If you work for a large multinational organization, then you will almost certainly have taken a selection of corporate compliance training courses over the course of your employment. Some courses (e.g., Sexual Harassment) may be required every year! Why, in that case, do we still hear that one of the key reasons for compliance breaches in the workplace is a lack of awareness in the workforce. This is a key compliance risk for most companies.
If employees are not trained in compliance, they cannot be expected to avoid the dangers, and untrained staff poses the greatest threat to business.
Malice is, fortunately, rare, and breaches of compliance laws and regulations almost always occur by accident. This, however, will not save the company charged with non-compliance from fines and other penalties that can, in some cases, be crippling.
Compliance Training, whether of new members of staff or people with long tenure, is particularly important when new legislation appears, or when older regulations are updated or amended. In all cases, it is helpful if the compliance training program is tailored to the particular needs of the working environment for which it is intended.
In most cases, ignorance is no excuse in a court of law, and yet there are organizations that run huge risks by allowing their workforce to remain in ignorance of changes to regulations. Managers may believe they understand such terms as ‘Know Your Customer’, ‘Insider Trading’ or ‘Price Gouging’, but unless they have received expert and recent training on the subjects, there may be aspects of those fields of law of which they remain in ignorant.
Here are some risks of not updating your training:
- Reputation – a brand can be destroyed by the adverse publicity incurred by non-compliance (the damage to Volkswagen’s sales resulting from its testing scandal is an obvious example). Shareholders, clients, and partners are becoming more demanding when it comes to such matters as environmental impacts and the ethical treatment of suppliers and workers. Companies that invest in comprehensive compliance training can, and do, benefit from the impact this has on their reputation.
- Increased scrutiny – the firm may be subject to repeated audits and inspections, leading to expense and reduced productivity.
- Fines and other financial penalties. Recent legislation has greatly increased the maximum penalties for many infringements. An example from recent history is the 2010 case of Goldman, Sachs & Co., required by the US Securities and Exchange Commission to pay $550 million to settle charges that the company misled investors in the subprime mortgage scandal.
- Imprisonment. These days this possibility is far from theoretical. In 2016, several employees of a hitherto reputable Wall Street-based registered broker-dealer, Direct Access Partners, were imprisoned for up to four years for offences including violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and Travel Act.
- Shut down. The firm in the above example, Direct Access Partners, is no longer trading.
On the positive side, a well-trained workforce will not only mitigate those risks but can also be of huge benefit to marketing and public relations departments.
Negative publicity, in the age of social media, is extremely damaging, and this is without taking account of the legal action that may well follow. Share prices drop as customers take their business elsewhere. Recruitment becomes difficult.
Compliance Training need not be expensive, and certainly, in terms of a cost-benefit analysis, it needs only the most cursory of financial examinations to prove its worth. Today, classroom training for compliance is increasingly uncommon. Such courses are disruptive to the day to day running of a business, as several key members of staff may be taken away from their workplaces simultaneously. Online training, which can be accessed as and when convenient both to the student and to the business, is the accepted standard, and is becoming increasingly flexible and sophisticated.
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About the Author
Ethics and compliance leader providing tools, education, and advisory services for global companies to inspire principled performance. LRN’s overall approach recognizes the inherent limitations of rules and regulations in influencing behaviors. In our view, focusing on actions that help build and maintain a values-based culture will mean more compliance and reduced costs as a result of tangible and sustainable behavioral change.More Content by LRN Corporation