Why Do You Need Employee Code of Conduct Training?
You’ve put in the research to know your legal obligations. You’ve coordinated with outside counsel and industry experts to identify potential ethical issues that could arise from your company’s day-to-day operations. You’ve spent countless hours and dollars crafting clear corporate code of conduct guidelines that outline what is and is not appropriate employee behavior.
You’ve even provided every employee with a copy of these policies and made them sign written agreements that they will follow corporate guidelines.
You’ve done everything you can, right?
What Failure Looks Like
Back in 2015, Volkswagen AG was confident in its code of conduct program. In fact, the business had just been deemed the “most sustainable automaker in the world” according to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. And as part of this assessment, Volkswagen was given full marks for its “codes of conduct, compliance and anti-corruption” efforts.
Just ten days later, the company’s CEO was forced to apologize for ethical failure in all of these areas. And he resigned within a couple of weeks.
In those ten days, it was discovered that Volkswagen had added emissions-cheating software to roughly 11 million vehicles worldwide. The code, embedded in the vehicle’s on-board computer, could detect if an emissions test were occurring and reduce output to pass these tests. According to some reports, vehicles that “passed” their emissions tests were actually releasing more than 40 times the legal limit of pollution.
In September 2016, Wells Fargo was penalized $185 million for the fraudulent creation of roughly 1.5 million bank accounts by its employees. In a clear laps of ethics, several thousand sellers throughout the organization created these fake accounts to take advantage of corporate compensation policies that rewarded staff on the number of new accounts they opened.
Altogether, the bank has fired more than 5,300 employees for these fraudulent activities including managers and front-line staff.
What’s Missing in Your Compliance and Ethics Program?
It doesn’t matter how well-crafted and thought out your code of conduct policies are, if your employees are not following them rigorously, your business is facing severe risk. In fact, both Volkswagen and Wells Fargo had well defined code of conduct policies in place that forbade the criminal behavior for which they were penalized.
One clear way to encourage proper ethical behavior throughout your business is to employ regular code of conduct training.
With proper training in place, your business can keep your employees informed regarding updates to corporate policy that need to be made to accommodate shifting regulations or industry standards.
It is also important that you train everyone in your organization, from the CEO to entry-level employees. By obtaining executive buy-in on training efforts, you can create a more effective tone at the top of your business that will trickle down through all of your departments and make it clear that ethical behavior is a priority for everyone in your business.
Don’t forget subsidiaries and other third parties as well, particularly since three out of four foreign bribery cases prosecuted in 2014 involved payments through third parties. Widespread, regular training can make it clear to anyone operating on behalf of your business that they need to comply with defined conduct standards.
In addition, per guidelines provided by the United States Sentencing Commission, those businesses which put in place active training programs designed to make employees aware of their legal and ethical obligations are likely to receive additional consideration in investigations and sentencing.
The Next Step
There are several compliance training programs out there, but no matter which one your company chooses it should:
- Be engaging – built with interactive content that draws in active participation
- Be applicable – using real-world scenarios and actual examples
- Be personalized – reflecting the unique tone and needs of your business
- Be frequent – updating policies and processes to account for shifting legislative requirements