The way companies guide business conduct is broken; employees are provided with tens or even hundreds of long, legalistic paper-documents they are expected to read, understand and apply. But in reality, employees don't read the policies. Equally problematic, most small and medium-sized companies do not offer any guidance to their employees, as they are unwilling to spend thousands for old-school, long paper policies.
Perhaps even more worrying for business leaders, the lack of effective guidance exposes them and their companies to criminal liability as well as reputational and financial risks.
Today’s approach is begging for technology; it is old-fashioned, legalistic, costly and unsuitable for today’s fast-paced business. And the requirements for establishing a legal safeguard change as a result of technology. This leads to a higher standard for what companies need to do in order to satisfy prosecutors and judges that sufficient efforts have been made to clarify expectations, prevent misconduct and thereby secure a legal defence. Demands are increasing across the world, including in the US and UK, as well as most recently in Spain, France and Italy - in many cases requiring policies to be clear, practical, and accessible.
Hence, today's approach of throwing large volumes of long, legalistic paper documents at employees - or offering them nothing at all - and then hope to have a legal safeguard when things turn sour, is naive at best.
And prosecutors will no longer accept it. Make no mistake; employees do need insightful guidance in today's fast-paced, global business climate, along with the right organisational context in order to take responsible decisions and prevent the ethical breakdowns that corrupt business and society at large.
With technology it is now possible to equip employees with guidance that is not only user-friendly, but also available to employees in their pockets at the moment when they make judgments, to ensure impact on behaviour. Research from leading behavioural economists has shown that ‘moral reminders’ at the right time have great impact on people’s ethical judgment. Given that many real problems in society are caused or facilitated by unethical practices, simple and accessible ethical standards can help deliver social impact worldwide.
We have advised dozens of Fortune 500 clients over the last decade and have carefully identified some of the most critical ethical areas and created impactful content to guide for better judgments. We developed the PolicyApp®, a free and instantly accessible policy library (get it below) that provides memorable principles on business conduct. The content reflects recognised international laws and codes, including UN Global Compact, and is suitable to support companies of all sizes, across industries and geographies to drive responsible conduct and comply with legal requirements.
Business leaders need to move fast to provide employees with simple and accessible standards before they get caught without a legal defense when issues arise - because they do.