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Five Key Steps to Aligning HR, Ethics and Compliance

In too many organizations there continues to be a lack of effective alignment between Human Resources and the Ethics and Compliance function. There are many reasons for this, but the fact remains that until the problems are fixed, gaps and inefficiencies will continue and companies will be more at risk than they need to be.

Carrie Penman, President of the Ethical Leadership Group of NAVEX Global offers these concepts on how Human Resources professionals help break down internal silos and work towards better cooperation with Ethics and Compliance.

Recognize the stakes: There’s no better way to get everyone on the same page than to have a frank discussion of the consequences of failure. Assess your current status. Identify the risks – legal, ethical, and reputational – that are increased by a continued lack of efficient cooperation. Also, understand that your Board and government regulators will have little sympathy if your turf battles result in a compliance failure.

Assess the current structure: Best practice ethics and compliance programs have always relied on strong working relationships not only with HR, but also with Legal, Audit, Security and others. Identify and map all the various parties in your company that have assigned ethics and compliance responsibilities – it’s probably more than you think. You can’t improve the status quo until you know who the players are. Once you’re done, ensure the structure promotes the ability to work in an integrated and coordinated fashion.

Learn the lingo: Every specialty has its own lingo and HR, Ethics and Compliance are no different. Often times when it seems we are “talking apples and oranges” it turns out we both have the same fruit in mind. It’s essential that all parties have a working knowledge of the key laws, requirements and acronyms commonly used by each function. Start by creating a glossary. It’s an easy way to avoid misunderstandings later and helps to ensure consistency across all related policy documents.

Leverage your communications and training expertise: In most organizations, there are a number of risk-based communications and training efforts that straddle HR, ethics and compliance. These include: harassment, discrimination, privacy, and record keeping. Consider developing a “curriculum map” for these key training areas. That is, a comprehensive training plan that defines appropriate target training groups, sequences the training to cover necessary topics, ensures adequate refresher courses, while at the same time not overwhelming the learners or your resources.

Ensure there are multiple avenues for employees to raise concerns internally:  The organization most likely has several avenues already in place for employees to formally raise concerns including the separate options of the Hotline and Human Resources. Don’t fall into the turf battle trap on “whose issue” it is. Instead, appreciate that the employee raised it internally and not to a regulator. What is most important is having a combined case management system that provides leadership visibility of cases from all of the available reporting avenues.

Penman believes HR Leaders who follow these five steps can be more effective and build partnerships between HR, ethics, compliance.


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