Today focus in the Code of Conduct series is on the aspect of training on your finalized Code of Conduct. Eric Morehead, Principal of Morehead Compliance Consulting, joins me in this series. While there have been criticisms of Code of Conduct training, if you consider training as one source of your communication, the rollout of a new or updated Code of Conduct can be an opportunity. Morehead has noted that a Code of Conduct can be the “centerpiece of a broad communications and engagement plan.” 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. This can also be used as an
In a white paper, entitled “Top 5 Tips for Effective Code of Conduct Revisions”, 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 “capitalize on the opportunity a new Code gives you.”
One of area in the recently release Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs (Evaluation) that had a new emphasis was in the effectiveness of training. I think everyone would understand you do need to train but now the government’s talking to us about effective training. I asked Morehead what he has observed on what makes Code of Conduct training effective. Fortunately, from his professional background with Corpedia and the NYSC Governance Services, he is quite familiar with various types of training.
You can start 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 that gives 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.
Morehead believes most organizations put together custom training for their Code of Conduct rollout. It is typically online “and if it makes sense for them for their code of conduct training, and I think the same rules apply here, you want your training to really resonate with the audience that you’re trying to reach and I think the trends we see here, generally speaking, are that the code training is a lot shorter than it used to be in the past.”
He also suggested that your Code of Conduct training could be more modular in presentation. “For instance, if your company identified 12 key risk areas in the Code of Conduct, you could train on six risk areas each year, instead of the full dozen. You could keep important topics like reporting and non-retaliation and similar aspects that always have to be talked about on an annual basis but maybe you split up the topics and try to shorten the length that way.”
Another mechanism Morehead has observed over the past few years 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 effectiveness of training. He also noted that “gamification which kind of goes hand in hand with interactivity has been talked about a lot over the last few years.” His understanding is that gamification and interactivity make “it a little bit more effective for millennial members of the workforce.”
At the end of the day, the reality is that just as with different types of codes making sense for different types of organizations the same is true for interactive training. As Morehead noted, “It may make sense for your population. It may not.” But it does mean you should consider your population, “take a look at the offerings that are out there to consider how does it fit into your organization.”
Morehead ended by noting that your “training really ought to bear some resemblance to the way you communicate in the Code and the topics that you communicate in the Code of Conduct.” It really does your organization no good, “If it’s completely divorced from that then you’re missing an opportunity to drive people from training to the Code and from the Code to you know better understanding the training. So you kind of missed, to use an overused term you’ve missed some synergy there if they are divorced from each other and they don’t really speak to the same topics or speak in the same way about those topics. So I would try to keep them similar and I guess that’s another call for considering a custom implementation rather than an off the shelf implementation”.
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.
Tomorrow I will conclude this week’s series by looking at a Code of Conduct update as a way to operationalize your compliance regime.
For more information on Eric Morehead, Morehead Compliance Consulting or to contact Eric Morehead, go to Morehead Compliance Consulting.
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© Thomas R. Fox, 2017