Lesson from News Corp.: Update and Enforce Compliance and Ethics Training

Headline news scandals that include preventable employee behavior — case in point, News Corporation — are always helpful for justifying training budgets. Even if your work is far from the publishing industry, hedge fund or media arena, the very public closing of a business unit certainly supports the case for skill and knowledge reinforcement on ethics. This is one of those topics where sending out a policy may satisfy some internal, or external, compliance requirement but is unlikely to fill a training need.

It may be tempting to call in the experts, an attorney or two, to lecture the team on the potential legal and financial pitfalls of this bad behavior. Before you take this route, check speaker skills and material closely to make certain it is relevant, understandable and matches your audience.

My preference is in person or online programs that present employees with plenty of scenarios describing situations that might tempt an individual to cross the line. Discussions, quizzes and analysis can help identify the best response. They should not be so tricky as to require an expert to decipher the best answer. These can too often confuse participants and make them cautious about decisions.

Content can be developed by a good trainer in partnership with an expert. There are off the shelf products available most likely geared towards your jurisdiction or industry. Whatever content is designed or selected should be checked by an individual new to the topic to ensure that it is understandable. This is a sbject that is too often filled with jargon.

Conducting training also brings the added advantage of identifying potential issues before they reach the attention of the press, or law enforcement. Any training should highlight the process for reporting possible ethics violations. The time spent investigating and resolving an internal report is minimal when compared to an external complaint, not to mention unfavorable publicity.

So dust off the ethics/compliance policy, make certain it is up to date and plan for training, before the end of 2011.

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Rebecca Mazin is the owner of Recruit Right in Larchmont, N.Y. She does consulting, management training, and writing to create solutions for human resources issues. Co-author of The HR Answer Book: An Indispensable Guide for Managers and Human Resources Professionals, Mazin is also the author of The HR Answer Blog on AllBusiness.com and The Employee Benefits Answer Book (Pfeiffer).