Train or transform: What’s the focus of your compliance and ethics training?

In Roy Snell’s article in a recent Society of Compliance and Ethics website, titled Compliance Officer’s Nine Lives. He commented that compliance officers must master some elements of 9 professions to be successful. They are Legal, Ethics, Risk, Audit, Investigations, Education, Organizational Development, Operations, and Communications. He goes on to say that the reason compliance programs are successful, is because compliance professionals use all of these tools in a coordinated fashion to prevent, find, and fix ethical and regulatory problems.

I totally agree, YET my question is how can one person possibly have expertise in all of these elements? The best one can do, given everything these professionals have to do, is the transfer of knowledge in their training. The transfer of knowledge does not necessarily lead to transformation. Knowledge does not automatically lead to internalization.

Transformation is the complete change into something with an improved usefulness.

The depth of training to accomplish this cannot be done sporadically, lightly, incompletely, or without committed leaders, and instructors to the process of transformation.

For example, ethics, education, and organizational development, in particular, needs to be a transformational ongoing learning process. This is the only way to improve anything.

If transformation is not the reason, purpose and goal for compliance professional development, what’s the “good” of just transmission of knowledge?

Let’s look at this unique and important difference a little deeper. Keeping in mind the definition of transformation being Transformation is the complete change into something with an improved usefulness how does this happen and is it something you want your people to embrace?

To transfer is to teach knowledge and leave it at that. To transform is to use what is taught in practical, applicable ways as the focus for learning. Any training without transformation is like education without application.

I learned as a teacher that true education only happens when learning is linked to one’s experience.The work for a good teacher is how to make one’s field of expertise relevant to the hearer’s experience.

If you want to know how hard this is, think about this reality. Did you have many more “good” teachers in your academic experience or many more mediocre or “bad” teachers? I would bet mediocre or “bad.”.

What was the difference? The good teachers taught students by making the subject relevant to the students’ experience. The mediocre/bad teachers taught the book i.e. subject without making it relevant.

To settle for just transfer of knowledge is to “cheat” your people from the experience of the application of that knowledge that could transform them and your corporate culture.

The education in ethics must be transformational. Anything short of this cheapens the importance of ethics in your workplace. More importantly, your people know it.

In the recent 2016 Ethics and Compliance Training Benchmark Report, the number 1 training objective is to Create a culture of ethics and respect. Number 1. Number 2 is Comply with laws and regulations.

My concern and maybe even fear is that those who participated in the survey might have equated compliance and ethics. Why do I say this? In my experience of over 30 years of speaking and educating on the value of ethics and ethics education, I find that the subject of ethics is almost entirely a module of compliance training. What does this denote? To create a culture of ethics and respect, a company needs to make ethics education a top priority budget wise, ongoing, consistent the corporate values and for all employees from the new hire to the Board of Directors.

This report also found that the #1 challenge is the limited hours available for training. This is not rocket science. If you want your people to learn, you must take the time to educate. A small amount of time for training means: presentation and topics are “rushed”; not covered in depth; give the appearance of “not being that important;” one settles for transfer of knowledge and transformation is not possible and frustrates those who do the teaching/training. If something is a priority, how does it show?

To accomplish this, keep in mind that ethics and its role in your corporate culture is a choice and can only be proactive. In words, each needs to choose to be ethical because it makes perfect sense to do so not only for the individual but the company as a whole, making ethics transformational in nature.

Compliance, by its very name,  is reactive in that the choice is not necessarily theirs to make, only to follow. This is not a right or wrong scenario and is a non-negotiable for many good reasons legally. Compliance is training based on the knowledge that needs to be enforced. People really need to be trained in this discipline.

The bottom line here is that compliance training is uniquely different from ethics education.

How do compliance and ethics work together? See if this helps. Compliance is the letter of the Law and Ethics is the spirit of the law. They compliment each other, yet distinctly different and so must be their training/transformation.