#MeToo Emphasizes Importance of Ethical Cultures

August 5, 2019 Ben DiPietro

LRN’s Marsha Ershaghi Hames led a panel discussion on how compliance and the people who champion it have taken on a more prominent role at many organizations as a result of #MeToo.

The panel, held last month in New York at a roundtable put on by Consero and LRN, focused on questions of listening up, collaborations across business units, how to integrate discussion of behaviors into all aspects of the business, and how to have those conversations that are necessary but difficult.

The panel was comprised of a chief compliance officer for a pharmaceutical company, a CCO for a utility company, and an assistant general counsel for a different pharmaceutical business.

Regarding listening up, the assistant GC organized a compliance roadshow to go into the field to find out what was on employees’ minds, while the pharmaceutical CCO held a series of focus groups on gender issues with groups of women. The CCO said the goal is to humanize the compliance function to the rest of the business, and that involves being present and being accessible.

The CCO said there was sincere appreciation senior leaders were visible, asking the right questions and demonstrating accessibility. 

The board and executive leadership team can’t act until on critical issues until they know about them, so making sure urgent matters are escalated up to the highest levels of the company is imperative, said the utility CCO. That makes it incumbent upon managers to swiftly identify potential issues and to quickly leadership and the board aware of them.

The CCO said, in that context, it’s important to be aware of cultural barriers and manifestations that prevent escalation, or as the CCO put it: “Why is escalation so difficult?”

To promote the integration of values into the business, Ershaghi Hames said training needs to be contextual and targeted. That involves developing middle management to be part of an extended team to carry forward values, develop greater listening skills, and be more accessible to help support translating policies into action.

The pharma CCO is revising the company’s anti-harassment training to account for changes that better reflect the present environment, and to modify training for various levels of leadership. “We are trying to make the learning experience more engaging, relatable and contextual,” the CCO said.

The same CCO is working with business development and sales to drive culture through what was characterized as a culture of “collaborative compliance,” and is trying to foster an atmosphere where people are more comfortable escalating issues to compliance, and more comfortable asking questions. 

The assistant GC said while the company had a respectful workplace policy, the team is working to evaluate, design and issue a separate sexual harassment policy, and recently hired someone to handle training for compliance and human resources.

When the assistant GC joined the company, there was secrecy around investigations, and employees had no idea whether issues were being investigated, or how they were being resolved. The team is working to create a culture of transparency and to use the investigation lessons as teaching moments.

Real movement is unlikely without having some difficult conversations, said the utility CCO, who added that dialogue drives behavior. The utility company uses LRN for its training, and the CCO said the team is finding success leveraging LRN’s latest anti-harassment training modules, which include provocative learning scenarios and a teaching style the CCO said has “hit a good’ nerve.” 

Feedback has been positive, with employees saying the training surfaces the right types of conversations, such as what to do as a bystander, or how to be an ally to someone facing harassment.

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