Senior Leadership Impact

Senior leadership visibility—visible participation—is critically important for successful ethics and compliance (E&C) training outcomes. That is one of the key findings from a recent report by ECI, the Ethics & Compliance Initiative (ECI, 2017a).

Another finding shows a gap between ethics training and compliance training. “The majority of ethics and compliance practitioners believe they are effectively training for compliance, but despite most believing changing ethics-related behaviors is the most important objective of training, only 26 percent think their training is effective in changing behavior and preventing misconduct” (ECI, 2017b).

Related findings, as listed in the report’s executive summary, show that:

  • E&C practitioners indicate that changing behavior and preventing future misconduct are the most important objectives for training; yet few implement methods that accomplish that goal.
  • Employees say E&C training focuses on compliance, regulation, and standards. This is in direct opposition to the stated objectives of the practitioners who responded to our survey, but coincides with practitioners’ beliefs about how training time is used and is most successful.

Other key findings?

  • Most employees see the need for and have positive views of ethics and compliance training, but far fewer find it applicable and believe they learned something new during their training.
  • Case studies, role play and learning how to solve ethical dilemmas are all associated with improved results. Of these, learning to solve dilemmas seems to be the single most effective activity.
  • Live in-person training is linked to far better results – even when the same activities are used.

ECI recommends the following actions in support of effective ethics and compliance training, as summarized from the executive summary:

  • Frame ethics and compliance training as important to business success. Workplace integrity is not about a different set of rules applied only in very specific situations, it is woven into the fabric of everyday work life.
  • Create opportunities for employees to engage with supervisors, senior leaders, and peers to discuss and apply the concepts conveyed in training.
  • Take a multi-faceted, blended approach to get the best of both worlds.
    • Just-in-time training delivered via technology can be particularly powerful for sharing critical, targeted information when it will be most useful.
    • Engage employees in live-in-person training for discussions that are more nuanced, e.g., ethical decision-making.
  • Involve leaders. The visible presence of senior leaders makes training more powerful and effective, while serving as a powerful messaging tool regarding the importance of E&C.
  • Utilize interactive strategies. Engage employees in discussion.
  • Evaluate effectiveness. E&C training is valuable, necessary, and requires considerable investment. Companies should consider evaluation of its effectiveness an essential part of training design and implementation.

As ECI and many other sources have reiterated, “tone at the top” is an integral part of the success or failure of ethics and compliance programs. Which is why it is essential that senior leaders support, promote, and take part in ethics and compliance training efforts. “Whether in person, or by video, the impact and desired results of training are significantly better when senior leaders are a visible part of the training,” concludes the report.

Ethical Advocate provides comprehensive ethics and compliance solutions, including ethics and compliance training and confidential and anonymous hotlines. Please contact us for more information.


ECI. Ethics & Compliance Training: What Gets Results. Executive Summary. June 2017 (2017a).

ECI. “Visible Senior Management Participation Is Needed for Effective Ethics and Compliance Training.” Press release, June 29, 2017 (2017b).