The minimal viable audience for ethics education

The concept of minimal viable audience (MVA) works well for most businesses. You don’t have to convince everyone that your product is right for them. Instead, you can focus on customers who already want what you have to offer.

When you try to please everyone, you risk creating an average product. This might be why ethics and compliance education, pushed to all employees, is often considered mediocre (and not that effective). What if instead we focused on the MVA?

The MVA for E&C education can often be our supervisors. They usually represent 10-15% of the employee base, having on average 8-10 direct reports each. It’s easier to tailor education for this small group, and it’s easier for them to pass the information on to their direct reports, whom they know well.

I’m not suggesting that all E&C education should be in the form of supervisor-led training (SLT). But I do believe that SLT has its place, and that not enough companies are making a good use of it.

Choosing between two “rights”

Ukraine is facing criticism today because of its suspected use of petal mines near Russian positions.

Ukraine has been invaded and it has a right to defend itself. It probably feels that it has an obligation to defend its citizens by all means necessary, including using landmines that it promised not to use 25 years ago by treaty. Ukraine is facing a difficult choice: protect its citizens’ lives or uphold a treaty. It’s a difficult choice because Ukraine has to choose between two “rights”. It’s much easier to choose between right and wrong.

Which leads me to ethics training in the corporate world (remember, this is a business ethics blog, not a geopolitical one). Most off-the-shelf training use scenarios where employees must choose between obviously right and wrong solutions: “Should John look the other way when Mike skips a critical safety test on the assembly line, or should he report it?” This type of training might create some awareness but it doesn’t do much in terms of critical thinking.

Surely your company faced a difficult decision in the last few months. It was probably one where the “right thing to do” would impact one stakeholder favorably and another one unfavorably. Why not have leadership share with employees how they made the call? What arguments and consequences did they consider? Why did they land with one course of action over another? This type of transparency generates trust.

And consider using that scenario (or a similar one) in your training. By asking employees to make and justify their own call, you will sharpen their skills for the next tough decision.

Magnify your gratitude

I suspect readers of this blog know the importance of saying thank you.

But there are subtle ways you can use to magnify your gratitude. Here are some that I found in this article:

  • Use positive adjectives when saying thank you: “Thank you for being so diligent in completing this task. You kept the project on track.”
  • When people ask for your help, thank them for reaching out to you. Yes, they are adding to your full plate, but more importantly they are offering you a chance to contribute.
  • Is a colleague updating you on a long-term, time-consuming, high-visibility project? Offer to help them with a small task, like scheduling the next meeting or preparing the agenda. Volunteering for this 5-minute task will not only make your colleague feel appreciated, it will provide much-needed stress relief (it’s much needed, no matter how small the relief is).

And by the way, dear reader, I appreciate you.


HT to Corporate Compliance Insight

When you help one parent, both benefit

The Democrats just launched the Congressional Dads Caucus.

Some critics on social media have attacked the initiative because, they claim, we still haven’t done enough for working mothers.

It is true that much more still needs to be done for mothers. However, it seems to me that mothers have struggled more than fathers in part because our culture did not, for the longest time, considered fathers as equal partners in parenting. By offering paternity leave, counseling services for fathers, on-site childcare, and flexible work schedules, fathers can be more present in their children’s lives, and provide much needed support for mothers.

In the current political climate, I don’t expect politicians to solve this issue. But I do believe that employers are in a good position to help mothers by helping working fathers.

Can your workplace do more for parents?

Listen so they will speak up

The problem with most speak-up initiatives is that they are rarely coupled with an initiative to show managers how they can listen better and take actions that inspire trust.

How well a manager listens to an employee who is reporting wrongdoing will determine how likely this employee is to speak up again in the future. Here are a few tips for managers:

  • Actively engage with your employees by asking follow-up questions and gather as much information as possible. This shows that you are taking your employee’s concerns seriously and are committed to understanding the situation fully.
  • Ensure that the employee’s report is kept as confidential as possible. Only share with those who have a need to know. This will help the employee feel more comfortable reporting the misconduct and will also reduce the likelihood of retaliation.
  • Be as transparent as possible about the steps you are taking in response to the employee’s report. This includes communicating with the employee about the status of the investigation and any actions taken as a result of the report (subject to privacy rules and common decency).
  • Share with the employee your understanding that reporting misconduct can be a difficult and stressful process. This can be done by actively listening to the employee and acknowledging their feelings.
  • Follow-up with the employee after the investigation to ensure that the employee feels heard and respected, and to check if there is anything else the employee needs.

The better we listen, the more they will speak up.

Time to get creative

Today I asked GPT3 to write a 200-word blog post about business ethics. It wasn’t original but it was surprisingly good.

In a few years, AI will be able to write codes of conduct, corporate policies, training modules, and probably answer many ethics questions from employees.

E&C professionals should embrace this fact and anticipate the changes it will create. The creative aspect of our job is what still remains out of reach for machines.

Do you know how to boost your creativity? GPT3 just served me 9 suggestions.

You might be in the majority after all

We’ve all heard it before: 80% of people believe they are above average.

Here’s another discrepancy uncovered by Princeton University: 80% of Americans support climate action but they think that only 37% of their fellow citizens agree with them.

If we asked employees in corporate America if they think that ethical business practices are important, I bet at least 80% would say yes. But how would they rate their fellow employees? Probably lower, fooling themselves to believe that they are a minority.

People tend not to act when they believe they are in the minority. As a leader, sometimes all you have to do is show your peers that they are in fact in the majority.

You have more power than you think

Many people feel powerless in the face of corporate wrongdoing.

The trick, often, is simply to do something. “Start where you are and do what you can,” as they say.

That’s what photographer Nan Goldin did after recovering from her addiction to Oxycontin. As a victim, she was enraged by the inaction of Congress and the Department of Justice. As an artist, she was also disgusted by the amounts of money that prestigious museums would accept from the Sackler family in exchange for their name to be engraved in marble. So she became an activist. And with nothing more than her determination, she applied pressure on the Guggenheim, the Louvre, the Met (among others) until they removed the obscene plaques bearing the Sackler name.

You will soon be able to learn more about her activism in a new documentary titled All the Beauty and the Bloodshed. In the meantime, what could you do to prevent or stop societal harm?

Is this data helpful?

This post is for E&C professionals who prepare slide decks at this time of the year to show “annual key metrics” to leadership.

This should sound familiar: you look at a chart and anticipate what questions leadership will have. Questions like “How does this compare to the previous 5 years?” or “What discipline were imposed for this category of allegations?”

And off you go preparing more charts. Each leading to more anticipated questions. And soon your deck becomes an exercise to answer questions from people who, at times, just like to hear themselves asking questions.

The only data that leadership should have is data that helps them make decisions, trust the current system, and anticipate what’s ahead.

If the data doesn’t do that, resist the temptation to include it.


HT to Seth Godin

Disrespect

Good parents don’t allow their kids to insult others.

Good schools don’t allow their students to bully others.

And a new lawsuit against Walmart reminds employers that they can’t allow their employees to threaten others.

The value of respect should be included in all codes of conduct and enforced by all employers. Left unchecked, disrespect grows from insults to threats to violence.

Action must be taken at the first sign of disrespect.