Compliance Programs Grow As Ethics Cultures Falter

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Recently, we wrote about the 2011 National Business Ethics Survey and its finding that as the economy slowly improved, companies’ ethics cultures were weakening. Now, the annual compliance survey conducted by the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE) and the Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA) has been released, and it tells a slightly different story – the compliance function in many organizations is growing stronger.

The new survey, it should be said, also has a slightly different focus than the NBES. While the NBES primarily asks a wide range of respondents to comment on workplace behavior and attitudes, the survey conducted by the SCEE and HCCA seeks information from compliance professionals about the state of their jobs and their organizations’ compliance programs. In contrast to the NBES, this survey concluded that “the picture for compliance is a bright one” with increasing compliance budgets, an upward trend in compliance staffing, and a general sense of job security among compliance employees.

Drilling down, the survey found:

  • “Thirty-eight percent of respondents reported that their budgets had increased in 2011. This is an increase from 32% in 2010 and just 26% the year prior.”
  • “…publicly traded companies led the rest of industry with 45% reporting an increase in staffing. And looking to 2012, respondents expected that trend to continue.”
  • “Overall, just 4% of respondents reported that they were very concerned about losing their jobs, and 52% were not at all concerned, virtually unchanged from a year earlier.”

How to explain these encouraging results compared to the NBES? An additional finding by the SCEE and HCCA offers some hint at an explanation: “More than a third (36%) of respondents believe that the current economy greatly increases the risk of compliance failures, and another 52% believe that it ‘somewhat’ increases the risk.”

So, it seems that while the career outlook for compliance professionals is on the upturn, their view of the compliance risk posed by our current economy is on the downturn. Perhaps it truly is a matter of supply and demand – as compliance risk increases and ethics cultures weaken, compliance professionals are needed more than ever before, resulting in greater compliance budgeting, staffing and job security.

One can only hope that at some point in the future, this pattern will change and the continued growth of compliance programs will cause risk to diminish and ethics cultures to strengthen. Indeed, for those of us in the compliance industry, this turning of the tide should be our mission.


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