In 2020, leading Saudi company stc, a Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based provider of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and digital services, embarked on a journey to elevate its culture of integrity with the launch of its new ethics and compliance program. In this three-part series, we look back over the last two years to take stock of how stc accomplished those goals. Click here to read Part 1 of this series. 

Director-level leaders also took their own half-day Ethical Leadership workshop. To ensure senior manager level leaders are visible in their commitment to integrity to their teams, the stc Corporate Ethics and Compliance (CEC) team encouraged the company’s people managers (anyone who had employees reporting to them) to engage with their teams in a session to explain the Code, the risk areas it covered and the responsibilities employees and leaders have in upholding stc’s integrity culture.

“Our day-to-day ethical employee experience is an essential contributor to our integrity culture,” says Jaleel Ghani, stc’s Ethics and Compliance General Manager. “We realize that communicating our integrity commitments merely at an organizational level is not enough. Tone in the middle is just as important as tone at the top. This is why we strive to have our managers reinforce these commitments at a team or department level whenever possible.” Jaleel added.

Keen to ensure an open dialogue between managers and their teams on the topic of ethics and integrity, stc’s Group CEO direct reports began engaging in dialogue sessions with their respective teams. Following this, people managers from those teams conducted similar sessions with their direct reports. This exercise continued down to the section manager level until dialogue sessions were organized by all people managers across the company.

To support managers in this activity, the CEC team prepared a toolkit in Arabic and English that provided talking points as well step-by-step guidance to people managers on how to conduct these sessions. Managers were encouraged to conduct the sessions in Arabic if the team members were all Arabic speakers. Doing this enabled the managers to be more comfortable in delivering the material. The CEC team remained on standby to assist these managers in answering employee questions related to the Code. After each session, managers confirmed conducting the meeting and the number of attendees through an online tracking form. This enabled the CEC team to follow up on the progress and ensure completion of sessions across the company.

“Communication around Ethics and Compliance often tends to be a one-way activity–from top to bottom,” said Mohammed Abaalkheil, stc’s Corporate Relations VP. “Yet the Manager led Code of Ethics sessions that were organized across stc gave employees a platform to interact with management and played an important role in normalizing dialogue around integrity concerns and ethical conduct. More importantly this activity helped in establishing a communication channel that encouraged everyone to ask questions and get clarity.”

During the launch year of the Ethics and Compliance program, the CEC team worked closely with the stc Academy—stc’s learning centre that devotes its efforts to developing the next generation of digital leaders in Saudi Arabia—to develop a series of in-house online Integrity courses. This collaboration resulted in the launch of the Basic Online Integrity training in October 2020 and the Advance Online Integrity training courses in November 2021.

To make the content visually appealing, these online courses are fully animated and include a number of review questions to ensure that employees understand what is being shared.

The Basic Online Integrity training is available in English and Arabic and is divided into 5 modules. The training provides a high-level overview of all the risk areas in the stc Code of Ethics. At the end of December 2020, 97% of stc employees (including the Group CEO and executive leaders) had completed the training. The training is now mandatory for all new employees who join the Company.

The Advanced Online Integrity training was launched in November 2021 and offers more comprehensive training on the risks that employees may encounter. It consists of 21 course modules that are assigned to employees based on their job profile and the level of risk they are exposed to.

To complement online training, the Company organizes live training sessions for employees and leaders on anti-corruption and gifts and hospitality, conflict of Interests, and other relevant risk topics.

The sessions on anti-corruption and gifts and hospitality were necessary, as stc revised its Gifts and Hospitality policy in 2021. The policy placed strict rules and limits on what employees could give and receive as gifts and hospitality. This was new for employees, not just from a policy perspective but from a culture perspective as well. Saudi Arabia is a place where hospitality and gift-giving are innate parts of the culture. People are very hospitable and will go above and beyond to look after their guests, so it is customary to exchange gifts.

Keeping all this in mind, the CEC team understood that cultivating an ethical mindset among employees around gifts and hospitality and ensuring the culture shift remains sustainable would not be easy. The team developed the communication and training around this topic to address the reasons why the policy existed and why the company required employees to comply with it. As part of the policy, stc employees and their family members are not allowed to accept gifts or hospitality from stc suppliers or prospective suppliers.

While this is covered in all training given to employees, externally, stc organizes awareness sessions with its suppliers to familiarize them with stc’s Code of Ethics, Supplier Code of Conduct, and Zero Supplier Gift policy.

All new employees are required to attend a live onboarding session that introduces them to stc’s commitment to Integrity.

The CEC team is also collaborating with the stc Academy to develop a training program for employees who have been selected as new leaders and people managers. The training includes cases and scenarios related to ethical decision making, integrity culture, and building a strong ethical climate among teams, so that employees know what behaviors to exhibit and actively do the right thing.

“The objective of our learning and development programs at stc Academy, is to support the ethical cultural transformation process, enabling employees to make ethical decisions considering the impact of their actions on themselves, the organization and all stakeholders.” says Dr. Mudhi Aljamea, VP and stc Academy Dean.

Click here for Part 3 of this series.