Questioning translations

If you work in a multinational organization, when should you translate your policies, your training, your communications?

Only when required by law? All the time? Somewhere in between?

Is it your international employees’ responsibility to learn the language of the headquarters? Should it be considered disrespectful to publish anything in only one language?

Translations are expensive and time-consuming. They are greatly appreciated when offered and create all kinds of frustrations when they are not.

They are often seen as a proxy for how much you care.

Should you care?

Do what you can

Few things are as disheartening to an ethics & compliance officer than to feel powerless against a senior management team who doesn’t walk the talk.

In an ideal world, the ECO could simply say to senior management “Wait. You say that X is important but you don’t put any resources into it. Either we admit that this is not important or we allocate the necessary resources.”

But we don’t live in an ideal world. So what are other actions an ECO can take? Here are some suggestions:

  • Use a real case. Present the findings of a recent investigation to senior management. In a non-accusatory way, show how the organization could avoid another violation if more were to be done. Don’t blame them for their failure to act more aggressively in the past. Instead, present this as an opportunity to become better.
  • Find an ally in the c-suite. If they don’t listen to you, they might listen to one of their own. Can you have a candid conversation with one of them, one you know could take the baton?
  • Create demand. Discuss the issue of concern with as many middle managers as you can. Don’t point the finger at senior management. Instead, genuinely try to identify ways by which middle management can solve the issue on their own. Because a solution is unlikely, these sessions will agitate the crowd and senior management could be forced into action.
  • Use the helpline. Force senior management to respond to your concern by using your anonymous helpline. You’ll want to make sure they can’t trace it back to you. You may not get a real answer, or you might get empty promises, but at least you will create a discussion in the c-suite and put them on notice that not everyone is fooled by talk that doesn’t match the walk.

You don’t have to be successful in any of these attempts. You simply need to keep trying.

Macro patience, micro speed

Many of the organizations we work for operate on a 90-day cycle.

It doesn’t mean we have to.

Improving a corporate culture takes time. It requires that we change the very processes believed to be responsible for the organization’s success. We will meet resistance.

We must accept that it might takes years to get the job done. And we must refuse to go a single day without making some progress towards that goal.

HT to Gary Vaynerchuk for coining the macro/micro concept.

Audio’s new frontier

“Better to trip with the feet than with the tongue.”

– Zeno

The new storytelling features found in social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Anchor make it easier than ever for our employees to broadcast their spoken words. E&C professionals have always cautioned employees to watch their language in hallways and meeting rooms. We now have a new frontier.

Growing up in Quebec, I often heard this French saying: “The wise turns his tongue seven times in his mouth before speaking.” It makes me wonder if the record button on Instagram Stories should have a 7-second countdown before activating the camera.

The ease with which we can now broadcast our thoughts on video reminds me of the early days of “electronic mail”. Employees got into all kinds of trouble – and still do – because it had never been easier to send written words without paper. During training, for effect, I would tell them “Don’t use email.” They would give me funny looks as I let the silence hang in the room for a few seconds. I would then admit that I didn’t really mean that but recommended that they only write emails that could be seen by the CEO or printed in the newspaper the next day.

Which reminds me of another saying I read somewhere: “Don’t write if you can talk. Don’t talk if you can nod. Don’t nod if you can wink.”

I’m not advocating for an end to communication. I’m simply noticing how much more important it now is to pause before we speak.

Your best training is the next one

At first, you don’t provide any ethics & compliance training.

Then something happens and you realize it was a mistake not to train your employees. So you develop a short training for newcomers. And you beat yourself up for not having done it sooner.


Because soon you’ll realize that your induction training doesn’t cover everything it should. After you beef it up, you’ll realize that long-term employees need refreshers too. And then, it’ll just make sense to provide employees in different functions their own customized training. Later, you’ll feel it would be more efficient to use a vendor to create online training. Only to discover, a few years down the road, that in-person training can be more effective. Then you’ll try to produce short animation, text messages, and funny comic strips to fill the gaps between training campaigns. By then, some employees will tell you that there is so much information that it’s hard for them to know what’s really important, so you’ll consider reducing your training. And you’ll beat yourself up for not getting it right all these years.


Your training needs to change with the state of the market. The best you can do is to pause regularly and to reflect on whether your training program is doing its job. If yes, great. If not, change it. But don’t dwell on what has been. You’ll never win that game.

Instead, we need to think of our next training idea like the launch of the latest iPhone. When Apple executives are touting the phone’s cutting-edge technology while pacing the stage, what they don’t tell us is that the next 2 or 3 generations are already in development. Prototypes with flexible screens, built-in projectors, 3D screens and holograms. No matter how great our latest training is, we need to deploy some humility and remember that all of our prior attempts had a short life. By all means, we should launch that latest training with pride but we should already have an eye out for the next best thing. Because the marketplace has already changed.

That’s how we stay relevant.

Peanut butter and…

This article about using geospatial technology to fight money laundering reminded me of an idea I had earlier this year.

My phone knows where I am, it has access to my calendar and it can deliver me content. This is how my boarding pass shows up on my locked screen when I enter the airport. So what is stopping my company from showing me a 30-second video to remind me about collusion risks when I pull into the parking lot of a customer for a bid walk-through where competitors might be present?

Or why can’t I get a text to remind me about our gift-receiving rules when I visit a supplier?

Can you see the benefits of this technology? It solves the problem many of us face with employees not remembering the training they completed 6 months ago at their desk.

If I say “Peanut butter and…” ⇒ You think “jelly”.

If I say “Rhum and…” ⇒ You think “Coke”.

What is the “Coke” or the “jelly” to “customer/supplier visit”? It’s not easy to create hundreds of similar connections necessary to create a strong compliance program. Technology can help us.

Now, I can already hear the privacy concerns. But it is possible to severely restrict the use of this technology to ensure that it has workplace-application only.

Our first priority is to protect the organization and its employees. Tools that prevent costly mistakes should be tried and tested before being shut down.

What’s your idea?

We are all linked

“Meditate often on the interconnectedness and mutual interdependence of all things in the universe. For in a sense, all things are mutually woven together and therefore have an affinity for each other – for one thing follows after another according to their tension of movement, their sympathetic stirrings, and the unity of all substance.”

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.38

This quote is from today’s entry in The Daily Stoic. Ryan Holiday, the author, follows with an observation from Anne Lamott that “all writers are little rivers running into a lake”. He offers that what is true for writers is also true in many industries, “though sadly, even inside the same company, people selfishly forget they’re working together.”

Many ethics & compliance professionals experience this disconnect within their organization. Who among us hasn’t complained about HR’s secrecy, or neglected to partner with Learning & Development? One day we think we can go at it alone and the other we’re frustrated by Operations ignoring us.

Perhaps today we would do well to ask, at the outset of a task or project, “Who else is affected by my work?” For certainly we will start a chain reaction that will go full circle and affect us sooner or later.