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How to Conduct Compliance Training for 3 Types of Employees; Compliance Insider

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How to Conduct Compliance Training for 3 Types of Employees; Compliance Insider

BYLINE: Alexandra Wrage

Some companies provide antibribery compliance training because they want to start a dialog with their employees; they hope that broad buy-in from their whole team will translate to good decisions in difficult situations. Other companies train their employees with the expectation, bolstered by the recent Morgan Stanley declination, that their training records will provide a shield should an employee break the law.

Presumably there are still others who, playing the numbers, recognize that the odds are pretty good that they have a nascent bad actor in their midst. Two out of every 100 Americans are under correctional supervision—prison, parole or probation. If you remove children from the corporate calculation (and anyone using child labor has more pressing compliance challenges), the number is closer to three out of every 100. For multinationals with, say, 50,000 employees, that’s a sobering statistic.

You can safely assume that your audience for compliance training will include idealists, technicians, and these potential bad actors. Idealists respond to values-based training. They want to talk about both the harm corporations have done in the global community and the good they are capable of doing. They respond well to scenario-based training that leads to lively discussion. This sort of training prepares employees for a broader array of challenges than any compliance professional can foresee; they understand underlying principles and so can apply them as needed. The only risk with this group is that they may be more conservative than necessary, which gives rise to other challenges in corporations established for the primary purpose of generating profit.

The technicians form a smaller, but particularly interesting group. They tend to keep their cards close to their chests. They constitute the ethical majority in your company. Compliance is important, but not central; they want clear, brief training so that they know the answers and can do the right thing. They’re often reluctant to engage in “why” discussions and want to head straight to “what”: What can they do? What conduct is clearly permitted? What is clearly prohibited, and who can they ask about any grey areas they encounter?

In a subset of the technicians are the contrarians. They end up at the same place, but they want to debate not the rules but the big picture. They ask why corporations should even have to worry about compliance, why the United States is determined to police the world, why this is a priority during a sluggish economy? These are also the participants who groan loudly whenever the person leading the training responds to a question with “Well, it depends.” They’re not comfortable with ambiguity, they don’t particularly like lawyers, and they’re probably in a hurry.

The nascent bad actors can be difficult to spot because they’re so like the technicians during the course of training. They may not (yet) be actual criminals, of course, but they don’t see any inherent value in compliance and they’re impatient with discussions of corporate social responsibility and even corporate reputation. There is one in almost every group, and they, too, want bright-line tests and clarity. But in their case, they want this information not to avoid transgression but to evade detection. They favor the “if/then” slippery-slope questions: “If giving a $100 bottle of Scotch is permitted under company policy, then why can’t I give a $100 gift card . . . or even cash?” “If we have to use a local contractor anyway, and the customer wants us to use his sister’s company, then why doesn’t that make more sense than putting the work out to bid?”

The training challenge requires companies to speak to all of these employees at the same time, while giving each group the tools and information they need to make good compliance decisions. Trainers must include enough context to engage the idealists and briefly brave the crossed arms and rolled eyes of the others. Everyone should hear why the company values a strong stance on compliance and the enhanced corporate reputation it fosters. This part of the message can be delivered quickly, with a handful of stunning statistics about the damage done by companies that failed to take their legal commitment and position in the community seriously, as opposed to those that sought to get compliance right even when their competitors did not and when there was no credible risk of prosecution.

Much of the rest of the training session will appeal to the technicians. To keep everyone engaged, if not content, this information can be delivered in scenario format. Describe a situation that is relevant to the company and for which the solution is not too obvious. Participants are encouraged to describe their proposed response to the situation, and then the group can discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the various responses. This not only engages the technicians who are still trying to ferret out the right answer, but enables the trainer to assess whether the message is getting through. A great way to end this portion of the training is with a description of some close calls—situations where employees at other companies were insufficiently conservative and their behavior resulted in corporate investigations, if not enforcement actions.

And then, briefly, you speak to the bad actors near the end. A quick “parade of horribles” is usually sufficient. Give examples of employees who crossed the line when they knew better or failed to seek advice if they were unsure. Show how this approach can prompt a global investigation, resulting in protracted disruption to business, large fines and, for the employees, significant prison sentences.

End with expressions of confidence that this is not that kind of company and that this company is squarely on the right side of the issue. Make sure everyone knows where to get more information if they need it, whether directly or through confidential channels. And always, always stay back for questions at the end of training. That’s when you’ll learn the most about your audience and the challenges they face—and what you learn will make you more effective the next time.

Alexandra Wrage is the president of TRACE, an antibribery compliance organization offering practical tools and services to multinational companies.

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