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Measuring ethics and compliance programme effectiveness

Susan Divers, Director of Thought Leadership for LRN, leads LRN’s advisory strategy, helping companies build values-based, ethical corporate cultures that inspire principled performance and responsible workplace behaviour and ensure compliance with all international, national and local laws

Leaders and employees alike wonder if we’re over the hump of the pandemic, if life is slowly returning to normal and if we are now entering a new era of living and working. Our organisation, LRN, recently published our annual Ethics and Compliance Program Effectiveness Report(i), reflecting the input of ethics and compliance professionals on a global scale. The report compiles insights from our 27 years of research alongside thousands of other organisations worldwide and provides critical insights for navigating issues like the pandemic. It provides five post-pandemic trends.

Companies are relying upon their values

As the work-from-home culture progressed through 2020 and 2021, many leaders were concerned that workers would be inclined to slack off. Since it’s also harder to “control” employees when everyone isn’t in the same building, leaders expected to enforce stricter rules. Our research found that organisations relied principally on values rather than rules to motivate employees to do the right thing in unforeseen circumstances. Additionally, workers are more likely to leave if they feel that they aren’t trusted to work. Emphasising the company’s purpose, showing respect, and tolerance for the challenges employees face is more effective than commanding and controlling. Doing so increases the possibility that workers may be more open to any constructive criticisms as well.

Making decisions that find a middle ground leads to better relationships between workers and employers

As much as employers may not admit it, employees have entire lives outside of the workplace, meaning they may have challenges or problems to address. The pandemic was a perfect example of people being overwhelmed due to what was occurring in their personal lives and impacting their approach to work. It’s important to keep considering this when making decisions expected to impact the company as a whole. Our 2022 research dramatically demonstrates that an overwhelming majority of leaders have responded by increasing employee focus and engagement when making critical decisions. Don’t assume that employees will fall in line to implement significant changes if leadership does not consider the impact on workers’ personal lives; if you’re open and honest with your staff, it’ll build support and avoid a mass exodus.

Tying up internal loose ends helps compliance

Make life easier by tying up loose ends to your internal processes, a task that fell off the priority list during the pandemic. For many companies, it was far overdue before the start of the pandemic, as well. Making company processes and procedures simpler, more accessible, and easier to use reduces the burden on employees and helps boost compliance. This includes everything from on-boarding to expense reports to HR systems and project management. Putting off these simple and often trivial updates can have a huge impact when government or board reporting is needed.

Making hybrid/virtual work—and supporting it, is the norm

Working from home during the pandemic has been widely reported as one of the few benefits for those working at an office. Although employers expected workers back onsite full time as COVID cases declined, it’s now clear that permanent flexibility is a priority for many employees. Data from LRN’s 2022 Program Effectiveness Report shows that organisations, particularly those with high-performance ethics programmes, are adapting to this new normal after a period of hesitation. Globally, 68 per cent prioritise making it easier for employees to engage, no matter where they work. Fifty-nine per cent of all respondents plan to design training using virtual platforms from now on. Focusing on flexibility and making it easier for employees to work should be a requirement for businesses now and in the future.

Risk review is now more than an annual process

One of the biggest challenges of the pandemic was the risk of exhausting current systems and the unknown future ahead. Leaders were repeatedly asking essential questions and constantly reviewing plans. By continually asking: did our approach to this aspect of the pandemic work well, and if not, what can we do to improve impacted many, if not all, aspects of risk within the operation.

During our research of our Program Effectiveness report, we found that many of the risks anticipated by respondents last year lessened or did not significantly materialise to the degree expected, likely because of their continued discussion or review of the issues. For example, the percentage of respondents worried about less effective oversight and monitoring as a result of remote work declined from 56 per cent to 18 per cent of those surveyed. Similarly, the percentage of those concerned about increased misconduct due to remote work arrangements declined from 56 per cent to 20 per cent of those surveyed. These shifts illustrate organisations’ ethical cultures emerged from the pandemic stronger and more effective.

To conclude, make sure that you review your company’s response to the pandemic and identify the lessons that you can learn from this to use in the future. And keep reviewing risks and asking questions regularly, not annually, to ensure you are an effective steward of your company’s operations and assets.

In association with https://lrn.com


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