‘…be wary of sweeping generalisations of “the top 5 things to transform your training impact”’

2021 05 AreteThoughts Q&A - Campbell & Barr

A brief AretéThoughts Q&A with Chris Campbell & David Barr:

So David, you and Chris have just written the IBE’s latest Good Practice Guide – Trends and innovations in effective ethics education, what are your key takeaways:

Hmmm, I fear that’s hard to answer succinctly, or at least for me! It stems from what we heard clearly from all the ethics & compliance (E&C) heads we were fortunate to speak with. Which is: every company’s E&C programme has its own unique context – driving their risk profile, attitudes, resources and knowledge regarding E&C. All of which fundamentally impact what training actions (in the next 12 to 24 months at least) will have the greatest impact.

So, our first key takeaway: be wary of sweeping generalisations of “the top 5 things to transform your training impact” or “follow these key best practices for better performance”. But with that caveat in mind, if you step back far enough there were three key trends that in some way everyone we spoke with was grappling with.

Firstly, an increasing necessity to break down training and communication silos; and to co-ordinate, plan and co-develop training in a much more aligned way with other key corporate functions. Most notably HR and Health & Safety, but depending on context almost any function. This is simply necessitated by employee overload and ethics & compliance needing to impact behaviours and capabilities and not just knowledge and awareness.

Then, very closely linked with this is strengthening the focus on having the learner at the heart of your training strategy. We know this sounds almost too simplistic, but the E&C leaders we spoke with are being increasingly candid with themselves about how this core principle gets knocked off course. To their credit.

Then finally, and again these are all closely entwined, building out more informal and on-the-job training interventions, and not only relying on formal training, be it eLearning or live sessions.

Chris we heard a lot about putting the learner at the centre of your ethics training; how exactly can that be achieved?

For me, this is the big one and most ethics & compliance teams get it and start with the right intentions but through the process this becomes gradually lost or significantly compromised. It comes back to:

  • How does this benefit the individual and the organisation?  
  • Am I being efficient with their time and respectful of their knowledge and experience?

Using some form of profiling or test really helps, so that the content delivered (irrespective of medium) is relevant and can be applied. Use the technology for what its good at – targeting key information to the right person at the right time. Use the time you have face to face (real or virtual) to have purposeful conversations that allow a learner to really share their challenges and frustrations.

Being ‘learner centric’ means putting the learner at the heart of the training and considering everything through their eyes. How will a learner experience the education, how does the process of learning make them feel and what do we expect them to do differently as a result? Though I would stress it shouldn’t be read as simply “learner easy”. Training must still stretch and challenge; and it can still be demanding. 

David, can you share a short example of this?

There are many, but one we’ve been closely involved with and that’s having significant impact is the Responsible Business Discussion programme that Cedric Dubar and his team at Volvo Cars are leading. It stemmed originally from their Integrity Champions network being equipped with a suite of short discussion guides that they could draw from and use at local briefings or leadership meetings etc. These proved very popular with both the Champions and their colleagues. So with that foundation Cedric and the team pushed to receive backing from the Executive Committee to have nearly 4,000 managers run a Responsible Business Discussion every quarter with their teams.  Each discussion requires about 20 – 25 minutes of preparation time and supports an informal, but purposeful, ethics & compliance orientated discussion to be facilitated by a team member (normally the manager, but it doesn’t have to be). Each discussion focuses on a straightforward, but compelling case study or thought piece and will close with the team agreeing some specific takeaways that they can action.

For us this is learner centric, as it’s a team led discussion so immediately close and contextualised for the team, it results in the team agreeing their own actions, as team based there’s minimal disruption, and as 20 – 25 minutes once a quarter, minimal time. But across Volvo Cars they now have nearly 35,000 colleagues having a quarterly ethics & compliance discussion, led by a close colleague, where they develop and agree the actions. That’s remarkably powerful, and for us, very learner centric.

How do you think the pandemic has shaped the delivery of ethics training and are those changes here to stay?

I think we have all rapidly accelerated our capabilities and comfort with virtual sessions. Virtual delivery used to be wrapped in complex set-up instructions, guidance on backdrops and how to be “professional” when online. For the most that is gone, many people don’t want the corporate backdrop and like the brief window into each other’s lives. I think virtually delivered content will be a bigger part of the delivery mix, I think it will eat into eLearning as well as live physical sessions. And with regard to live sessions as Joni Mitchell said “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” There is a greater respect for the value in being face to face and having a focused session that allows you to really dig into issues.

David, I know you are a big on your Podcasts, what would you recommend that those of us in the ethics & compliance world listen to:

It would have to be Tim Harford’s More or Less on BBC Sounds. It digs into numbers and statistics quoted in the media and encourages a questioning, but overall positive mindset. I’m a huge believer in being comfortable to question and kindly interrogate what is presented as fact!

And from you Chris what about a book?

The Tyranny of Merit by Michael Sandel. Sandel has been described as the greatest living philosopher, I have always found his writing to be entertaining and accessible. This book forced me to challenge some uncomfortable truths about my attitude to meritocracy. Thoroughly recommended!

Chris Campbell & David Barr are the co-founders of Campbell Barr.