When employees make bad decisions or show poor judgment it can be catastrophically costly for a company. Just look at Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Santander, VW, and GM. In the past few years, these companies have suffered massive public relations fiascos and had to pay huge fines to settle cases where employees charged with important decisions made choices to maximize short-term gain at the expense of long-term value for customers and shareholders.
The challenge for any company looking to create an ethical workforce is how to turn expressed values, which are in place to prevent these kinds of events from happening, into actual behavior on the ground. In other words, into action.
In a great article on the Ethical Leadership blog, the author makes a compelling argument for how to embed values into every day working. In this article, I am going to show how training can be a powerful lever for this.
Embedding Corporate Values
The starting point for all of this is having a set of meaningful values that employees can identify with, that translate into behavior. There are countless ways of going about this, and experts to help you along the way.
The next step is to embed them by constantly returning to them. This is what leaders struggle with the most. And this is where a training can play a big part.
Finally, it is important to measure whether or not the values are being translated into behaviors.
To address the challenge of embedding values into every day working, the authors recommend creating a decision framework, based on the values of your company, through which all important decisions are made. This helps to create a common language for all employees and can help them understand the difference between short-term outcomes and long-term consequences.
Herein lies the first problem with traditional corporate training on values – it provides a point in time overview of values. But that is it. What it doesn’t do is take employees out of the context of this once-a-year training and ask them to apply the values (and measure how well they do) in new ethically ambiguous situations.
This is where the power of embedding your values in ALL your corporate training initiatives, and especially in compliance training, comes to the fore.
Using Training To Increase Ethical Engagement
The aim of any initiative such as this should be to increase ethical engagement from employees. Ethical Leadership estimates less than 4% of employees feel ethically engaged. The more ethical dilemmas that employees are tested on the better. And what better way to do this than with compliance training? Most companies have a list of compliance training that employees must complete every year. Compliance training should be redesigned to be customized for every company, to show how ethical dilemmas and decisions are handled using the framework of each company’s corporate values. This would dramatically increase ethical engagement in a hyper-specific context.
The article closes with seven key ways to tackle the challenge of making values matter in an organization. Here is how embedding corporate values in compliance training can support a few of them:
- Purpose – showing how ethical dilemmas are resolved using company values places them in a very real context and presents an excellent opportunity to showcase the purpose of each value.
- Governance – good governance must show why specific values are in place and again, showing them in action with scenario-based compliance training provides an excellent opportunity to show why each value exists.
- Decisions – training can establish the questions your employees should ask when faced with tough decisions.
- Engagement – by presenting employees with ethical problems and asking them for the correct response, using the corporate values, you are constantly engaging employees and reinforcing those values.
- Awareness – by exposing employees to your corporate values in every training they do, instead of the annual one dedicated to covering the values, you greatly increase awareness.
Finally, training provides the ideal opportunity to measure how effectively values have become behaviors by designing the scenarios and related knowledge checks to measure for the exact transformations you hope to see.
At Curious Lion, we have developed a methodology that can rapidly convert off-the-shelf compliance training into highly customized scenario-based training that incorporate YOUR values in responding to compliance risks.