April 14, 2009
Last week’s posting on anti-bribery training challenges generated a lot of interest. To follow-up, this week we will post a series of short pieces on training tips and challenges. We invited Jean-Pierre Méan to provide a European perspective. Jean-Pierre is the former General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer at SGS, a leading international inspection company, and is now President of Ethic-Intelligence Switzerland. He has an extraordinary amount of experience managing these issues in some of the most challenging countries.
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Training is no doubt an essential element of any compliance programme. It would indeed be naïve to believe that disseminating a Code of Conduct necessarily means that those to whom it has been sent will read and understand it even though they may sign a document attesting to it. In order for a Code of Conduct to start to be effective, staff must be trained. In order for the message to remain alive, they have to be retrained at regular intervals.
But what is it exactly that has to be communicated? Those advocating a legalistic rules-based approach will argue that what should be conveyed in the training is a functional knowledge of the provisions of a Code of Conduct and related policies, such as the dollar limits applying to gifts made or received, while those favouring a values-based approach will want the training to transmit the underlying values, such as the likelihood that a gift will influence the recipient.
Not surprisingly, the values-based approach is prevalent in Europe where Codes of Conduct are essentially conceived as self-regulation tools of the corporate world, while the rules-based approach is prevalent in the United States where the main goal of compliance is to avoid or alleviate corporate criminal liability.
In order to be effective, training will have to incorporate both aspects. However, while the transmission of pure knowledge is unlikely to make much of an imprint if the underlying thinking is not assimilated, a good understanding of the values involved should enable staff to make correct decisions even if they do not remember the applicable rule. Indeed, those equipped with a solid ethical compass may not always make the right decision while operating in a grey area, but they will have no difficulty confronting difficult situations. By contrast, knowledge of the rules will not prevent major integrity failures in cases not covered by any (recognisable) rule.