Building Compliance Training that Resonates with the C-Suite


Building Compliance Training that Resonates with the C-Suite

One of the key elements of successful compliance training is having a unified goal of what training should accomplish. However, a survey by the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics showed that compliance and ethics professionals see themselves, their managers, and boards as having different primary goals when it comes to compliance. This suggests that there is much work to be done in getting compliance specialists and the C-suite of a company on the same page. 

It’s often said that the C-suite sets the tone and example within a business, so having compliance training that resonates with them is crucial.  Some of the key drivers of a company’s success involve financial growth, healthy sales, and talented personnel. Therefore, it will be important for the C-suite to promote an ethical culture through mitigating risk, enhancing the customer experience, and ensuring employee satisfaction. Compliance training that reinforces these goals will be more likely to resonate with senior executives.

Risk Mitigation

Perhaps one of the greatest concerns for any business is the risk that comes when missteps, whether intentional or unintentional, lead to violations that result in costly consequences. Compliance training helps to mitigate risk by educating staff on what behaviors are acceptable and which are not acceptable. 

EEOC Guidance on Compliance Training

In 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released guidance emphasizing the importance of compliance training in combatting sexual harassment. A Select Task Force was assembled specifically to study the causes and effects of workplace harassment and to identify prevention methods. One of the most prominent outcomes of the study was that workplace training needed to take a holistic approach—meaning that training should not focus simply on what not to do (as anti-harassment training typically does), but should teach what workers should do to promote an atmosphere that encourages civil behavior.

The Task Force concluded that one of the keys to risk mitigation is early intervention in the form of training. Using harassment as their focus, the Task Force found that “incivility is often an antecedent to workplace harassment, as it creates a climate of ‘general derision and disrespect’ in which harassing behaviors are tolerated.” In other words, uncivil behavior often occurs before harassment and can be an indicator of underlying issues. Therefore, by teaching civility in the workplace, a company has a greater chance of combating harassment before it ever escalates into a problem.

Demonstrate Effectiveness of Training

Compliance training is only successful in mitigating risk where it can be demonstrated that the training’s true efficacy can be measured. In guidance released in April 2019, the Department of Justice (DOJ) outlined elements of compliance training that prosecutors should consider in determining if a company’s compliance program is truly effective. They advise prosecutors to answer the following questions: 

  • How has the company measured the effectiveness of the training? 
  • Have employees been tested on what they have learned? 
  • How has the company addressed employees who fail all or a portion of the testing? 

Therefore, training that mitigates risk needs to do more than just check the box that training occurred. The next generation of compliance training provides insightful data that measures the true value of training efforts and identifies risk hot spots to address and mitigate risk before it becomes a larger issue.

Better Customer Relationships

The C-suite is also invested in the organization’s success because it directly correlates to the strength of customer satisfaction. Compliance and customer satisfaction often go hand in hand. Customers are more confident about the relationship and more likely to respect an organization when they feel that compliance is a priority. For example, consumers may view a company taking clear steps to ensure privacy more favorably than one that doesn’t.

Consider this insight from True Office Learning, a leader in compliance training products: “Learning is the key to company performance. Every moment spent in a learning journey should be optimized to the learner, designed to change behaviors and build intelligence on the learner to unlock his or her true potential.” Compliance training helps employees to achieve greater ethical standards that strengthen the sales relationship.

Employee Interaction and Satisfaction

According to a study by the Social Market Foundation, “... happy employees are up to 20% more productive than unhappy employees. When it comes to salespeople, happiness has an even greater impact, raising sales by 37%.”

Furthermore, happy employees lead to higher employee retention. Not only is employee turnover inconvenient and time-demanding, but it is also very costly. According to Forbes, “Off-the-shelf estimates are available, which might set the cost of an entry-level position turning over at 50 percent of salary; mid-level at 125 percent of salary; and senior executives over 200 percent of salary.”

One of the ways that employees achieve satisfaction is by knowing they were productive and accomplished their goals. Conversely, not knowing what is expected of them and feeling like they didn’t accomplish anything constructive can lead to frustration. Therefore, well-defined goals and expectations are important in maintaining an employee’s happiness.

Compliance training provides a clear understanding of expectations, standards, and personal and professional obligations. It also creates a culture of ethical behavior that is conducive to growth and worker satisfaction. The more informed an employee is, the more productive they will be, which not only leads to the worker’s well-being but is also beneficial to the business.

Common Goals

The recent series of large settlements by agencies that oversee workplace ethics and privacy has underscored the risks that non-compliant and unethical behavior pose to an organization. Furthermore, new evaluation criteria from the Fraud Section of the Criminal Division at the United States Department of Justice has raised the stakes by asking what compliance expertise is available on a company’s board. It’s more urgent than ever that compliance training be a priority within the business.

Keeping in mind that C-suite buy-in is an important part of implementing successful compliance training, it’s crucial to be able to articulate the value proposition of such training and remove fears through training analytics. By appealing to what’s important to the C-suite—namely risk mitigation, customer relationships, and employee retention—compliance professionals will be able to more easily sync their compliance training goals with upper management. Aligning compliance training goals with the leadership structure of a business not only improves crisis preparedness, but it also protects the bottom line.

Compliance Training Program Guide


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