When it comes to codes of conduct, many organizations can talk a good game. But all too often there’s a gap between what’s written in the Code and what’s observed in people’s actual day-to-day behaviors.
Of course part of the problem can be attributed to poor leadership. Yet even good leaders sometimes struggle with getting their people to adhere to by-the-book best practices.
Thanks to technology, today there’s a better way.
To explore the latest trend in interactive governance tools, we interviewed Jimmy Lin, VP of Product Management & Corporate Development at The Network, a leading provider of ethics and compliance solutions.
Rodger Dean Duncan: In past years, the typical code of business conduct was a printed document. Other than saving paper, what are the advantages of a web-based interactive code?
Jimmy Lin: A website-based, interactive Code provides greater access for employees and business partners, whether they are in the office or in the field. A website-based Code also provides web analytics to measure engagement with the content, similar to how marketers measure website traffic today.
Duncan: What sort of user analytics are most helpful with an interactive code?
Lin: The basics of web analytics provide 10x more insight than what we can garner today with downloaded PDF’s. Three key metrics that can help compliance are:
- Search terms: tracking most-often searched terms helps organizations identify where employees have questions, and therefore expose potential risks that the organization may not be aware of or not understand the magnitude of.
- Page views: identifying the most-visited sections within the Code can help organizations identify new risks and also show where there is deficiency in awareness for topics that are less-often visited.
- Time on page: this metric provides the best insight into just how engaged a reader is for the Code. Understanding engagement can help compliance craft better content and drive awareness strategies.
Duncan: Your potential clients likely expect compelling evidence that web-based codes lead to higher levels of actual compliance. What evidence can you provide?
Lin: This new approach provides the most measurable platform to understand how employees respond to and engage with compliance messages. While it may not provide a direct correlation to levels of actual compliance, the Code is the most fundamental cornerstone of the organization’s compliance program. The ability to measure true engagement will help compliance decide on key tactics that drive engagement with compliance messages, and therefore, increasing levels of actual compliance.
Duncan: There’s “compliance” (doing something that’s required) and there’s “commitment” (doing something because you want to and because you believe it’s the right thing to do). How does an interactive code enhance real commitment?
Lin: As millennials take over the workforce demographics, real commitment is becoming increasingly important for organizations to show that they not only “talk the talk”, but also “walk the walk.” Organizations that dedicate more thoughtfulness toward the Code, and treat it as a core marketing need, will raise the bar to demonstrate that the Code isn’t just a document for meeting regulatory requirements. Organizations already invest heavily in their Annual Report to discuss financial performance. An interactive Code, up to the same levels as today’s interactive Annual Reports, would show the commitment to performance and ethics/compliance.
Duncan: Considering the capacity of an interactive code to track user interaction, how do you deal with privacy concerns?
Lin: While one could track detailed usage, this is no different than how a marketer can track you across an ecommerce website. Most Codes are publicly available, so generic usage data is typically tracked without specific identifiable information
Duncan: What is your protocol for working with a new client? How do you help the client migrate from a printed code to an interactive version?
Lin: Having developed Codes for our clients for over 20 years, we have a keen understanding and expertise in helping Compliance leaders communicate more effectively to the masses. Part of that expertise is understanding the culture of the organization and the critical messages amongst all the content of a Code. With that understanding, we help guide clients in dissecting their content for today’s web format, creating more bite-size pieces of content to align with today’s information consumption patterns. Breaking down the Code doesn’t make it smaller, it allows us to create tiers of information so we can decide what the key messages are and what is reinforcing content or resources.
Duncan: In recent years, what trends have you seen in the actual use (as opposed to lip service) of conduct codes?
Lin: Codes of Conduct have been moving toward a more usable reference than a document stored in your desk. For example, at UPS, the world’s largest package delivery company, employees integrate their Code into many of their daily meetings. They invest the first five minutes of the meeting discussing a key aspect from the Code and how it applies to the meeting topic at hand. I believe as Codes are structured to be more user-friendly, in both format and content, usage by employees will increase and so will the investment made in them by organizations.
This column by Dr. Duncan was also published by Forbes where he is a regular contributor.
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