What’s coming for ethics and compliance, human resources and general council professionals in 2019? Compliance and HR issues were everywhere in 2018, and we don’t expect that attention to die down in 2019.  For the next year, and probably longer, you should expect to see some of the same hot topics popping up, as well as a few new ones finding their way into the spotlight.

 

  1. Employee Activism

    Employees have been getting organized with the use of social media and trending viral stories. They are putting pressure on their companies and members of leadership to address issues that, in the past, would have been swept under the rug.  Employee activism isn’t something companies should take lightly, or think won’t happen at their organization.  Compliance and HR departments need to keep their eyes, ears, and doors open above and beyond any other areas in the organization.  As a compliance professional, I know it’s essential for success to understand what’s going on throughout your organization.  Having knowledge of the issues that are arising will allow you to address them quickly and take a proactive approach.

  2. Responses to Regulations

    Over the past decade, there has been a swift increase in regulations for the US and EU.  A recent example would be GDPR, which focuses on data protection and privacy, or the almost ten year old Dodd-Frank Act driven by the great recession.  The “mad scramble” to implement a regulatory response program is a technique used by many companies for years who have failed to plan ahead.  This approach is a procrastinator dream that can quickly turn into a nightmare.  Whether you take your time, or you do the mad scramble to comply, merely checking the box isn’t enough.  In many instances, rules, regulations, and laws are complicated which can be difficult for employees to comprehend and adhere to.  Once your company meets the regulatory requirements, you should take at least one more step to make sure your employees know where to go if they have questions, or if they are unsure of what to do when the new regulations bump into them.  In my experiences, I’ve encouraged my employees to submit their questions through our anonymous hotline.  I would rather them ask their question anonymously than not at all. 


  1. Data, Privacy, Protection

    2018 brought increased regulations and major data security issues.  One of the all-time biggest data breaches happened to an India based company, AADHAAR, with ~1.1 billion records being exposed.  With IT leading the charge on the implementation of GDPR and other data privacy and protection regulations, both HR and Compliance still have a have a significant role in ensuring its success.  Compliance and HR may not own all the policies and procedures that result from a data privacy regulation like GDPR, but they do have a responsibility to help ensure employees are made aware of guidelines regarding personal accountability.  They should also influence and education leadership and other key employees on the importance of having all employees follow security procedures. If management doesn’t take security seriously, their direct reports may not either. 


  1. Focus on Corporate Culture

    The phrase corporate culture has been on the tongues of business leaders, HR and Compliance professionals for more years then I can count.  However, this not-so-new topic will continue to be a hot topic in 2019.  More and more companies are seeing first-hand the negative impact a toxic corporate culture can have on employee health, productivity, customer loyalty, and profit.   Fostering inclusion, diversity collaboration, and open and honest communication are essential for a healthy corporate culture.  A healthy corporate culture can be a competitive advantage that improves employee retention as well as revenue.  If you aren’t already focused on your companies corporate culture, you should make it a priority for 2019.  And if resources are limited, you should at bare minimum make sure employees, and potential employees have a clear understanding of your company mission and values and a plan in place to keep communication channels open.  


  1. Making Data-Driven Decisions

    When I say “jump,” you say, “how high?”  When I say “#Metoo,” you say, “rollout training to all employees immediately.”  Knee-jerk responses by compliance and HR departments to new regulations, social movements, or news reports is not an ideal way to react.  For example, if sexual harassment isn’t an issue for your organization, then don’t waste valuable limited resources on it.  With more regulations and social movements on the horizon for 2019, these automatic and potentially thoughtless responses, such as conducting hour-long training for every issue that happens in the news, aren’t smart or sustainable.  Data-driven compliance and HR programs are going to be the way for 2019.  Being able to leverage a centralized repository for all of your company’s hotline reports, open door issues, conflicts of interests, and anonymous exit interviews, as well as having access to reports, trend analytics and benchmarking data, is going to become the what’s expected in compliance software functionality and not just a nicety.  Compliance and HR professionals know that they need the help of technology to be successful and they are going to continue to have high expectations from the software vendors they purchase from.

 

2019 is going to bring many regulatory and social changes and challenges. And how compliance, HR and legal respond to the excitement that 2019 holds will be one of the most prevalent trends.  How they respond to changing regulations and justifiably high standards from employees and the public are what’s going to fill the history pages of 2019 with, hopefully, happy memories.