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Hybrids: Not Just for Cars Anymore

It’s tempting to think of “best practices” in ethics and compliance as fixed, static, and their evolution as slow and obvious. It’s also easy to forget that our industry is only two decades old and there’s quite a lot that isn’t known about how to reduce compliance risk. At SAI Global, our Advisory Services team is tasked with continually researching and assessing emerging compliance and ethics trends and advising our clients how best to apply best practices in diverse business contexts. As a result, we often discover that generally accepted best practices are in fact in need of updating. One recent example helps refine some established ideas regarding the effective use of e-learning. E-learning has been considered the best practice for cost-effective dissemination of general compliance and ethics training for the past fifteen years and, as the technology has matured, the value of e-learning has increased as well.

It’s important to understand the value drivers (as well as any risks or downsides) of e-learning so that we can make exceptions and/or evolve our understanding as conditions change. The value of e-learning springs primarily from leveraging economies of scale where training content is substantially identical throughout (or across) firms. Recently, client engagements have illuminated how e-learning can be augmented-even supercharged- by adding an in-person component to training initiatives. When manager-led and/or peer-led training and e-learning are combined, economies of scale are still exploited but some of the risks of e-learning (a “check-the-box” mentality, employee disengagement, the lack of manager support because of competing demands on employee time) can be mitigated. One of the most frequent challenges to the implementation of compliance and ethics programs is a gulf between the ethical commitments of senior managers and those of middle management. By enlisting middle managers into the C&E training process, they begin to take ownership of C&E and their engagement in the process becomes a virtuous cycle.

One recent client provides an excellent example how e-learning and manager-led training can be combined to maximize the value of compliance and ethics investments. This firm mandated cascading manager-led training. Each manager, from the CEO downward, is required to lead an hour’s training with his or her direct reports each year. They integrate specially designed SAI Global e-learning content for approximately half of that hour, but the rest is focused on a discussion of issues of specific interest either to that manager, that part of the organization, or that year (as identified by the Compliance and Ethics department). This has resulted in very high levels of employee engagement and satisfaction with the compliance and ethics program at very low incremental cost. The “Tone from the Middle”, or managerial advocacy of high ethical standards, was among the highest we’ve seen, in spite of several conditions that might inhibit managerial engagement.

This is just one of several of hybrid models which some of our clients have adopted. We have also seen the use of organizationally distributed “ethics advocates” that take additional responsibility for C&E training goals. Different cultural and risk profiles imply different tactics, but hybrid training models can make existing compliance e-learning systems more valuable in a variety of contexts. SAI Global is responding to this shift in the market by developing flexible solutions that can be integrated with hybrid training delivery. Thus, as best practices evolve in response to the changing compliance and ethics ecosystem, our Products and Advisory Services teams are staying ahead of the curve to help our clients derive maximum value from their Compliance and Ethics investments.


Related Resources:

Demo: Using Live Learning to Increase Engagement in Compliance Programs

Demo: Pushing for Excellence & Innovation in Your Compliance Training

Tone from the Middle Resource Center

James D. Meacham

James Meacham is Director of Consulting on SAI Global’s Advisory Services team and specializes in business ethics, cultural and behavioral influences on ethics risk and compliance, strategic corporate governance, and GRC technologies.

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