April 16, 2009
Employees who believe themselves to have a strong moral compass can be hostile to the suggestion that they need compliance training. Kate Atkinson of Miller & Chevalier describes this training dilemma and offers some suggested responses.
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"One of the more common challenges in anti-corruption training is how to train employees who believe that because they are ethical people, they will not get themselves or their company into trouble. These employees lull themselves and their companies into a false sense of security. In a sense, companies can overachieve on building a culture of ethics, and compliance can start to fall off, in small but important ways. In conducting compliance audits, it is not uncommon to find a pattern of compliance lapses alongside a high level of employee confidence in adherence to the program. Typically, those lapses appear in expense reporting, invoice review, contracts compliance, and third party due diligence and monitoring.
In these circumstances, training needs to wake up the audience and reinvigorate the compliance effort. Remind employees why compliance -- all of the time, not some of the time -- is critical. Set the stage by making clear that policies and procedures help the company and its employees bridge the gap between ethics and legal compliance, which overlap, but are not the same. Show how the program serves both as a real-time trip wire for potentially corrupt activity or other compliance failures, and as a record of the company’s compliance rigor should auditors or enforcement officials come looking with 20/20 hindsight. Delve into specific examples of lapses and near misses, and how those events if left unaddressed tend to multiply over time and create risk for the company and its employees. Thanks to active enforcement, there is always a case or two to help you illustrate the last stop on that slippery slope."