5 ways to build a top ethics and compliance team

Image related to 5 ways to build a top ethics and compliance team

Written by Luciane Mallmann on Monday 4 September, 2023

When it comes to building strong ethics and compliance (E&C) teams, it is important to consider the overarching framework on talent acquisition and retention. 

Establishing a specific mission and vision for the function will give the team and new joiners greater clarity on what is expected of them, from a more holistic and meaningful perspective.
That will also set the tone of who you are as a team and how everyone fits into the company's overall governance structure. Once you have done so, you need to articulate this in the recruitment process, within your team and across the company. Think of it like a signature or brand for your function.

Now you have established the function’s identity, here are five ways to build a top E&C team:

1. Resources

We all know the E&C function needs an adequate budget, as well as the essential tools and technology to support an effective department and well-established team.

However, this might be a substantial challenge for E&C managers, as navigating the budget arena requires good influencing skills, patience, and knowledge of the company’s risk profile, (or at least a willingness to better understand this important area). The truth is that on occasion you will not have all the resources you need, and therefore you need a good strategy.

Taking a risk-based approach to the use of your resources, and setting different tiers of priorities, might be a good starting point. Remember to provide guidance to the team and even for yourself on how to prioritise. Communicate your approach to senior leaders and, most importantly, set expectations. Ultimately, a well-resourced E&C function reflects the organisation's culture and values, demonstrating how much it cares about doing the right thing.

2. Multi-skilled experience

To build a superstar E&C team, you need to consider and balance skills, experience, and capabilities. You might have subject matter experts in your team related to business-specific regulatory needs; however, it is key to understand how the regional and global E&C function works, and how the experts sit within this framework. You can then get more exposure for other E&C matters, as per their interests.

Ethics and Compliance is no longer a tick-box affair, and the importance of the function has grown immensely in recent years; hence, the range of skills required from compliance professionals has broadened. Nowadays, great technical skills need to be combined with excellent soft skills, such as good communication, passion for the topic, and the creativity to find innovative ways of ensuring a successful and cost-effective function.

You can build on the skills available in your E&C function by investing in the long-term development of your current team, and also by attracting external skills when needed. Nobody knows everything, and there is always space to learn more. Remember to be humble and to look out for opportunities to learn and adjust, no matter your seniority level. 

3. Collaboration and communication

The hallmark of a great E&C team is one that can build and leverage relationships with other departments, from finance, audit and legal, to risk management and HR. You need to map out relevant departments and stakeholders, understand how they are connected with the E&C function, and how you can work together to protect the business and its people.

A silo mentality is no longer an option for forward-thinking companies. Collaborating and understanding how you should communicate with your stakeholders across the business, and even within the team, makes all the difference. It should be integral to your strategy as, ultimately, people cannot read minds, so you need to ensure essential information is shared from both strategic and inclusive perspectives. This helps achieve desired outcomes and empowers your team at the same time.

Furthermore, a strong E&C team can add great value to corporate strategy and its execution which includes supplying the board and executive with current and relevant information. Remember to include your communication strategy in your governance framework. 

4. Training and upskilling 

Although perhaps obvious, it is always worth emphasising how essential ongoing training is to building and maintaining a strong E&C team. It is important to remember that you should upskill your team and allow them to expand their capabilities. You can choose to enhance, for example, your team's emotional intelligence, improve influencing skills, or even target a specific technical skill missing within the team. 

Training should cover not only the regulatory changes that affect the company, but also best practices that can improve the E&C programme. Talk to your team and welcome their suggestions on topics and training structure; it is supposed to be a collaborative and engaging exercise. Doing so will also help strengthen your requests for an adequate training budget, or even help identify free training options.

In addition, you can ask team members to deliver short sessions on a topic of their expertise or interest. This will help increase knowledge across the team and improve team members’ presentation skills. It is a win-win. 

5. Delegate and empower

Last, but not least, delegate and empower! Why? When you give your team the opportunity to work on different tasks and projects, particularly the more complex ones with exposure to other stakeholders and senior leaders, you communicate to them that you trust them and want them to develop their knowledge and experience across different matters. You are empowering them.
Take the time to understand the team’s skills, abilities and personalities, and then plan accordingly. Make the most of it in a strategic and satisfactory way for both sides. The E&C function plays a critical role in policing the rest of the company, so it is vital that they are – and are seen to be – independent and empowered. That’s what creates robust governance and culture. 

In the end, a strong and happy E&C team helps move the compliance focus away from simply preventing a company from getting into trouble, to understanding how embedding E&C into culture, strategy and operations can add value to a business and its people.

Luciane Mallmann is Head of Ethics and Compliance for UK & Ireland at JLL.