To ensure the success of an E&C program, we must shift the organization’s perception of compliance. Jay Rosen explains that when compliance is seen as a hindrance to performance, it’ll never get the buy-in necessary to be maximally effective.
Prior to my current persona of “Mr. Monitor,” in another not-too-distant life, my moniker was “Mr. Translations.” Besides simply updating my Twitter handle from @FCPA_Translations to @FCPA_Monitor, I am still tasked with helping my clients how to justify proactive ethics and compliance expenses that upon first blush do not appear additive to the bottom line.
These two positions have afforded me a unique perspective to observe the myriad ways corporations approach their E&C issues. Some companies see compliance as a check-the-box nuisance, while others that are drinking the “Compliance Kool-Aid” benefit from using compliance as a business advantage. From what may seem to be a simple concept, the actual implementation is fraught with much hand-wringing and cost justifications.
For example, one of my global customers engaged my former translations company to help translate their global code of conduct and communications policies into more than 30 languages. While it took our team a couple of months to complete the translations, it took our client less than six weeks to return comments from most of their in-country ethics and compliance ambassadors.
While some of the reviewers were members of the E&C function, the majority of the others came from the legal, finance, HR and operations parts of the company. Not only were they able to leverage their specific SME in commenting on the translated documents, but they had also been successfully cultivated to understand the importance of this task, whether or not it was “officially” part of their jobs.
This collaboration unearthed some of the perceived internal obstacles and institutional objections E&C practitioners face when laying the groundwork to use compliance as a business advantage. They include:
If compliance is not one of my KPIs, then what’s in it for me?
We’ve always done it this way, so why change now?
Will my division ever realize any ROI from compliance?
We have a HUGE fire to put out, let’s put this on the back burner.
While we now know some of the perceived reasons why “it won’t work,” as any good salesperson (or E&C practitioner), we must be prepared to rebut these temporary roadblocks and overcome our colleagues’ objections.
In the global company example above, my client had managed to win the buy-in from many key information stakeholders of the company: finance, HR, internal audit and legal. Thus, they could:
- Leverage HR as their global eyes and ears to gain early insight into potentially troublesome employee practices,
- Piggyback off of internal audit to conduct international E&C audits to gauge employee adoption,
- Allow finance to follow the money and sound any warning signs or red flags about any inappropriate sales/commissions and
- Utilize the company’s vast legal knowledge base from IP to anti-corruption and labor policies.
By breaking through these corporate silos and combining best practices, a company moves from the perspective of only realizing synergies and efficiencies to arriving at a destination where compliance can become a revenue generator, as:
- HR now looks at previous problem hires with ABC issues and uses this information to prevent future hiring missteps.
- Finance now focuses on high-risk markets and develops additional screening processes to detect fraud at an earlier stage.
- Legal now collaborates with HR and E&C to produce more conversational and easily understood guides for employee behavior.
- Sales and marketing now use their special persuasive sauce to help publicize and speed the adoption of E&C initiatives.
Bringing it all back home, we have learned what the internal obstacles we face are, we have overcome objections and we have demonstrated that operationalizing good E&C policies is not only a “revenue extractor” but, when used properly, becomes a “revenue generator.” Our challenge as E&C practitioners is to operationalize ethics and compliance into our daily business processes. Then we will see that compliance is a business advantage!