Ethics and compliance should be driven by culture change
INTEGRITY BEAT - Henry J. Schumacher (The Freeman) - November 15, 2019 - 12:00am

Organizations and the people who make up its workforce are complex. To help tackle the monumental task of shifting behavior that compliance officers around the world are attempting to inspire, I found five cultural change takeaways that stood out:

1. Values

It’s important to remember that organizations don’t change but people do. Particularly the leaders in companies have the ability to drive impact, so starting with behavioral change within the leadership can be the quickest way to shift culture.

You also want to make sure that the values created are actually written down reflecting the true ethos of the organization. You want employees to be able to understand and identify with the values, otherwise, they are not authentic which can be worse than not having them at all.

2. Understand the culture

Understand what your organization’s culture is really like. What values and behaviors characterize your organization on a daily basis? What are the areas where there are negative values or behaviors?

This is why a positive, healthy culture with open exchanges within the organization is a necessity. Effective compliance is the outcome of a healthy culture, not the driver of it.

3. You don’t have to do it alone

Everything you do should be done in a consultative way. Nothing effective has been developed in isolation at organizations; collaboration with other leaders, teams, and departments can be the secret weapon to success in culture change.

Take a values-driven approach to compliance. This means spending time consulting, talking and involving people (managers and employees) in drafting any code of ethics or integrity and selecting values. The more people you involve in building values, the more they feel they own it which means they will naturally promote it.

Compliance ultimately needs to be seen as a business partner. Currently, compliance is often seen as a support function when it should be seen as a critical part of the business.

4. Nothing can be done in isolation

When it comes to internal recruiting for the compliance team it’s all about finding the right people irrespective of their role in the company. They need to be credible, approachable, not afraid to challenge what is being said, and also capable of being discreet.

5. Compliance is not a project

Ethics and compliance is not a project or a short-term initiative, those both have end dates. Instead, compliance is ongoing and should always be prioritized, just like cultural change.

Tips for Driving

Organizational Change

• Make the business case for cultural change strong and avoid focusing on “we’re doing this because it is the law”. The motivation should be that strong ethical cultures are good for businesses, and there is growing evidence of this.

• Compliance needs to be in a listening mode more often and have a deep understanding of the business to see the real risks.

• Get people to take values seriously because it will drive a more successful company and make the compliance officer’s job much easier. One way to do this is to rally around an important social purpose and let that inspire the conversation.

In conclusion, remember People are at the center of compliance in

• Creating governance structures

• Identifying risks

• Communicate policies and ensure the implementation of controls

• Sustain compliance initiatives by training and testing people.

Investing in a strong corporate culture is important. Investing in automated tools to monitor compliance is equally important. Luckily, these tools are available and there are experts in stand-by to assist companies that take Compliance Management seriously.

Feedback is appreciated – contact me at

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