The Bright Future of Ethics & Compliance Careers in the 2020s

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In a previous post, I ruminated on how compliance officers will need to anticipate demographic shifts coming in the 2020s — namely, a workforce rapidly skewing toward Millennials and Generation Z. That shift is going to change how companies think about recruitment, training, and compensation, among many other things. 

One more change is likely to come about: brisk demand for seasoned, knowledgeable ethics, compliance and risk professionals. 

Those words might ring hollow to individual compliance professionals who were perhaps on the wrong end of a merger or a cost-cutting campaign that put your last job out of existence. We also shouldn’t kid ourselves that recession and higher unemployment rates are of a bygone era. We’ve all seen that before, and we’ll all see it again sooner or later. 

But when you take the longer arcs of demographics, technology and business altogether, all three point toward a future where the skills of compliance, audit, and risk management professionals will be very valuable. 

Read More: The 2028 Workplace Demographics Shift Compliance Needs to Think About Today

Let’s consider three implications of a next-generation workforce, more dependent on technology, living and working in a world with more interdependence and transparency than ever before. 

3 Implications of the Next-Generation Workforce

1. Data Processing & People Mobilization

First, a corporation’s need to gather and interpret data to mobilize large groups of people toward certain objectives, will continue to increase. And that is what compliance professionals do. 

We talk constantly in this world about the need for better compliance data analytics to predict risk, as well as the need to nudge large groups of employees to follow complex rules, regulations, and codes of conduct

View: NAVEX Global's Code of Conduct Portfolio 

That’s only going to become apparent in the 2020s. Your extended enterprise will become more extended, including more third parties and more third party relationship structures. Regulations will become more complex, and regulators will demand more ongoing governance of risk to prevent failures like the 2008 global financial crisis, major cyber disruptions, or other systemic disasters. At the same time, business operations will be almost entirely digital, which will provide executives the data they need to better assess corporate behavior.

That’s a lot of data to gather, study and interpret into policies, procedures, and corporate cultures that usher employees and third parties to behave in certain ways. Compliance professionals who can transit back and forth between these two tasks will have valuable expertise. 

Download: 2019 Compliance Benchmark Reports

2. Compliance Team Management

As compliance professionals scale the corporate ladder to department manager or global chief compliance officer, running a team is critical to the success of you and your employer. But in an era when demand for skilled labor is high, while the supply of skilled executives is low, the biggest challenge may simply be keeping a team together. 

CCOs could be dragged away from the grand strategic plans they want to implement, and forced instead to spend time addressing pressing tactical headaches, like staffing. 

That scenario will put a premium on ethics and compliance professionals with solid interpersonal skills, who can effectively court other parts of the enterprise to help achieve program objectives.

3. Compliance Software & Automation

Third, technology will still be the glue that holds organizations together, and leaders will need to embrace that fact of life. (What, you thought this post wouldn’t include technology somehow? On the contrary, mastering technology will be crucial.) 

Yes, the cliche is true that technology will allow the executive of the future to “do more with less” — and that will be vital, because executives in 2028 will certainly have more to do. Artificial intelligence, better data analytics, mobile computing – all of it will help compliance leaders manage large programs across a wide range of systems, employees, and third parties. 

Read More: Moving from Speculative to Realistic Conversations on Artificial Intelligence

Perhaps by the late 2030s, when Generation X is easing into retirement while Millennials and Generation Z are running the companies, new demographics will alleviate some of the challenges we’re hitting today. And to be sure: recessions will still happen, job searches will still feel tortuously long for individuals, downsizing will still leave some people on the curb.

In the big picture, however, compliance professionals have a career path in front of them that’s rewarding.


Chat with a solutions expert to learn how you can take your compliance program to the next level of maturity.

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