Oh, the typical post-conference post. This is usually where I give an overview of the biggest trends and best compliance practitioner takeaways. But the biggest question I’ve been asked since I came back was not, “What did you learn?” but, “What was it like?”. What was it like to be at an in-person event while the world is still battling a pandemic?
I was a bit nervous but exhilarated to be amongst my peers. Yeah, yeah, we’ve done the Zoom webinars for 18 months, but it’s just a different experience when you’re all sitting together in one space. The excitement was palpable, and you could practically see all the smiles behind the masks. To make things easier, SCCE had the brilliant “Communication Comfort Level” bracelet initiative where you could tell from a distance how to engage with fellow attendees:
Surprisingly, I settled in quickly, and like clockwork, we were mingling, running to sessions, and visiting with vendors like our pre-pandemic selves.
What I learned this year felt different than previous conferences because work and the workplace are different. There were still tactical practitioner sessions (including mine), but the pandemic unearthed learnings we need to carry into our programs for the long-haul, including:
#1: "PER OUR POLICY" is no longer ENOUGH
Many practitioners are accustomed to sending policies to employees as a stop-gap for appropriate employee behavior. But what happens when there’s no policy or training about life events, environmental catastrophes, or global pandemics? You can’t fall back on referring people to policies that don’t exist. We need to treat our human capital as just that...humans: we need to understand where people need help even if there isn’t a policy around it and then we need to do something about it. We need to ensure that our values are front and center while we’re ensuring compliance to laws and regulations. The two are intertwined.
#2: WE NEED TWO-WAY DIALOGUE
We’ve known for many years that employees are less likely to report suspected wrongdoing if they feel no one is listening to their concerns and/or that they may be retaliated against. However, if this past year and a half has taught us anything, it’s that people don’t want to lose their job over an issue at work, especially in the midst of a pandemic. Many clients and peers I’ve spoken with have heavily promoted speak up culture during this period. This conference reinvigorated that sentiment and reinforced that it’s more than just telling people to speak up. We need to make a shift towards a “listen up” culture where we empower our employees--especially managers--to listen with intent and act if necessary to respond to and escalate concerns.
#3: WE NEED THE DATA
We’ve been talking about the June 1, 2020, DOJ Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs for over a year now. Metrics back up our compliance program, so we should be gathering and assessing data across the organization. If you haven’t done so, it’s time to go on a listening tour to meet with the business to understand what they’re doing to meet compliance requirements and the type of data they’re collecting (and not collecting) in the process. Access to this data means gaining a more comprehensive understanding of the business and being able to monitor and triangulate against other data sources. And bad data does not excuse non-compliance, so if this is the case help your business partners develop metrics they can gather to help you understand compliance.
Whether you attended in person or virtual, what were your biggest takeaways from this year’s conference? I’d like to hear from you! Send me a message!