By Yin Wilczek
Companies, especially those operating in multiple countries, can’t shore up their compliance programs unless they start listening to their employees, former Justice Department compliance counsel Hui Chen said.
A main hurdle to effective compliance is that many companies aren’t sure of their values, said Chen, now a private consultant. “And when I say values, I don’t mean” what companies put up on billboards or what they pay marketing consultants to write, she said. Instead, it’s the values that are important to employees and shareholders.
Many companies are reassessing their compliance practices in the wake of sexual harassment allegations at Fidelity Investments, Alphabet Inc.'s Google, NPR, Weinstein Co. Holdings LLC, Fox News, and other organizations. Chen spoke to Bloomberg Law Oct. 18 at the Association of Corporate Counsel’s annual meeting in Washington.
Companies often tailor compliance processes around fulfilling regulatory requirements, but few spend the time to really determine what kind of company they want to be, Chen said. For global companies, this is further complicated by the diversity of cultures in which they operate. “So trying to bring that sense of collective shared value within a company with a global presence is challenging,” she said.
To improve compliance, companies should first recognize that values go beyond the compliance function, Chen said. “It’s about your company as a whole.”
Companies also should try to understand what matters to employees in their day-to-day work, Chen said. She noted that there are many values that are shared across the globe, such as being honest, taking pride in hard work, and not cheating. Further, companies shouldn’t “compartmentalize” and give employees the impression that values that matter at home don’t matter at work.
You should start “by understanding and listening to your employees, and really draw out the value of your company from a bottom-up process,” she said.
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