Ask ETHIX360: is a Question & Answer series from ETHIX360, meant to address public questions about the world of corporate compliance.

Another great question, and frankly a common one we hear all the time. At ETHIX360, we see several gates to continuous improvement regarding compliance with your code of conduct or ethics.

Plato said, “the beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms,” and my first boss said, “inspect what you expect.” Both are relevant in this topic. Our belief is that this is driven by monitoring the effectiveness of policies and programs, and leveraging benchmarks to judge relative levels of attainment.

We see policies as those rules you put in place to guide employee conduct and behavior towards compliance with laws, regulations and company culture. So when it comes to measuring compliance we see that as a two step process. This begins with the benchmarking of employee behavior against both your peer group (i.e. other companies in the same industry, etc) and other businesses in general. This will allow for the analysis of industry specific issues, such as HIPAA or Medicare FWA in healthcare, or issues impacting all businesses (i.e. sexual harassment or discrimination).

We manage this through on demand benchmarking analytics, willing you see across any time period how your business compares to both their peer group and larger sample including all industries. This will allow you answer questions such as “I am averaging 5 instance of sexual harassment per thousand employees – is that good or bad?” I can see that my peer group averages 3, so this is an area where I can and should improve and focus effort. This informs me on which policies need review, a discussion on training as appropriate, attestations and the lot.

Once you review and change those policies and share the changes with employees, you can then review two other reports in CaseTrac. First would be the Allegation Trending view which allows you to see the change in allegations over time, effectively allowing you to measure the impact of the changes in policy and subsequent marketing of the policy.

Using benchmarking requires using industry best practice definitions of various allegation types – otherwise the results are just not useful. So in answer to the original question, I would say first understand where you are today in terms of peer group, second make sure you are using industry standard definitions of allegation types, third review your policies and keep them current, fourth make sure those polices are accessible, fifth educate your employees on the policies and last but not least review trending and measure the effect of your changes.