By: Aarti Maharaj
Hosted in New York City, our most recent Business Ethics Leadership Alliance (BELA) roundtable provided an interactive forum for compliance and ethics executives from top global companies to delve deeper into key strategies for building an open and transparent culture.
Companies represented at the roundtable included, Bertelsmann, CDP International, C. R. Bard, Dun & Bradstreet, Mastercard, Marsh & McLennan, Novareté, Panasonic USA, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, and Sony USA. The discussion, led by Ethisphere’s Erica Salmon Byrne, EVP and Executive Director of BELA, focused on best practices on culture surveys, communication techniques, ethical governance, measuring values, incentivizing employees and open reporting—all critical elements of the hiring and promotion process.
“In an effort to drive a robust culture, we hold regular focus groups to discuss compliance and ethics with our employees,” said one roundtable participant. “We strive to keep new employees involved through effective communications and we are always thinking of new ways to improve in this area.”
Communicating compliance remains an issue that many companies grapple with—especially in a time of heightened regulatory scrutiny and an evolving global workforce. Instead of reminding employees of what should not be done, the roundtable participants believe that the compliance function has the power to educate the workforce through storytelling and highlighting positive outcomes.
Another participant added that as the workforce changes, organizations should adapt and encourage open communication “without barriers”. For example, compliance should ensure that the message of doing the right thing comes from the business and not only from certain parts of the company such as Legal or Human Resources.
Can Culture be “Fixed”?
While it is easy to espouse the virtues of building and sustaining a healthy culture across a global company, the challenge is putting it in to practice every day.
The roundtable participants agreed that through well-constructed culture surveys, compliance can collect and use solutions to quantify important data, which in turn could drive strategy and business performance.
Byrne explained that data gathered through a good culture survey is an excellent first step towards understanding hot-button issues that exist within a company. “Data gathered from culture surveys should also be shared with employees, especially managers. Give them metrics and they will try to move those metrics, especially when those metrics are included in performance evaluations and compensation setting,” Byrne said. “Also, to avoid skewed results from a culture questions within an engagement survey, think about where the questions are positioned within that survey. Spillover impact from adjacent questions can really impact your outcomes.”
According to Fulton Breen, founder and CEO of Novareté, a firm that specializes in values alignment and engagement, culture is made up of everything including what is rewarded to how power is distributed. “However, we believe that your values are the DNA of your culture,” said Breen. “Culture drives performance and we don’t attempt to fix a culture using software, but we should make it more fluid and available to our employees through emerging digital media.”
Ethisphere’s Business Ethics Leadership Alliance (BELA) was created to capture, codify and communicate leading practices throughout the community. The goal of these roundtables is to provide a platform for candid exchanges to help executive leaders and their companies openly address strategic challenges and collaborate together around actionable solutions. Part of BELA’s mission is to help companies measure, improve and simplify their programs.