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The more things change, the more things stay the same. As risk and compliance matures as an industry, we sometimes forget the foundational best-practices that our programs are built upon. This Friday, we revisit a post from the past that we think you will find just as relevant today.

Originally published in NAVEX Global’s Top 10 Risk & Compliance Trends for 2020 eBook.You can download the full eBook here.

This article could very well have been about the evolution of #MeToo, or the latest corporate walkout/ sit-down / boycott, or how cancel culture is leaving no company, brand or person safe from being “cancelled.” As someone whose profession requires a keen understanding of behavioral sciences, I have an endless supply of social and organizational trends I could identify and deconstruct. However, the most expansive trend I am seeing is not in human behavior – but in humans.

Today, organizations are no longer managing employees. Employees are people who clock in, think about work, complete tasks, talk with colleagues, and then clock out to go live their lives. That is not the reality of the modern workplace. Forward-thinking businesses have worked hard to develop cultures where employees are encouraged to bring their full selves to the job. This has increased productivity, creativity, innovation and personal investment in “the work.” It has also evoked a keystone change in business environments. People who bring their whole selves to work are not employees; they are human beings. And humans need a different framework for management.

The Multidimensional Workforce

Humans are driven by purpose and passion. In the absence of a social movement, this purpose and passion is directed toward innovations in work. In the wake of a social movement, that same purpose and passion is redirected toward justice, restoration and change.  Organizations have decades of experience and varying degrees of expertise managing employees in an innovation framework. It is this other framework that presents employers with a new challenge and opportunity. However, the learning curve is steep and the deadline to acquire these skills is yesterday.

People are already motivated to raise their voices. With the proper channels for communication and encouragement for reporting, organizations can drive people to speak up internally rather than speak out externally.

According to respondents in NAVEX Global’s 2019 Definitive Corporate Compliance Benchmark Report, training, communications and awareness programs are the vehicles through which we help organizations connect with purposeful and passionate employees. In the report, training is indicated to:

  • Improve trust in leadership
  • Increase employee morale
  • Reduce legal liability
  • Increase the number of employees who report issues

For training programs to continue delivering on these goals during this evolution toward human-centric workforces, traditional training programs must evolve. We must figure out how the broad structure of the programs we implement will align themselves with the current social environment and our own organizational values.

Steps for Organizations to Take

Get Ahead of Disruptive Social Movements With Transparency in Training & Awareness

As a means of driving purpose and passion in the workplace, organizations have become adept at articulating corporate values. We are less good at anticipating exactly how those values and our corporate actions toward them will be interpreted by our people. For example, employees may gather together physically or virtually to protest an unfair termination or the sourcing of materials from a third party they dislike. With the help of social media and a growing penchant for advocacy, employees now have the ability to force an organization to change or explain their actions and be prepared to deal with the consequences of those decisions

Oftentimes organizations are caught off guard when corporate values are questioned. The first time organizational leadership may hear about dissent might be when they have to enter the building through a sea of protesting employees. To get ahead of these events, organizations need to embrace transparency to be aware of and understand prevailing sentiments. People are already motivated to raise their voices. With the proper channels for communication and encouragement for reporting, organizations can drive people to speak up internally rather than speak out externally. One key modification here could be to create a system that not only allows employees to express their concerns but also their values.

This requires awareness campaigns that inform employees on exactly how the organization processes and evaluates concerns and values on social issues. It requires training on how best to raise your voice within the organization in ways that are both respectful and effective. And finally, it requires driving awareness of the organizational responses to employee reports. Transparency allows employees to trust the organization because they have the visibility necessary to verify its actions.

Train the Human, Not the Employee

People are coming into their roles with more emotional, political, and social affinities than ever before. A 60-minute training course will never counterbalance the human inertia in the workplace when people bring their full selves to work. We need to go beneath the surface, go beyond checking the box, and actually design training curriculums that effectively map to our cultures. For every training and awareness activity, ask yourself – have I made this relevant to an employee? Does the content connect with them more deeply than just on a purely risk or legal level? Will my employees better understand why our organization approaches this area of risk in a certain way and how it ties back to our organization’s values? The key is to start thinking about learners as not just employees but rather as human beings with interest and passions outside of the workplace.

Prioritize the Audience in Training Curriculum Mapping

Relevance in this new environment is vital – learners need and want to understand how the content they are learning is relevant to them and how it aligns with the organization and its values. It will be near impossible to do this for every single compliance topic, but there are many opportunities across the courses you deploy to get this right.

Training curriculums need to effectively map the compliance message through three categories: training topics, audience needs, and content format. When mapped properly, a meaningful risk narrative is translated to the right people, about the right things, in the right way. All steps are important, but today’s changing workforce requires additional emphasis on audience needs. For each audience determine the depth and frequency of training needed. Consider these questions:

  • Who has computers? Who works at a desk? Who works primarily away from a desk?
  • Who has high exposure to specific risks?
  • Who has learning constraints based on education level, language or location?
  • Who is the individual beyond their role – techie, hands-on learner, introvert, extrovert, remote worker, etc.
  • At what depth should each audience be educated per topic?
  • Does the content effectively share information about our organization’s values?
  • Will this course help build trust in our organization and its leaders that we are serious about getting this right?
  • Is the course more than a recitation of legal principles? Is it relevant and meaningful?

The purpose-driven employee is key to the success of innovative and growing companies. It is a tremendous business asset to have employees who bring their full selves to work. We now have to take the necessary steps to evolve our workplace practices to accommodate humans, not just employees. And for that, training, awareness and communications will be key.