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Finding the appropriate balance between ethics and compliance in a regulatory landscape

Different approaches to achieving a healthy common ground between ethics and compliance at all levels of a company’s employment structure

Remaining ethical in the world of compliance continues to be an ongoing struggle for companies regardless of the market they are in. But maintaining balance while still being effective is the sweet spot that organizations strive to find as they establish regulatory compliance. However, before you can find that healthy balance, it is essential first to investigate the underlying culture of your organization.

There is no doubt that the foundation and longevity of any company begins with a strong and motivating senior management team, however, the companies that are most successful and boast the highest retention rates are those where the culture is embedded into each level of staffing and reflects the values and beliefs of the entire organization. If employees at all levels aren’t on the same page, it is clear that the executive team isn’t doing their job.

So how does one measure how balanced and effective a company’s culture is embedded into every level of its employees? According to Corruption Crime Compliance, a culture survey is one way to measure whether the message of ethics and compliance has reached the middle and lower levels of the company.  CCC suggests asking respondents what they would do if they observed someone in the following situations: engaging in unsafe behavior; stealing or committing fraud; or violating other provisions in the code of conduct.

The next question an organization should ask is whether or not the respondent views the company’s reporting and disciplinary system as fair and reliable.  By keeping the survey anonymous, this question will identify if the respondent believes the disciplinary system favors senior employees over middle and lower-level employees, according to the report.

The last and probably most effective tool the report recommends assessing in an organization is conducting focus groups. Focus groups provide important information and reliable indications of the mood of the company.  It is a tool worth exploring and using when needed to inform a compliance program.

“In the end, the real accurate measure is reflected in the actions taken by everyone in the company,” CCC states.  “The real ethical culture is expressed every day by the actions of officers, managers and employees.  Surveys and focus groups provide a glimpse of what is usually pretty clear to everyone – is everyone at the company where we work dedicated to promoting an ethical culture?”


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Contributing Author

Stefanie Mosca

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