Roy Snell on the good and the bad in compliance training

Posted on Apr 21, 2015

You could call Roy Snell Mr. Compliance.  

He started out as a Compliance Officer and went on to co-found the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE).  He’s now its CEO and represents more than 5,000 compliance officers and staff from a wide range of industries.

We were lucky enough to meet him recently at the SCCE’s Compliance and Ethics Institute in London and he agreed to share some of his thoughts about corporate compliance and ethics training.

Why are compliance and ethics so important for business?

Roy SnellWe need to attract and retain the best people and that is much easier if we have a trusted business environment and an ethical culture. We need to attract great business partners. We need to avoid fines, penalties and the bad press that comes from regulatory investigations and settlements. There are great costs we can reduce, such as legal costs and staff time responding to regulatory and ethical problems, if we implement preventative measures.

What do you think organisations are getting right in compliance and ethics training?

They have automated much of their training. They have begun to provide more specific training by ensuring each department gets specific training about regulations that affect each employee’s job. Some are becoming more effective by interviewing trainees days after training. They are asking them if there was anything that was said in training that should not be happening, that is happening.

On the flip-side, what are organisations getting wrong with compliance and ethics training?

Some just go through the motions to tick the box. Training is like any other effort - you get out of it what you put into it.

How effective do you think games can be in compliance training, or do you view them as ‘dumbing down’?

I am sure they can be very effective and grab attention but regulatory compliance is such a serious problem I worry that with games we are giving the impression that it is not a serious issue. One has to ask why people in other departments don’t focus on games as an effective tool for their training; they train and expect people receiving a salary and benefits to listen. We don’t need to apologise or beg people to listen to compliance training. Regulatory compliance and ethics is a serious issue and we should tell people that this is an important part of their job. If they don’t respond there should be consequences as opposed to games.

Why do you think compliance training has such a bad reputation with employees who often complain about it being dull and boring?

Personally, I think we need to stop apologising. We need to conduct compliance and ethics training. We need to let them know this is serious. We are not in the entertainment business. I am sorry to be so hard but we have a crisis of confidence in business and I think we need to take this more seriously.

What challenges are on the horizon in terms of compliance and ethics, and what role must training play in helping to overcome them?

I think one of the real challenges is trying to get the right training to the right people. There are many regulations affecting every business but these regulations are different for each industry, department and employee. We need to make sure we are getting the right training in front of the right people, and that requires a lot of planning and customisation.

We know you are a huge NASCAR fan, how do you view the recent allegations over tyre manipulation from an ethical point of view?

NASCAR is a perfect example of what I am talking about. They take compliance seriously and act quickly. When problems are found they don’t play games to hope people will listen and learn; they make the rules very clear. They constantly monitor, audit, listen to accusations and investigate, and when they find a problem they don’t pull out some board game. They penalise those who do not follow the rules. The question is not will people accidentally or intentionally break the rules – the question is how seriously does the organisation take compliance with the rules, and how effective is their compliance program. NASCAR could be said to have one of the most effective compliance programs in business.

To read more of Roy’s views on compliance and ethics, follow @RoySnellSCCE or check out his posts on LinkedIn.

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