Monitoring and Measuring a Company’s Ethical Culture: Relevant Investigative Strategies (Part I of II) | Michael volkov

Compliance officers play a key role in managing a company’s ethical culture. Most companies don’t pay attention to its culture because it is difficult to define, measure and monitor. Such an approach is shortsighted.

CCOs need to embrace this issue and develop appropriate techniques to measure a company’s culture. Too often, I observe companies that rely on annual or semi-annual company-wide employee surveys to measure the company survey. While such investigations can be useful, compliance managers should partner with human resources to develop a more robust investigation program. Surveys are not the silver bullet to learning more about a company’s culture, but they can be an important tool in a culture management program.

Before discussing the types of questions to include in such surveys, two important questions should be addressed.

First, the target audience for the surveys must be defined to enable rapid investigations, perhaps by limiting the survey to a relevant, high-risk, division office. CCOs should set a quarterly goal of conducting one brief survey every quarter, or no less than four per year. A CCO can then report to the board of directors on the reason for the investigation, the results and any remedial plan.

Second, CCOs must design each survey carefully to ensure employee confidentiality and anonymity. Employees may not respond to a survey if they are unsure whether their identity will remain anonymous. In addition, the survey introduction should explain the purpose of the survey and how the results will be disclosed and ultimately used to assess the culture of a company.

Everyone knows the important elements of an ethical culture. In ethical companies, employees are engaged and productive; employees believe their comments and concerns are taken into account; and employees understand the mission of the company, the specific role they play in achieving this goal and the importance of their ethical performance in the company.

Employee engagement is a central aspect of an ethical culture and an important factor in financial success. When employees are engaged, businesses perform better in the long run. Motivated and engaged employees in teams are more productive and less willing to leave the company.

A company’s ethical culture includes an effective public speaking program to encourage employee feedback. Employees are encouraged to report concerns to their supervisors, HR, Legal, Compliance, and employee reporting systems. Confidential and anonymous surveys can be an important part of a speaking culture.

Staff turnover can be costly for businesses. The cost of replacing and training an employee can add up and lead to significant losses in employee productivity. Employee retention rates are an important indicator of a company’s culture. HR and Compliance vendors offer automated survey programs that can be tailored to a company’s cultural agenda.

Employee surveys are a quick and effective technique to measure the health of the company’s culture. Targeted surveys can provide valuable insights into morale and potential disruptions in corporate culture. Surveys can be used to measure CEO and senior management engagement, perceived ethical commitments, feedback on operational and strategic issues, as well as overall employee satisfaction and loyalty.

A regular program of targeted surveys has important advantages over an annual or semi-annual employee survey. Employee perceptions and morale can go up or down quickly. If the CCO and HR managers only conduct a survey once a year or twice a year, the results may be out of date or an important trend may be missed.

A targeted survey program can be designed to address high risk areas or operations. In addition, the survey program can provide real-time results on the operations of the company. Such surveys can identify an important trend that may reflect a deterioration in employee engagement. In response, companies may be able to minimize any deterioration by adopting proactive strategies to improve employee engagement and morale.

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