April 29, 2020
Staying Connected During These Strange COVID-19 Days
COVID-19 is prompting many ethics and compliance chiefs to finds new ways to keep their teams connected and focused on assisting colleagues, the company, customers, and communities.
Nancy Lanis, chief compliance officer at medical equipment manufacturer Henry Schein Inc., told LRN’s Susan Divers during a webinar last week the company, because of the global nature of its business, generally communicates via email and phone, so that hasn’t changed. What is different is the cadence; more calls and chats are occurring.
Her compliance team, which mainly is based in New York, is used to stopping by someone’s desk to talk. The pandemic means those talks now take place on Skype or FaceTime, and are happening more frequently than the monthly progress meetings that normally are on the schedule.
Those monthly compliance meetings still include a speaker from another business unit of the Henry Schein, so the team can continue to learn about what is happening, and brainstorm on ways to better collaborate.
“When I asked the team if there is something they’d like, they said they really wanted a social component, wanted to meet more frequently,” Lanis said. These connections allow colleagues to share tips, get support for the challenges they are facing, and to learn more about each other, such as hobbies.
“One team member gave us her own private concert. She began to practice piano on the weekends, and played a rendition of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’ which she said symbolized getting over tough times.”
Speaking during the same webinar, Thomas Stimson, chief ethics and compliance officer at power company AES Corp., told Divers when the office was being closed in March, people grabbed items off their desks, thinking they would be back in a few days. A few days after, it set in. “We weren’t going back to the office anytime soon,” he said.
Stimson called a Zoom meeting of his team of 50, half of whom spend all their time on ethics and compliance, to talk through the impacts of the situation and how work might go forward. “We made adjustments to some training initiatives, deferred things to the second half of the year,” he said. “So far, so good, things are running along.”
The team is reinforcing messages of integrity, and continues to conduct investigations and do third-party due diligence, although some activities are taking longer to complete. People are communicating more frequently than when they are in the office, said Stimson, “in large part to compensate for the informal communications that aren’t happening any longer.”
The compliance team meets more often, as the four-person team would just pop into each others’ offices as needed when everyone was at the office. It’s the same with outreach to partners, having meetings “to understand issues, identify pain points and risk issues that we need to be on top of,” said Stimson.
AES ramped up its charitable giving, providing support to local communities, donating masks and PPE to local healthcare organizations, providing money to relief organizations, and all of those contributions needed to be approved by compliance before it could be made, he said. “We are trying to be more proactive, making sure we are adaptive to the business and supporting it properly,” said Stimson.
Henry Schein has long operated on its “3C’s--Communicate. Collaborate. Continuously Improve. Be An Integrity Partner,” and these remain the basis of communications during the pandemic, said Lanis.
This approach “is key for us to operationalizing compliance, recognizing relationship-building and trust are based on communications,” said Lanis. “We have the same goals we’ve had all along, and we focus on that.”
Divers said both organizations are exhibiting the traits of a strong, operationalized program “by being able to pivot and maintain a robust program, while at the same time taking care of their teams so people felt like they were part of a team and able to continue their work.”
LRN’s new 2020 Ethics & Compliance Program Effectiveness Report found 60% of programs deemed to be “high-impact” use cultural diagnostics to measure trust, respect, and transparency.
These programs are 4.3 times more to have employees who question decisions when they conflict with the organization’s stated values, and 3.8 more likely to have employees who will do the right thing, even if it’s not in their best interests.
“You need rules, you need guidance, you need regulation, you need laws,” said Divers. “But what really makes the difference in whether these procedures, rules, regulations are going to be followed is, what is your ethical culture?”
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