Monthly Archives: June 2016

Compliance Meaningfulness: Hard to Achieve, Easy to Destroy

Compliance Meaningfulness: Hard to Achieve, Easy to Destroy

In an article titled, What Makes Work Meaningful- Or Meaningless by Catherine Bailey and Adrian Madden (MIT Sloan Management Review, Summer 2016),  the authors focus upon what makes our work meaningful, with research conducted across multiple industries and responsibilities. While their findings are presented as relevant to the overall workforce, the compliance implications are significant and worthy of discussion.

In sum, meaningful work, which can be “highly motivational, leading to improved performance, commitment and satisfaction” is not easily achieved, and tends to “be intensely personal and individual.” It is not derived entirely from the workplace experience, but is often a part of how employees “see their work and its wider contribution to society in ways that matter to them as individuals.” In other words, it’s related to how an individual views their work as part a greater contribution to society outside the workplace.  However, the opposite is not true- in that meaninglessness, which drives a sense of “futility” in the workplace, is almost entirely derived from the organization and the behavior of its leaders.

So, what are the features of meaningful work? Common characteristics include:

  • Self-Transcendent: Where employees experience their work as “mattering to others more than just to themselves.” In other words, motivation is increased when work is perceived as having impact and relevance “for other individuals, groups, or the wider environment.”
  • Poignant: When work has moments of triumph under difficult circumstances, or having “solved complex, intractable problem(s).” In other words, coping and overcoming obstacles elevates a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
  • Reflective: Meaningfulness is not necessarily experienced ‘in the moment’ but comes in retrospect and with “reflection when people were able to see their completed work and make connections between their achievements and a wider sense of life meaning.”
  • Personal: Here a sense of meaning is actualized in the wider context of someone’s “personal life experiences” and “managers and even organizations actually mattered relatively little.”

In sum, as the authors point out, these are “complex and profound” issues which go “far beyond the relative superficialities of satisfaction or engagement- and almost never related to one’s employer or manager.”

The opposite, or meaninglessness, where people might ask themselves “why am I doing this,” is not as complex. It’s almost entirety related to “how people were treated by managers and leaders.” A few of the “seven deadly sins” which I thought as relevant to a global workforce and a compliance program, include:

  • Disconnecting people from their values. This was the greatest single factor from the research, where employees see a tension “between an organizational focus on the bottom line and the individual’s focus on the quality or professionalism of work.”
  • Taking employees for granted. “Lack of recognition for hard work by organizational leaders was frequently cited as invoking a feeling of pointlessness.”
  • Disconnecting people from supportive relationships. Here, “feelings of isolation or marginalization at work were linked with meaninglessness.”

Thus, while the ability to help employees actualize meaningfulness in their work is a not entirely dependent on an organizational and its leaders, meaninglessness is almost completely conditioned on the workplace experience.  So, what are those elements that can be addressed in the workplace that “can foster an integrated sense of holistic meaningfulness for individual employees?” In listing them, I added my own reflections as to what compliance leaders can do to enhance such effectiveness.

Organizational and job focus. Do leaders focus on the “broad purpose of the organization,” and the “positive contribution of the organization to the wider society or environment.” In Blindspots, Bazerman and Tenbrunsel share how compliance programs can contort the decision making process, where decision making is based only on the “costs and benefits of compliance versus noncompliance” without the wider ethical discussion. Thus, are compliance leaders driving the message of how the ethical decision making benefits society at large, and drives economic development, education and welfare on a global basis?

This is a great point which Kristy Grant-Hart makes in How to be A Wildly Effective Compliance Officer. As she shares, compliance efforts and programs provide a valuable contribution to making the world “a more transparent and fair place” and provide a wall against “criminal organizations, gangs, terrorism and violence.” If your workforce doesn’t see how their work is a part of that effort, it’s a huge ‘meaningful’ miss. In other words, as the authors ask, are leaders “encouraging people to see their work as meaningful by demonstrating how jobs fit with the organization’s broader purpose or serve a wider, societal benefit.”

Interactional focus. People find their work more meaningful in an interactional context when “they are in contact with others who benefit from their work” and “in an environment of supportive interpersonal relationships.” In other words, when people see the beneficiaries of their work, that drives a sense of support, and a respectful “climate among colleagues.” Thus, the challenge is to foster those relationships among colleagues, employees, managers, “and between organizational staff and worker beneficiaries.”   Here, compliance leaders have a unique opportunity to “communicate a sense of shared values and belonging” and to engage with the workforce as to how “their work has a positive impact on others.”

Compliance leaders have a unique opportunity to enable employees to find work as a meaningful experience that extends beyond the workplace.  As Kristy shares, compliance is about making “the world a better place” and as such, compliance leaders have an exceptional capacity to really drive meaningfulness into the workplace, one employee at a time, and as a collective group of contributors and beneficiaries.


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Father’s Day and Compliance?

Father’s Day and Compliance?

I really never thought much about the connection until I read an article (on Father’s Day) in the June 2016 Issue of the Harvard Business Review, Managing the High Intensity Workplace (link here), by Erin Reid and Lakshmi Ramarajan. The article lays out the challenge from the start, in how employees, under the pressure to be “totally dedicated to their jobs and always on call” develop a set of organizational survival skills that “may allow them to navigate the stresses,” of non-stop engagement and availability, but who might also “suffer serious and dysfunctional consequences,” both to themselves, and to their organization.

The authors group those, who in their quest to succeed on the job as the ideal worker, “significantly suppress other meaningful aspects of who they are, including family, civic duties, and friends, as “accepters.” In an international context, it’s hard to avoid becoming an ‘accepter.’ In many organizations, the time-zone epicenter is usually where headquarters is located. Conference calls, deadlines, and e-mail requests are transmitted at the convenience of the home office, and field teams are expected to adapt and respond on-time. Keeping up with those commitments and demands often makes it difficult to focus on life outside the workplace.

I remember once getting a call at 2:00 AM local time when I was based in the UK from a US executive. I responded, “it’s 2:00 am here,” to which he said “do you need a few minutes to get yourself together?” For those who work on the front-lines of international business, balancing a commitment to the ‘non-work’ life is challenging, mostly due to the limited amount of time being present back home, while remaining attentive to pressing professional obligations. Often these two get reconciled when international executives return home, where instead of focusing on family and non-work responsibilities during their ‘down time,’ it’s e-mail and deadline catch-up time. A former supervisor once said of me, “I can always tell when Bistrong returns from an international trip, my in-box gets flooded his first day back home.”

Some might resist those 24/7 pressures, and openly share the non-work part of their lives by asking for “changes to the structure of their work,” even where ‘accepters’ dominate. But as the authors note, that can have “damaging career consequences” and they point to research demonstrating that those who pushed for greater respect of non-offiee commitments “paid a substantial penalty.”

The authors suggest “there has to be a better way,” and that path starts by redefining the “ideal” worker as someone who draws the “lines between their professional and personal lives.” As Colin Powell once said, “Have fun in your command. Don’t always run at a breakneck pace. Take leave when you’ve earned it. Spend time with your families.” Such redefinition not only benefits the individual, but it also has significant upside to the organization.

The authors note that by changing organizational norms and “pointing out the positive things that employees’ outside activities bring to the workplace,” that employee resilience, creativity and job satisfaction can be greatly enhanced. Such a shift changes the measure of success from “time based rewards” to “actual results,” by supporting a values based system which recognizes professional performance while supporting the right of people to engage “with other parts of selves.” Those parts can increase workplace engagement, productivity and ultimately, success. As another HBR article states “we are much more fragile than we think” and that “we need moments of not doing.” It’s those “moments that spur creativity and productivity when we turn back to our ‘doing’ mode.”

I was once chatting with my daughter about someone we both know whose father just accepted an international sales leadership role. She said “well, I hope his kids say goodbye to their dad.” That was a stinging rebuke to my own decade in the field, overseas 250 days a year, where I missed the precious years of their lives that can never be replaced. So when compliance executives ask me what can they do to better engage with their overseas workforce, one of the touch points I address is to avoid the business temptation to think “the more the better,” when looking at their time on the road making sales calls.

Bring international teams home, and do it often- sometimes that might even be against their own will, as field personnel think “time is money.” But overrule them and keep them close to their networks- of friends, of family, of loved ones. Let them enjoy their father’s day, their mother’s day, uninterrupted. Encourage them to bring pictures and stories of what they did to work, and celebrate them as you would a successful sale.

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Can you teach anti-corruption?

Can you teach anti-corruption?

The following interview is with Elena Helmer, Director, Master in Anti-Corruption Studies (MACS) Programme, International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA).

Q: Elena, you are director of IACA’s Master in Anti-Corruption Studies (MACS) program. For those who might not be familiar with IACA, can you tell us more about it? Why and when did it start, and what is the purpose of the Academy?

EH: The International Anti-Corruption Academy, or IACA, became an international organization in 2011. It was set up to help overcome existing shortcomings in knowledge and practice in the field of anti-corruption and compliance, and to empower professionals. IACA has a unique dual purpose: it is an international organization with a constituency that brings together more than 5 billion people worldwide, and it is also an educational institution for experienced anti-corruption and compliance professionals.

Q: How has it evolved over the years?

EH: Quite rapidly. IACA is just five years old but we already have 67 Parties as well as more than 800 alumni in 140 countries. In addition to the MACS program which started in 2012, we offer numerous open-enrollment programs  and tailor-made training. We plan to launch a second master’s in 2017 on collective action, compliance, and (private sector) anti-corruption, and we’re also working on developing a Ph.D. program. There is a great demand for anti-corruption and compliance education, and IACA has a well-established brand in this rapidly developing field.

Q: Now tell us about the Master in Anti-Corruption Studies program. Elena, I really enjoyed presenting to the last class on Business and Corruption, and look forward to joining you again, so if you don’t mind sharing some more about it for today’s readers, I am sure they would like to hear more about the program.

EH: The MACS is a unique two-year M.A. program for working professionals. With a mix of classroom and distance learning, the seven MACS modules look at corruption from just about every possible angle: political science, sociology, economics, law, business, and others. We have students from all over the world, literally, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. The average age is 38, and most of them are mid-career professionals from all walks of life: government, law enforcement, business, international organizations, NGOs, journalism…. This diversity produces fascinating exchanges in and outside the classroom.

Q: So, from your perspective Elena, can you really teach anti-corruption? What gives you the greatest hope for success, how do you measure success, and where do you see the greatest challenges ahead?

EH: It is a loaded question, Richard! Of course, you can teach anti-corruption, and we bring in the best of the best – Michael Johnston, Johann Graf Lambsdorff, Mushtaq Khan, Tina Soreide, Drago Kos are just a few of our regular lecturers. Learning from experts who have successfully accomplished major changes and can communicate the why, what, and how of effective anti-corruption action is incredibly enriching. I have seen many IACA students go back to their countries and organizations and achieve great steps forward for their people in the fight against corruption.

But knowledge and practical experience is not the end in itself. Our goal is to create a community of anti-corruption practitioners, to have an environment in which you can pick up the phone, call a classmate or a lecturer on the other side of the world, and get help. And support, of course, because anti-corruption work is often dangerous and frustrating.

For me personally, the greatest measure of success is the success of our students and the program itself. A current MACS student, who graduated from one of the best universities in the world, told me last month that “IACA’s education is by far the best I have ever had.” Another said that he wished he had enrolled in the MACS ten years ago, “to avoid learning by trial and error.” This is success.

As to challenges…. The greatest challenge for MACS students and graduates lies in  implementing what they learn during the program in their own environments, which are often very tough.

Q: Well, thank you, Elena. I know that there is a June 30, 2016, application deadline for the upcoming program, so for those who are interested, where is the best place for them to review the literature and to make contact?

EH: The MACS website, of course: And we are always happy to answer any questions, so [email protected] is a good way to go!

Q: Thank you again, and as an aside, I am really looking forward to meeting Martin Kreutner, IACA’s Dean, at the upcoming NYC FCPA Blog event in October!

EH: Thank you, Richard.

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How can we bring whistleblowers forward?

The following is an interview with Sylvain Mansotte, Co-Founder & CEO, Whispli.

RB: Sylvain, thanks for this interview. Perhaps you can tell us a little about your background?

SM: Thank you,  Richard.  I am originally from France and moved with my family to Australia in 2005.  I’ve been very fortunate in my career to have incredible experience working with first class organisations such as Faurecia, Schneider Electric, and Leighton Holdings to name but a few.  During that time I was focusing on Sourcing, Supply Chain and Procurement.  Now I am a co-founder and the CEO of Whispli.

RB: Well, why did you launch Whispli, which I believe was relatively recently. How does it differ from what was available from prior platforms?

SM: In 2012, while working in the procurement department of Leighton Holdings, one of the world’s largest construction companies, I uncovered a $20.7 million fraud perpetrated by a senior finance manager, which was occurring over a 12 year period.  During the process of blowing the whistle on this crime and in my subsequent experience as a fraud and risk manager,  I was astonished to discover that most organisations do not have appropriate systems enabling their people to come forward, and do so safely and without any fear. Whispli is the answer to that need.  The Whispli platform provides safe, secure and anonymous two-way communication which can be used for a variety of different applications, not just for fraud reporting. There is truly nothing like Whispli on the market.  Most reporting channels are unnecessarily complex and none are truly anonymous or easily accessible to staff. 

There is no way to track the details of the whistleblower with our system, this ensures their safety, security and makes it more likely for people to come forward.  People will speak up when given the opportunity.  Once you have someone willing to speak up, most systems do not allow for continuous communication that will allow the investigator to access more information from the whistleblower and provide the whistleblower with support.

RB: How do you see your work as impacting the field of anti-corruption?

SM: The Whispli platform is an enabler, whether it is used to tackle corruption or any other type of reportable conduct. It is really about enabling individuals to do the right thing without fear of retribution or vilification. But when it comes to anti-corruption in particular, I see Whispli being used across a broad range of public and private Organisations, third party independent whistleblower providers, law enforcement and intelligence agencies who are all finding in our platform an affordable, effective and very practical way to tackle corruption, amongst other things, and to stop it in its tracks.

RB: Sylvain, I understand that you had some intersection with the recent Unaoil reporting. That was a big story. Where did you come in?

SM: As I mentioned Whispli can be used for more than internal fraud investigation.  One of our products is designed for journalists to receive anonymous information and tips from sources that they normally wouldn’t have access to, it’s called JournoTips.  The Unaoil story broke through Nick McKenzie, multiple Walkley Award winning investigative journalist from FairFax Media’s The Age Newspaper, and The Huffington Post.  In his research into this story, Nick was able to track one main source who was willing to come forward but when he travelled to Paris to meet, the source didn’t show up.  Subsequently to the story breaking out in the newspaper, Nick and the rest of The Age’s investigative journalist team began using Journotips, which led to them receiving a large number of relevant tips regarding this case and others.

RB: So tell us a little more about this video, it’s extremely engaging.

SM: Most people want to speak up.  Whistleblowers have to have a tremendous amount of courage to come forward because, as we know, they do not have a history of being treated well.  What’s more, when wrongdoing is happening the number 1 method that it is detected through is whistleblowers – so the question has to be asked: How many frauds and crimes go on undetected?  The video is really aiming to show organisations that if we give whistleblowers their anonymity, they will do the right thing, they will speak up.

RB: Thanks, Sylvain, for those who want to contact you, what’s the best way to get in touch?

SM: You can find all the information about Whispli at, or you can email our team at [email protected].  We would also encourage organisations to try the platform on a 2-week free trial, which you can access here.  You can also have access to all of the relevant industry information by following Whispli on Facebook, Twitter & Linkedin.

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