Travel is a critical component of a good, strong compliance program. It can also be a differentiator clients find worthwhile. One unexpected result at Black & Veatch is that our business development people now champion the compliance program and actually request the compliance team to come to the field.
So despite tight budgets and available remote technology, travel for the compliance department isn’t a luxury – it’s actually a necessity. Nothing yet replaces good personal relationships employees can rely upon for help when they face difficult situations.
People want to put a face with a name. The average employee is not likely to pick up the phone to call the headquarters’ ivory tower lawyers or compliance folks to request assistance or ask advice. It is quite a bit different once they get to know you – even if only through a training session or risk assessment interview. Informal training sessions regularly using real-world examples encourage questions and facilitate personal relationships with compliance professionals. We average up to 15 times more email/phone inquiries and assistance requests than we get issues on our Alert Line because our compliance people are not just names on a list.
People want to talk. Honest, hard-working people who know of improper behavior want it to stop, but often have only an Alert Line to call for help. There are so many unknowns when a person considers leaving an anonymous message on an Alert Line (or web intake facility) that usually only the most egregious things get posted – rarely timely enough to help prevent a problem. When members of the compliance team are on-location providing training, conducting risk assessment interviews or other activities, information flows much more freely, and problems can be dealt with timely.
Regional/local managers need help. When managers get to know members of the compliance team and build a personal rapport, they’re far more likely to call/email for help than take the normal attitude that it is “better to ask for forgiveness than permission.” It can take many calls to get to know someone over the phone, but this is accelerated once you have spent some time getting to know them in their world (e.g., sense of humor, politics, mannerisms, accent, expressions, background, etc.). Follow up calls/emails work much better, and managers can then seek advice to help them make better decisions. Our motto: “When in doubt, shout!” underscores our desire to provide the kind of timely assistance necessary to preclude bad decisions – some of which have the potential to be career terminating events.
Meet with compliance team and managers from clients, JV partners and contractors. Traveling to field offices provides an opportunity to meet and get to know our counterparts. We learn of potential compliance issues in actual practice – clients especially like to know that you take compliance very seriously. It allows an open dialogue to address ongoing or upcoming issues that could create problems.
To break the ice and increase cooperation, we have recently introduced a “Family Feud” style “team-building” exercise/game (i.e., competition complete with puzzles, points, and prizes) that we have run very successfully on several occasions. Not only does this provide a fun, light-hearted opportunity for our people to work closely with their client / JV partner / contractor counterparts, but it has given us non-threatening opportunities to present examples of problematic situations along with proper ways to deal with them.
There are intangible, unexpected results as well… As one of the first U.S. companies to have achieved ISO 37001 Anti-Corruption Management System certification for one of its offices (a tough one, at that – Jakarta), Black & Veatch benefited greatly from the years of compliance team travel to this office. Strong interpersonal relationships were instrumental in making this effort a success in record time and without a single non-conformity being identified.