I often blog about the life stories of the famous and not so famous based upon obituaries. Matt Kelly once asked me how I was able to tie these stories so directly to compliance and I responded that compliance is about people and that is what I find in the everyday stories of people. However today, I write about a demise that has not happened as yet. TheNew York Times reported that it is nearly the end of the storied Boston Red Sox minor league team Pawtucket. Affectionately named the PawSox, Pawtucket was the home of the Red Sox AAA franchise since 1973. This year will be the final season in Pawtucket as the team moves to Worchester Mass next season.
How did this come about? Team owners wanted a new stadium and negotiated a deal with the Governor of Rhode Island for financial assistance. The state’s Senate approved the deal but the state’s House of Representative tried to renegotiate the arrangement so the team struck the same deal with the good city of Worchester. Obviously, a bone-headed play by the Rhode Island House led to the loss of a beloved minor league team. What does all this have to do with someone from Houston? (And I am glad you were wondering?) Astros Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell was drafted by Boston and played at Pawtucket before the Red Sox gave (sorry traded) him to Houston for Larry Anderson in 1987.
The idiocy of the Rhode Island House informs today’s compliance message which is around Code of Conduct training. While there have been criticisms of Code of Conduct training, if you consider training as one source of your 360-degrees of compliance communications, a new or updated Code of Conduct presents your compliance team with an excellent opportunity. This rollout fits directly into the concept of 360-degrees of compliance as rollout is part of both communications and engagement. The delivery of a Code of Conduct is a key element of its effectiveness. By allowing your employees and other stakeholders to engage and interact with the Code of Conduct, through live or interactive training, the effectiveness can be better monitored and measured.
In a white paper, entitled “Top 5 Tips for Effective Code of Conduct Revisions”,Eric Morehead noted that often companies have a formal launch of the Code of Conduct where senior management and the corporate compliance function “conduct on-site activities across the organization to promote the launch of the new Code, or launch interactive activities such as video competitions that ask stakeholders to such submit short videos on Code topics.” However, this is not the sole manner to have such a rollout as other companies “keep the message more informal but use frequent touchpoints, for example, through email or cascading messages through line managers, to keep up the drumbeat on compliance topics and reinforce the role of compliance.” The key is to exploit on the opportunity a new or revised Code of Conduct gives you to communicate in a 360-degree manner on your compliance program.
One area in the 2017 Department of Justice’s (DOJs) Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs (Evaluation) articulated a new emphasis in the effectivenessof training. I think everyone understand that you do need to train but now the government’s talking to us about effective training. How can you make Code of Conduct training effective? Begin with live training that can be held at the corporate headquarters with senior management and even executive involvement. Many companies will videotape a message from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to help celebrate the rollout. Then there is the opportunity for localized training thatgives employees an opportunity to see, meet, and speak directly with a compliance officer, not an insignificant dynamic in the corporate environment. Such personal training also sends a strong message of commitment to the Code of Conduct. It gives employees the opportunity to interact with the compliance officer by asking questions which are relevant to markets and locations outside the United States, which can often provide employees with the opportunity to have confidential in-person discussions.
An important part of in-person training is the opportunity to interact with the audience through Q&A. There are a couple different approaches to Q&A. The first is to solicit questions from the audience. However, many employees are reluctant, for a variety of different reasons, to raise their hands and ask questions in front of others. This can be overcome by soliciting written questions on cards or note pads. A second technique is to lead the audience through hypothetical examples in which the audience is broken down into small discussion groups (up to five people) to discuss a situation and propose a response. However, with a worldwide, multi thousand-person workforce with multiple languages, an entire Code of Conduct roll-out based on live training may not be feasible.
Not surprisingly, and one of the key themes in compliance, is to understand your company and tailor your compliance program, including your Code of Conduct training, for your audience. Companies have to consider their audience when considering drafting the Code of Conduct, the kind of tone it is going to have, how long it is going to be and topics you are going to cover in the Code of Conduct; the same analysis is true for your training.
Most organizations put together custom training for their Code of Conduct rollout. Live training is generally viewed to be the most effective with online training next in effectiveness. One technique which as gained traction is a modular approach where you might identify 10 key risk areas and train on each in 10-minute segments throughout the year, one per month. This drives engagement and lessens complaints that employees have to take an entire hour for such training.
Another mechanism is more interactive training. When audience members are required to answer questions on an ongoing basis it can foster more engagement. It can also help to meet the DOJ requirement to demonstrate the effectivenessof training. Of course, gamification which is another form of interactivity has become more popular over the last few years. It also has the advantage of more favor with millennial members of the workforce.
However, your Code of Conduct training should be an extension of the way you communicate compliance in your organization. If it is divorced from your 360-degrees of compliance communications style, you may well be missing an opportunity to drive better understanding of the Code of Conduct and denigrate the effectiveness of the training. Whatever approach is used, one of the critical factors is the length of time of the training session. Although lawyers and ethics and compliance professionals can (sometimes) sit through a multi-hour Code of Conduct, it is almost impossible to keep the attention of business and operations employees for such a length of time. The presentation and number of PowerPoint slides must be kept to a manageable length before the attendee’s eyes start to glaze over.
Any Code of Conduct project provides you an opportunity to reintroduce and re-emphasize your compliance program through Code of Conduct training. Make certain you take steps to make it effective through data analytics and then incorporate your findings on training effectiveness back into your program for continuous improvement. Finally, do not be like the Rhode Island House of Representative and throw away 50 years of sporting history and memories. Pawtucket is a minor league franchise but it was much more. It was Rhode Island’s major sports team. A new stadium would have generated growth and continued revenue for both the state and the city of Pawtucket. If your team wants to move, use that opportunity to celebrate its commitment to your locality, do not throw a temper tantrum.
The Houston Astros also owe a debt of gratitude to the PawSox for helping to send us Jeff Bagwell (and how that informs your compliance program).Click to tweet
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© Thomas R. Fox, 2018