by Samantha Greves, Senior Compliance Analyst at NextEra Energy Inc.
As they say, all good things must come to an end. And although I am well aware that everything eventually ends, I am not a personal fan of this reality. Even when I am prepared, I still find myself a bit sad when my time at an SCCE event is over. I attended my first conference in 2013, the Compliance and Ethics Institute at the Washington Hilton, and like many others who attend, I felt I had finally found my people. The compliance profession can be isolating, so I was thrilled to be surrounded by people who spoke my language, shared my passion, and understood my struggles. My spirits were rejuvenated over the course of 5 days and I left D.C. inspired to continue my mission to be a force of positive change. I was fortunate enough to attend the CEI again this past year in Chicago and my experience was as powerful as the year before.
So it was with much excitement that I traveled to Houston to attend this year’s Utilities & Energy Compliance and Ethics Conference. It was my first time at this event, and though smaller in scale, it was equally beneficial, if not more so. The event was executed to perfection, and I had not a single complaint. Kortney Nordrum and Lizza Catalano coordinated the event flawlessly, and SCCE CEO Roy Snell was humble and ever-present as always, welcoming everyone as if he has known them personally for years. The sessions were focused on the challenges specific to the energy industry, and the intimate setting allowed for more meaningful conversations between participants.
Each conference has sessions about current trends and classical theories, and I always learn something new at each presentation I attend. Here are some of the best practices discussed in the sessions this past week, in case you weren’t able to attend:
- Use existing communication platforms to target your employees – In her session, Ann Adams shared how her group uses the screen saver on every employee’s computer to broadcast a reminder about the company’s code of ethics and business practices. What a great way to stay current and visible.
- Make your swag exclusive – Ann also suggested using branded items like pens, mugs, or t-shirts to bring awareness to your program. Even outdated items can become popular, and employees will often collect and display the items in their offices and work areas. Kathryn Skelton and Ashley Coselli shared that they host an annual compliance summit at their company which has become so popular they have to turn folks away!
- Create a liaison program – Several presenters discussed the benefits of having a liaison or ombudsman program within their companies, and provided details on the structure they chose to utilize. Implementing such a program provides additional channels to carry the ethics and compliance message to your employees, and helps to personalize the compliance team, especially when your company stretches across large geographical distances.
- Give your employees tools – In her session about behavioral psychology, Virginia MacSuibhne suggested using color-coded buttons and reference sheets to help identify different groups within your organization. That way, your employees will be able to quickly classify the person they are working with, and can reference the guide to know what behaviors are permitted.
- Follow the money and look for outliers – In his FCPA session, Tom Fox reminded us to follow the money when dealing with third parties. Many cases of fraud or corruption can be identified through simple auditing techniques. In addition, train your staff to look for and report anomalies. A recent case of corruption was uncovered because an employee noticed a large, previously unexplained increase in transaction confirmations and reported it to the compliance department.
- Keep it fun – Perhaps most importantly, remember to keep your programs simple and fun. Compliance and ethics don’t have to be boring! There are so many inexpensive and creative options available these days to keep your employees engaged and excited about your program. If you can create a buzz, the message will spread organically throughout the ranks.
I am continually amazed by the meaningful exchange of information that takes place, and the strong sense of community that develops amongst attendees. It is difficult to quantify the value these events provide to our profession, and I strongly recommend attending if you can. The SCCE continues to be a champion for our cause, and this conference served as further evidence of their commitment to quality and reputation for excellence. I’m already excited for the next event, and I hope to see you in Vegas!