Your Quick Guide To Managing Ethics & Compliance

Your Quick Guide To Managing Ethics & Compliance

Improving ethics programs – one step at a time

Improving ethics programs

The past few years have been a marathon for many. It is commendable that during that seemingly unending distanced and remote existence, risk, ethics & compliance professionals adapted rapidly, improving ethics programs. The workload and intensity remained unrelenting as we operated without (much) access.

Many significant changes have occurred, especially in training (specifically, anti-bribery and corruption training), risk assessment, supply chain oversight, monitoring, and investigations. But “significant change” does not mean progressive or positive.

Improving ethics programs, is it working?

In some cases, yes. In others, no. Where things aren’t perhaps clicking, there are often reasons beyond the risk/E&C team’s control – notably budget restraints, including those linked to replacing or updating technology (and learning management systems) that are unfit for purpose.

With things outside – or at least a bit removed – from our control aside, what are the thematic blockers to success? I’d argue it’s the 3Cs, and have used training primarily (more on the other topics anon) to explain the point.


We’ve all been spoiled. Do you remember having to watch the commercial breaks, having waited a week for your favourite show? Maybe that patience helped us endure ‘talk n bore’ anti-bribery and corruption training. No more. The streaming and social media era are unforgiving of content that doesn’t grab your attention (or provide a distraction, like swiping zombies). If it ain’t addictive, creative and memorable, forget it.

anti-bribery and corruption training

I’m not advocating that we all become masters of distraction and disinformation, more that we think about ways of improving ethics programs, including:

  1. The purpose: Awareness raising may require a very different medium to be functional/actionable (especially relevant for anti-bribery and corruption training) or change existing cultures.
  2. The audience: Are you trying to reach everyone or a select few? One size fits none in most settings, increasing the need to focus on objectives and if training is even a suitable medium for the message.
  3. The intended future state: What are we expecting people to do with this information? If they are required to activate the content, how are you going to arm them to do that? Referring back to a 5-minute video to implement a new process may not be optimal; a checklist might work better.
  4. What next: We’re seldom able to recall information on the first impression, and we can’t expect people to sit through repetitious content. The solutions might include testing comprehension, spaced repetition, and learning aids.


Most of us don’t retain as much as we’d like from reading, listening, or watching content. Data, including that from the US Institute of Training, suggests our retention rate only really hits 75%+ when we get the chance to practice learning. Inherent in this need is two-way communication, an opportunity for virtual ‘discussion’, allowing the user to engage with the content.

improving ethics programs

For areas of anti-bribery and corruption training where it’s less about practice – including managing third parties, monitoring, and risk assessments – communication extends beyond a simple _what_ to _so what_. Telling people what to look for or what data you want from them isn’t enough. When the rubber hits the road, we must explain what to do; when you spot a red flag, what it means, what more information is needed, the decision-making framework (escalate, stop, continue), etc.


So, we need to communicate better AND do that more creatively. Phew! Pro-tip: brevity is always harder. If someone asks me to condense a 40 mins session into 10 mins, that is wayyyyyyy more of a challenge than 40 mins into 3 hrs.

Clarity requires distillation. What does the person/people across from me need to know and what do I want them to do? If you’re looking for inspiration, cybersecurity often does this well. They don’t spend time telling us how a thumb-drive infected with malware penetrates your CPU; they tell us, “You wouldn’t pick up and eat some food you found on the floor, so why are you doing the IT equivalent.”

If we’re set on improving ethics programs, we need to resist the urge to explain the legal workings of a given construct. That may have utility with a leadership team charged with signing off on various regulations. Typically, however, if you can avoid that and focus on why this matters and what I need from you, it’s easier for the other person to grasp.

The power of experts

Where do we find these news skills, inspiration, and ideas?

When I started Ethics Insight, I had no clue about, well, most aspects of running a business. I stumbled in the dark for a year or so before recognising the power of experts and collaborators. Maybe it’s time those of us tasked with improving ethics programs started looking to non-traditional sources of support and inspiration to try and close the distance gap.

My top picks:

  1. For distilling complexity into simplicity, scientists are a good start.
  2. Getting people to do things a certain way – marketing and **UX** designers.
  3. Changing behaviours – poachers turned gamekeepers (those who’ve been on the wrong side of those pressures) or free-thinking investigative types.
  4. To create a narrative, story, or culture change – artists and (good) journalists.
  5. Systems that work – mathematicians turned businesspeople (if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work).

What has worked for you?

Your Quick Guide To Managing Ethics & Compliance

This short guide will give you some simple and clear steps to help you prevent, detect and respond to ethics & compliance issues.

Your Quick Guide To Managing Ethics & Compliance