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The Perils of Check-The-Box Training

check4The most important opportunity for a company to communicate an ethics and compliance message is training. The Board, senior executives, managers and employees are required to watch and hopefully interact with a training presentation. It is an important time to communicate a message and reinforce the message to  the audience.

A Chief Compliance Officer has to recognize the importance of this opportunity and seize the moment. Unfortunately, many CCOs are pushing off-the-shelf training programs that do not reflect a company’s unique culture.

I do not mean to suggest that training vendors are not offering effective programs. The key is to either design your own training content program or coordinate the presentation with a vendor to reflect your own company’s culture.

It is a missed opportunity and a potential risk to purchase existing programs without considering your company’s culture and relying on generalized audience assumptions for particular programs. A vendor who promises that a program is tailored to your sales staff must be verified before accepting such a representation.

A carefully tailored training program will address significant issues that employees may have on their mind. In addition, an effective training program reinforces the message encouraging employees to raise questions about specific issues rather than proceeding on assumptions or improper advice.check

I have seen first hand the types of conversations that training can encourage between employees and compliance officers about difficult issues relating to sales practices. It is worth every penny of time and effort to facilitate such conversations. The employee who raises a question and has it answered will report the resolution to other similarly situated employees (assuming they are not present at the training program). The message moves through a company by cascading among employees and specific offices. It is a fundamental dynamic in internal corporate communications.

A tailored training program can accomplish three important purposes: (1) preserve and promote a company’s ethical culture; (2) address specific issues of concern among different groups of employees; and (3) promote internal reporting and advice avenues to resolve compliance questions and concerns.

The FCPA Guidance stressed the importance of offering training programs tailored to the audience. That means that issues of concern differ among officers and employees. A CCO has to identify the different concerns among the officers and employees and provide meaningful training programs to address those concerns.

check3An off-the-shelf product often, by definition, cannot reflect these specific concerns. Such products can be modified to fit the training needs for a company but attention is required to the details surrounding the audience and their specific concerns.

An important barometer of any training program is survey feedback from attendees on the value of a training program. These surveys often give important clues and comments that a chief compliance officer should address as he or she plans future training programs.

Some attendees will always complain but most will provide meaningful feedback because of the time devoted to training. Many officers and employees look to training for guidance on the company culture, corporate expectations for their performance, and explanation of corporate values. It is an opportunity that should never be ignored or relegated to “off-the-shelf” solutions.

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