Mike Volkov, in a blog post entitled “Mood in the Middle Versus Tone at the Top”, said, “Even when a company does all the right things at the senior management level, the real issue is whether or not that culture has embedded itself in middle and lower management.  A company’s culture is reflected in the values and beliefs that exist throughout the company.” To fully operationalize your compliance program, you must articulate the message of ethical values and doing business in compliance and then drive that message from the top down, throughout your organization.

The 2020 Update made clear a company must have more than simply good ‘Tone-at-the-Top’; it must move down through the organization from senior management to middle management and into its lower ranks. It stated, “Beyond compliance structures, policies, and procedures, it is important for a company to create and foster a culture of ethics and compliance with the law at all levels of the company. The effectiveness of a compliance program requires a high-level commitment by company leadership to implement a culture of compliance from the middle and the top.”

By engaging employees at this level, you can find out not only what the employees think about the company compliance program but use their collective experience to help design a better and more effective compliance program. Employees want to do business in an ethical manner. Giving employees the chance to engage in business the right way, as opposed to cheating, will win their hearts and minds almost all the time. By using this protocol, you can not only find out the effect of your compliance program on the employees at the bottom, but you can affect them as well.

Employees often look to their direct supervisor to determine what the tone of an organization is and will be going forward. Many employees of large, multi-national organizations may never have direct contact with the CEO or even senior management. By moving the values of compliance through an organization into the middle, you will be in a much better position to inculcate these values and operationalizing compliance with them.

Three key takeaways:

  1. Tone at the top – direct supervisors become the most important influence on people in the company
  2. Give your middle managers a Tool Kit around compliance so they can fully operationalize compliance
  3. Organizational justice is an additional way to help operationalize compliance