Ah, millennials. The “it” generation. Even compliance can’t stop talking about this generation. We’ve written a lot about how ethics and compliance professionals should learn how they think, learn and act because, as this generation will soon make up a huge percentage of the workforce, your ethics and compliance programs should accommodate millennial behaviors and thinking styles. For instance, millennials are more likely to perceive retaliation in the workplace than other generations and want their employers involved in their work-life balance.
The ERC report on generational differences in workplace ethics shows that millennials are the riskiest generation in today’s workplace. Share on Twitter
My colleague Jimmy Lin has a nice piece posted in Risk Management Magazine about making this risky generation less risky. Why does this generation present ethics and compliance risk to organizations? The ERC stats show they are more likely to feel pressure to engage in risky behavior, compromise their standards and observe misconduct in the workplace. The survey results also show that there are specific personal characteristics that make younger workers unique; ethics and compliance organizations should take these into consideration when designing and implementing compliance training courses for this generation. There are three reasons millennials will benefit more from interactive ethics and compliance training.
Millennials Are Social by Nature
They tend to connect socially at work and become highly engaged in company culture. They don’t sit on the sidelines, they aren’t wallflowers. Perhaps this is why nearly half of all millennials in the ERC survey responded that they have observed misconduct in the workplace; they are more aware of and sensitive to their working environment and; therefore, are more likely to pick up on misconduct. However, they are younger, less experienced in the workplace and more likely to be tempted to remain quiet when they observe something they should report.
Your compliance training courses should incorporate these workers’ high need for social interaction and engagement. Millennials will not respond to text books and PowerPoint slides. The topics you are training on, anti-bribery, harassment and discrimination, code of conduct… these are very important topics and it’s essential your employees retain what they learn. Millennials learn by being active participants, not passive listeners. They want to touch, think, play, hear… Interactive compliance training courses that use a combination of relatable scenes and characters with voices, gamification, quizzes and other types of interactivity will keep this generation engaged with the material and ensure they will remember the information they learn. Remember, the goal of code of ethics training is not to train every employee; the goal is to ensure every employee knows how to behave and what to do when he/she learns of misconduct. Boring training fails to accomplish that.
Millennials Need Interactive Compliance Training Because They Are Inexperienced
The ERC survey showed that one out of three millennials are willing to break rules if they think it will save their jobs. That one was eye-opening to me, but when you think about it, it makes sense. Because they are most likely to feel pressure to compromise standards, millennials can also turn out to be policy violators themselves. They have not been in the workplace very long, ergo they may have not yet learned how to deal with stressful situations in their working environment, and certainly witnessing misconduct can be stressful. Being tempted to commit misconduct – or actually committing it – can also be stressful.
Your company has a real opportunity to mitigate this pressure and fear for millennials by showing and continually reinforcing your commitment to ethics and compliance over short-term financial gain. Interactive compliance training courses, awareness programs, policy communications, frankly your entire ethics and compliance program can carry this message and deeply embed it into your company culture. Millennials will respond to that; it will help assuage that fear and pressure they can feel simply by being inexperienced workers. This is a great opportunity for ethics and compliance to lead the way in forming strong, ethical leaders for tomorrow.
Millennials respond to “show, don’t tell”, therefore, interactive code of ethics training helps them to do more than memorize rules, it helps them understand the rules and the situations and context in which they apply. Manuals, books, and other passive means of learning simply “tell”. Without the “show”, you will fail to capture the attention of the millennial learners.
Millennials Respond to Interactive Compliance Training Courses Because They Believe Strongly in Transparency
This generation is particularly open and transparent with the way they live their lives. They put everything on social media, which makes some people in other generations cringe. This however, makes them more likely to share information about work experiences, both positive and negative, with others in their social networks. They are very vocal about political opinions and argue for transparency; they are more likely to see Edward Snowden as a hero than a traitor. Millennials are also the most likely to keep copies of confidential company documents, which, if shared outside the company, could get into the hands of competitors.
Obviously from a compliance standpoint, these behaviors can create significant risk. Your code of ethics training has to accommodate the way this generation thinks in order to really get through to them. Interactive compliance training courses that show real-life situations, that show your company’s commitment to transparency will be authentic to this generation and will speak to their values. Include scenarios in your training that show your company is committed to being open and compliant with the law. Don’t hide your past dirty laundry if you have lessons employees can learn from it.
Millennials are here to stay. They are entering your workforce in greater numbers. Make sure your ethics and compliance training accommodates the ways they learn. Interactive compliance training courses will resonate with this generation and ensure they retain the critical information you’re trying to teach them. More importantly, it will ensure they understand how to behave and increase the likelihood that they report misconduct when they see it.