Joe Murphy – October 23, 2013
People sometimes think that assessing your compliance and ethics program is a humungous project that you do only once every 3-5 years. A team of experts comes in and fans out across your whole company, examining everything in the program. But viewing program assessment as only a one-time epical event doesn’t really make sense or reflect the best approach to running an effective compliance and ethics program.
Yes, from time to time you do need to step back and look at the program as a whole. But it is a mistake to wait for years before doing any evaluation. In fact, evaluation should be a continuing process, which is also much more manageable for the chief ethics and compliance officer and the program. Using a variety of tools you can check out individual parts of your program on an ongoing basis. This also helps ensure continuous program improvement. For example, you might arrange a test of your helpline to see if it is working as planned. You might have an antitrust compliance expert in to look at the design of your global antitrust compliance program – is it meeting the standards published by competition authorities in places like France, Canada, India and Chile, if you operate there? Perhaps you drop in on one remote office to spend time and assess how the program is working there. In other words, there are a variety of tools available and many aspects of your program that you can review so that your program assessment and enhancements don’t become an overwhelming, all-consuming project for your team.
You should also not think of the use of outside experts as a major project requiring a giant budget and months to prepare. We have done work with companies where we have given advice to improve program elements based on very brief reviews. Yes, to measure an entire program’s design, implementation and impact is a significant undertaking. But having an expert in to look at your board resolution, examine your program’s structure and look at who you have conducting investigations can be a simple but extremely valuable review that leads to meaningful improvements. Remember the adage that the perfect should not be the enemy of the good.
Evaluation of a compliance and ethics program can begin with a smart first step – just decide on that step and begin today.