Why compliance training should be face-to-face
2 August 2012 -

One of the Green Place’s recent assignments was to advise on ethical compliance for a multinational company.

The good news is that increasingly, companies are taking ethical behaviour enforcement more seriously. It might have taken a few ENRON, Worldcom and other scandals to get there, but they are making great progress. Most large companies now have detailed codes of conduct and whistleblower policies in place. Many now require suppliers to sign supplier codes. Most are approaching corporate morality issues in a more comprehensive way.

Typically, ethical behaviour enforcement starts with defining corporate values that fit in with the culture and character of the company. Those values are then linked to the employee appraisal system and might also be tied to the senior managers’ remuneration and/or bonus system. Spelling out what a company stands for in simple language and integrating this with the code of conduct and other corporate rules are important first steps in safeguarding companies against corruption and corporate abuses by employees and suppliers.

But how do you ensure that all employees and suppliers take to heart these values and rules and live by them at all times? Through training. Training, in our view, needs to be done face to face. Most trainings for multinationals is done online. Here at the Green Place, we have worked our way through a fair number of these box-ticking, page-forwarding exercises. At the end you get to send it off by email and wonder: how effective can all that be?

Most of the information in an online training programme is visual. The visual aspect of communication, while important, is only one learning circuit and not the one we will remember best. The Multiple Intelligences theory tells us there are at least eight different ways in which we absorb information. For many individuals, the written word is not a strong channel. Only by becoming involved in the issues, by digesting, personalising and reproducing them, do individuals truly understand the implications. This is a fundamental principle of learning. As Confucius once said, “Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.”

Compliance training, in particular, should be provided in a personal, hands-on, face-to-face way. Participants should be presented with dilemmas to work through. They should have the opportunity to apply their understanding of a company’s value system, company rules and national and international legislation through practical role-plays

Trainees need to be faced with concrete, real-life situations in order to know how to respond with ethical correctness. By working together in teams with peers, they can reinforce their understanding and share experiences, making what they learn stick much better.

Ethical corporate behaviour is complex and should be exemplified from the top down, led by the CEO and spreading from corporate HQ and to the field. But one size does not fit all: when global policy is applied at a local scale, many questions arise that require individual interpretation and adjustment. It is an exercise that lends itself to a group setting, another reason why online learning modules are unlikely to be effective.

-          Emma Robson

To find out more about our compliance and other CSR trainings, contact us at info@thegreenplace.eu