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Joe Murphy: Do compliance programs work?

This has always been a challenging question: How do you prove that preventive work stopped something bad from happening?

Over the years one thing I have noticed is that people who have done compliance and ethics work have actual stories about getting calls from employees, or talking with them at training, or dealing with helpline calls, where we know our work has helped head off a violation. 

But the outside skeptics who have studied the field somehow seem disconnected from this on-the-ground reality.

Now the SCCE has completed a study (I helped in the design) asking exactly this question of compliance & ethics people: In your own work have you had this experience: knowing that your work/intervention prevented a violation. 

Result: 83 percent of compliance professionals report that their program had prevented one of more violations in the past two years (keeping in mind this does not cover the unknown instances where potential violations were stopped with no one else knowing about it — certainly a much greater number). 

The study contains some impressive figures. 

Of course we are dealing with practitioners who have an interest in this — but then, that is not exactly unusual in social science studies. But the strength of the results is compelling in my opinion. 

This is the work compliance and ethics professionals do every day. It is good to see this preventive effort recognized. 

Here is a link to the study.


Joe Murphy is a Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional and author of 501 Ideas for Your Compliance and Ethics Program: Lessons from 30 Years of Practice (SCCE; 2008). He was co-founder and vice-chairman of the board of Integrity Interactive Corporation (now part of SAI Global). He serves on the board of the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE). He can be contacted here.

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