E&C Pulse - October 11th

October 11, 2018 Ben DiPietro

Striking the Right Tone is Essential in Anti-Sexual Harassment Training


New laws that took effect this week in New York and Delaware mandate organizations large and small to enact sexual harassment prevention policies and to develop training for employees.

The law holds all employees--everyone from interns to part-time seasonal workers to supervisors--to the same standards. Everyone must be trained.

LRN this week released a course that satisfies New York's requirements for interactive education on sexual harassment prevention. The course discusses the various aspects of sexual harassment, who's protected against it, how and where it can happen, and actions to take to prevent it. Also included is bystander training, an emerging hot topic.

“It’s important for anti-sexual harassment initiatives to build trust and respect," said Jennifer Farthing, who leads workplace learning and content creation at LRN. "Simple dos and don’ts aren’t enough to accomplish that. Workforce education must reinforce the specific, values-driven behaviors to which that organization aspires.”

But many organizations find it difficult to initiate discussions on such sensitive topics, especially sexual harassment, given the impact of the #MeToo movement and the divisive and emotional arguments for and against sitting Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.

"Tone is key. Honesty is key: honesty that we can do better, honesty that the training is not always fun, honesty that we're going to make mistakes," said Jason Meyer, chief executive of LeadGood LLC, which helps organizations work on their ethics and compliance. "I also advocate for more honest, explicit training--and role-playing--about how managers deal with reports of bad news and misconduct."

A main consideration before getting started is to try to remove the emotional element from discussions and training, and to emphasize that strong anti-harassment policies are not just the right thing to do but good for business, said Davia Temin, chief executive of crisis management firm Temin and Co.

"Executives need to become the adults in the room...[they] need to react less and plan and strategize more to address sexual harassment as a business imperative worldwide," said Temin. "The for-profit sector can actually lead the way on this; in fact, it has to."

As states update sexual harassment laws, it is vital for companies to modernize their communications to support these new requirements, said Peter LaMotte, senior vice president at crisis management firm Chernoff Newman.

"Make sure that communication with all employees is swift, universal and repetitive. When laws such as these are passed, there is no room for misinterpretation," said LaMotte.

"Companies should use any logical communications channel with employees to ensure compliance. They need to make sure that they are protecting themselves from any future stakeholder that may claim they did not follow the letter of the law,” he said.

Any company that finds itself facing non-compliance of these new regulations in the future will need to address the issue head-on, said LaMotte. Beyond operationally bringing itself into compliance, a company will need to communicate clearly to both internal and external stakeholders about its path to compliance.

"The risk of both reputational damage and legal action is too great to leave full implementation in doubt," said LaMotte.

But if the organization's main goal is legal protection rather than serious behavioral change, its training will be insufficient, said Temin.

"As New York and Delaware mandate training, all of the current insufficiencies of check-the-box training are bound to be on display," said Temin.

To that end, Meyer said just because a state such as California mandates two hours of anti-sexual harassment training, it doesn't mean the two hours of training needs to occur all at once. "No one will be anything but bored and turned off by a two-hour module," he said. "That two-hour, one-size-fits-all course itself sets a cultural tone of 'we're just checking the box.'"

The new requirements provide an opportunity for businesses to go beyond the required training to review the effectiveness of their training programs, especially as data indicates a need for more sexual harassment prevention initiatives.

A survey of around 18,000 Americans released earlier this month by the Society of Human Resources Management found while 94% of organizations said they have a sexual harassment policy, more than one-third of workers said they believe their workplace fosters sexual harassment.

On the bright side: around one-third of executives said they have changed their behaviors because of #MeToo, citing their concerns that harassment crushes morale and hurts the bottom line.

"We must each remember that the workplace is a public environment and we are legally responsible for our own actions and reactions," said Farthing.

Click here to learn more about LRN’s sexual harassment awareness training.




Compliance's Challenge: Making Inroads With the Board


Chief ethics and compliance officers desire more interaction with and attention from their boards, but they will have to find more effective ways to connect to the issues that matter most to directors to make it happen.

The latest report from LRN asked chief ethics and compliance officers for their opinions on how their boards view ethics and compliance; it identified seven themes. While the results revealed that a few boards are very engaged and place a strategic high priority on ethics and compliance, the report found most boards:

  • Have a poor understanding of their ethics and compliance programs;
  • Lack a systematic plan for compliance oversight;
  • Spend little time discussing ethics and compliance and don't make them priorities;
  • Fail to help integrate ethics and compliance into company operations;
  • Don't focus on behavioral root causes, culture or measurement metrics;
  • Don't hold management accountable for ethics and compliance; and
  • Lack a confidential communications channel for the compliance chief to raise sensitive issues.

The report recommends four ways boards can create more effective oversight of compliance.

They are:

  • Making more time for compliance issues and elevating them to send a signal to the entire organization that ethics and compliance matter;
  • Making sure boards exercise better oversight of compliance to ensure it is more closely linked to business operations;
  • Empowering greater accountability of senior management; and
  • Creating a stronger and more direct, confidential reporting relationship between boards and chief compliance officers.

Speaking Wednesday during a webinar analyzing the results of the report, Anthony Goodman, a member of the board and advisory group at Russell Reynolds Associates, said one issue is language.

"A lot of this discussion focuses on ethics and compliance, maybe two of the most boring words in the English language, as important as they might be," said Goodman. "If compliance can reframe the issue around corporate culture, there would likely be more interest from the board and then more progress will get made."

There is an opportunity to do that, he said, as one of the areas boards are focusing on is risk oversight, which includes discussions about culture. The troubles at Wells Fargo and other companies, which resulted in board members being replaced, along with the effects of #MeToo, have elevated cultural concerns at many boards.

"Chief compliance officers have it within their hands to provide boards with a way of thinking about culture problems," said Goodman. "If you want their attention, tuck your issues under these prevailing things that will attract their attention."

LRN's David Greenberg, who authored the report, said one issue uncovered is the lack of understanding of the role compliance plays in setting the proper organizational culture. This shows compliance needs to do better in explaining to the board what it does, he said.

Part of the reason a board may not understand what compliance does is that compliance gets so little time to present to the board or the board committees.

The report asked compliance officers to estimate how much time a year their board spends talking about ethics and compliance; half said two hours or fewer. One in three said they don't get to speak to their board or board committees in executive session. More than 40% said their board didn't receive ethics and compliance education or training in the last year.

Another reason is most directors are or were very senior business executives who are comfortable reviewing data and making big decisions, said Gary Hayes of the leadership and succession practice at Russell Reynolds. They are less enthusiastic when they delve into fuzzier areas such as ethics, compliance and culture.

"When you move into ethics and compliance, and something even broader like culture, you are moving away from their comfort zone," said Hayes. "It is not area they thrive in...and it is quite understandable why they hold back, even when recognizing the urgency of reputational risk."

That presents opportunities for compliance to be a data aggregator that provides the kind of information that might indicate a culture problem, said Goodman. Data could come from health and safety information, employee satisfaction surveys and exit interviews, turnover rates, how many and what types of calls to the company's hotline. The report found 60% said they don't collect metrics about ethical culture.

"There are lots of sources of data that can give you a sense of what is going on," said Goodman. "But who is putting that together? Is there a dashboard that goes before the compensation committee, the audit committee, the full board? Somebody needs to be looking at patterns, talking about pattern recognition, because data is one thing, the interpretation of data is quite another." 

So how can compliance increase its influence with the board? It must make sure its issues are linked to the organization's strategy. It also may want to make board members undergo the same ethics and compliance training as everyone else in the company, which he said is one way to get their attention and get them to ask questions, Goodman said.

Another idea is to show them where the company's ethics and compliance efforts rank in comparison to their competitors and those deemed to have best-in-class programs. 

If all this doesn't work, and it's apparent senior management and the board aren’t interested in ethics and compliance, Goodman shared this advice: "You're in the wrong job. Be brave, get fired and go to a company that does care."

Click here to read the report. 

52% of chief ethics and compliance officers surveyed by LRN in its most recent report, "What's the Tone at the Very Top?" said their boards devote two hours or fewer a year to talking about ethics and compliance. One in three said they don't get to speak to their board or board committees in executive session, which they said makes them feel less respected and less relevant. 

The New York Times reports on an emerging trend in the tech sector: Workers are asking their companies how and for what purposes they intend to use the technology they are developing, as questions of ethics and the social costs of introducing technology rise in stature.

The Wall Street Journal has a story that asserts the best bosses are the most humble ones.

The Society of Human Resources Management reviews changes in the workplace since the advent of #MeToo.

Media Ethics Initiative presents a case study on the ethics of artificial intelligence in human interaction, a topic LRN held a webinar on last week.

Several foundations are partnering to offer $3.5 million over the next 18 months to cultivate new ideas for how to integrate ethics into computer science education, Axios reports. Meanwhile, an article in Forbes wonders whether data scientists need to be taught ethics.

Questions, thoughts, opinions? Let me know at ben.dipietro@lrn.com.




LRN's People Leader details our company's successful experience with an Open 360 Review of our CEO. Learn how the performance review reinforced our framework & company ethos.



Today The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity in partnership with Dov Seidman and LRN announced the winners of the 2018 Elie Wiesel Foundation Prize in Ethics Essay Contest.


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