by Adam Balfour
During one of our recent Ideas & Answers planning calls, we got into an interesting discussion about how it can be difficult for employees to understand what ethics and compliance professionals (or the law department) mean by terms such as “adequate” and “reasonable.” Oftentimes, we, as compliance and/or legal professionals, use such terms thinking that it will help people understand what is expected of them and to help clarify how they can meet those expectations. The intent behind such an approach is good (“how do I help provide guidance and clarity while also protecting the organization”), but the impact is often very different (“are “reasonable” and “adequate” not the same thing? Could something then be “reasonably adequate” or “adequately reasonable””?). The issue can become even more pronounced when you are dealing with different languages and cultures (e.g., is Ted Lasso a show about football or soccer?).
I often talk about the need to take a “human centric approach” to when it comes to having an effective ethics and compliance program, and this is especially true when it comes to developing and writing standards and in the training and communications we provide to others. This is one of the reasons why I think we need to think more in terms of “learning and engagement” rather than “training and communication” because it forces us to focus more on the impact and desired outcome of our efforts rather than simply the intentions of our efforts.
Terms like “adequate” and “reasonable” may make sense to those of us in ethics and compliance, but those terms are likely to mean little to our colleagues in other areas of our organizations. It is important that we know our colleagues well, get their input when designing and writing policies and standards, include real life frequently asked questions (actual questions that real life human beings have asked and not simply rehashing the policy statements in a question and answer format) and be willing and open to recognize when our approaches need to be revisited.
My hope is that our readers will find this piece reasonable, adequate and reasonably adequate, but I will settle for a reasonable number of readers finding it adequate…
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