NAVEX Global's 2015 Ethics & Compliance Training Benchmark Report
Robust ethics and compliance training programmes not only have the ability to help protect organisations from legal, financial, regulatory and reputational risk, they are also instrumental in creating a corporate culture that helps inspire ethical behaviour.
This year’s survey data reveals the drivers behind effective training programmes, detailing the top objectives, pain points and strategies of ethics and compliance professionals across many industries and organisation sizes. The following key themes emerged from our data:
- Culture is the Top Objective (Once Again): “Creating a culture of ethics and respect” is the number one training programme objective (the top choice for 46 percent of respondents), as it was for last year’s respondents. Creating a culture of ethics and respect tends to require a much greater investment of time and resources than “complying with laws and regulations”—the second most-cited objective at 31 percent. The top objective of culture enhancement puts even more pressure on training programmes—and ethics and compliance programmes overall—to impact culture for the better.
- Training Time for Senior Leaders and Boards of Directors is on the Decline: While respondents reported that annual training time for non-management employees rose by about 60 minutes from last year (to 7.1 hours) and training times for middle managers stayed about the same (at 6.5 hours), senior leader training times dropped by nearly 90 minutes to 4.4 hours. Board training times also declined by an hour (to 2.0 hours). Losing training time for boards and senior leaders is a disconcerting trend—particularly because without the most senior leaders setting the right “tone at the top,” compliance professionals will find it very difficult, if not impossible, to meet their stated top objective of creating a strong culture of ethics and respect.
- Budgets Are Fragmented and Flat: As new risks emerge and multiply, the need to do more with less in training programmes has never been greater. Respondents indicated that “not enough budget” is the fourth greatest challenge to their training programme, and one in four respondents indicated they do not have a dedicated training budget at all. Of those respondents who do have a dedicated budget, it is often sourced from multiple departments. Without a dedicated budget, it is extremely challenging to plan properly, or demonstrate ROI on a training investment. The majority of respondents (71 percent) anticipated their budgets will stay flat over the next 12 months.
- Employee Cynicism and Fear of Retaliation Top Threats to Training Effectiveness: In a new benchmark this year, we asked respondents to report the biggest challenge to their training programme’s effectiveness. Their number one concern was employee cynicism (37 percent), with employee fear of retaliation for speaking up about misconduct a close second (35 percent). Progress can certainly be made on reducing fear of retaliation through training, but combatting cynicism is a tougher issue to tackle, requiring organisation-wide alignment between stated values and actions, along with consistent, authentic efforts to create a healthy organisational culture.
- Training Programmes are Evolving—Slowly: From addressing key risk topics (especially cybersecurity and social media) to evolving training format deliveries (such as gamification and collaborative training), our year-over-year findings indicate that programmes are slow to adjust to emerging trends. Training programme managers may need to consider ways to build more responsiveness into their programmes to ensure they are keeping up with their organisation’s shifting needs and risks—and heightened standards imposed by regulators.
- Multi-Year Training Programme Planning Increasing: The number of respondents who reported that their organisations are developing multi-year training plans (also known as curriculum maps) rose from 16 per cent in 2014 to 33 percent this year. This kind of multi-year planning will help organisations ensure that they are training the right audiences at the right time on the right topics at the right frequency.
- Aligning Training Programmes with Risk Still Not the Norm: A trend we hope to see gaining in momentum in over the next several years is improving the process for assessing and assigning course topics based on an organisational risk assessment. In this year’s findings, only 15 percent of respondents report that they plan their programme this way. The ability to achieve this level of programme maturity may be a ways off for most organisations, but it should represent an important goal.
- Addressing the Needs of an Evolving Workforce—Especially Millennials: New in our survey this year was a question about what respondents are doing to engage millennials with training. The top three adaptations respondents indicated that they have or will be making are deploying high-quality content (45 percent) deploying microlearning (44 percent) and offering more on-demand or self-paced learning (37 percent). Although millennials may be driving much needed change to training programmes, adaptations should not be targeted at millennials, but should be utilised to benefit the entire workforce.
- Legal Defensibility of Training is a Potential Blind Spot: Despite the fact that nearly half (48 percent) of respondents used training in a legal defence over the past three years, legal defensibility was among the lowest responses on the “top objectives” list for training programs. That we see so many respondents de-emphasising legal defensibility could simply be that programmes are focused on culture and prevention that the defensible nature of training takes a back seat.
In a time of tight budgets and increasing scrutiny, ethics and compliance training programmes are not immune from the expectation to maximize ROI and show a tangible return on investment. Compliance professionals must continue to mature their programmes, demonstrating and creating value by measuring and reporting on effectiveness, maximising efficiencies and ensuring strong senior-level executive support of—and funding for—programme goals.