphasized that these events allow employees the opportunity to express their opinions about the compliance function and what compliance means to them in their organization. One of these discussions was around the company’s Code of Conduct. He said that employees wanted to see the words “Do The Right Thing” as the name of the Code of Conduct.

I inquired about D&B’s use of social media in connection with their third parties. Sapirman said that the company allows some of them access to its internal Chatter tools to facilitate direct communications. Further, these external contractors can connect with both Sapirman and the company through Twitter. He said that he is consistently communicating to the greater body of customers about the compliance initiatives or compliance reminders on what the D&B compliance function is doing and how it is going about doing them. He believes it is an important communications tool to make sure that he and his team are getting their compliance messages out there.

Both of these initiatives drove home to me three key insights. The first is how compliance, like society, is evolving, in many ways ever faster. As more millennials move into the workforce, the more your employee base will have used social media all their lives. Once upon a time, email was a revelatory innovation. Now if you are not communicating, you are falling behind the 8-ball. Employees expect their employers to act like and treat them as if this is the present day, not 1994 or even 2004.

The second is that these tools can go a long way towards enhancing your compliance program going forward. Recall the declination to prosecute that Morgan Stanley received from the Department of Justice, back in 2012, when one of its Managing Directors had engaged in FCPA violations. One of the reasons cited by the DOJ was 35 email compliance reminders sent over 7 years, which served to bolster the annual FCPA training to the recalcitrant Managing Director. You can use your archived social media communications as evidence that you have continually communicated your company’s expectations around compliance. It is equally important that these expectations are documented (Read – Document, Document, and Document).

Finally, never forget the social part of social media. Social media is a more holistic, multiple-sided communication. Not only are you setting out expectations but also these tools allow you to receive back communications from your employees. The D&B experience around the name change for its Code of Conduct is but one example. You can also see that if you have several concerns expressed it could alert you earlier to begin some detection and move towards prevention in your compliance program.

Three Key Takeaways

  1. Incorporation of social media into your compliance communications can pay off big dividends.
  2. Focus on the ‘social’ part of social media.
  3. Use internal corporate social media to have facilitate a 360-degree conversation.

 

This month’s podcast sponsor is Convercent. Convercent provides your teams with a centralized platform and automated processes that connect your business goals with your ethics and values. The result? A highly strategic program that drives ethics and values to the center of your business. For more information go to Convercent.com.

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