Helping employees internalize company values
As lapses in ethical conduct increasingly are linked to weaknesses in corporate culture, senior executives at companies are being held accountable for the compliance and ethics training that their employees receive and the ways in which it is provided.
Making sure that employees follow compliance policies and use them as a guide whenever questions arise is a key factor in creating and maintaining a positive company culture. It’s widely understood that employees need to know about compliance policies and how to act accordingly. But enforcing rules and checklists hasn’t produced changes in employee behavior and other intended outcomes, says Susan Divers, a senior advisor at LRN, which provides ethics and compliance advisory services and education ‘Companies have to change their cultures. Ethics and compliance must be taken to heart,’ she says.
The notion that companies can ensure ethics and compliance by having a rule for every occasion is going out of fashion, Divers asserts. ‘Companies recognize that if employees internalize values, rather than memorizing a list of rules, they become empowered to use their judgment when ethical questions arise.’ Therefore, the people responsible for implementing and monitoring compliance programs need to realize that unless employees internalize company values, their behavior cannot change.
‘The emphasis on rules promotes trying to find a way around them, while an emphasis on values shows respect for employees and encourages them to use their judgment,’ Divers says. Employees are more apt to internalize and act positively on company values if they see the behavior modeled by company leaders. ‘Daily acts of leadership convey deep commitment to the company’s values and shared purpose,’ says Caterina Bulgarella, a senior leader at LRN. ‘Any communication is an opportunity to refocus employees on those shared principles. Sharing stories and examples, conveying a sense of personal vulnerability and deep commitment will go a long way to scale the values of the organization and embed them into the organizational fabric.’
Bulgarella stresses that business executives can encourage employees to internalize company values by applying them to real challenges they face. ‘Ask tough questions and be open about any observed tension between who we aspire to be and how we do things around here. It comes down to building and imparting a company ethos,’ she says.
Employees are also more likely to internalize a company’s values when information about compliance principles is presented in a condensed and simplified way instead of as a set of rules written in legalese. ‘Policies and information need to be easy to understand, accessible, and relevant,’ says Divers. ‘Present information that is clear and easy to implement. Make it real for every employee.’
Another trend in the compliance training space is that employees, especially Millennials and Generation X individuals, increasingly expect information to be available immediately and easily accessible at all times. One way to engage them is to enable them to access compliance information anywhere at any time. LRN is now providing technology for that purpose. Its Augmented Reality app ‘allows employees to access and engage with compliance content in real time, from any location,’ says Divers. The app's interactive audio-visual content offers a way for a company to engage and communicate directly to its employees, and it can be customized to a company’s existing compliance materials.