Lessons from General Electric


Written by Gary Sheffer


At GE, our commitment to integrity is a core value and compliance is a part of our culture – it’s in the way we work together, the way we set standards and the way we drive our vision.  What sustains our ethical resilience is the commitment of our employees. We like to say it’s embedded into our DNA.

That’s why for the past year, we’ve been leaning on the real-life experiences of our employees to tell our compliance story. By engaging employees as storytellers we are able to hear practical examples of a compliant culture at work across various regions and industries. The approach draws upon the success we’ve had with our GE Works campaign – where employees reflect on the impact of their work – and ties in with existing compliance communications practices.

For many years, our businesses and regions have been in the practice of dedicating a full week to compliance.  These weeks are a time to spotlight important themes, in a fresh and innovative way. To help increase employee engagement and deepen understanding of key topics, compliance leaders enlist the support of employee communicators to introduce fun activities during these weeks.

In 2012, we challenged communicators to develop a program that moved away from merely offering translated corporate content, to a framework that was more organic. The solution: an employee video contest that encouraged exploration of compliance topics in a creative and compelling fashion, including a crowd-sourcing component to increase awareness and participation.

The employee video contest concept was introduced in Asia, India and Latin America.  Each region had the flexibility to shape and localize the contest for their target audiences. And while the videos were not Hollywood nor Bollywood quality, they reflected how GE employees interpret compliance.

For example, in Asia, the contest was designed to promote open compliance discussions within teams and with a manager or compliance leader.  Employees were asked to develop compliance stories that highlighted a potential policy risk based on their work environment. Managers were encouraged to participate together with their employees. The exercise emphasized the importance of reporting cases early.

Through crowd sourcing, employees from the Philippines to Taiwan, Australia to Korea, chose the best story from all submissions. Sixty percent of the employees participated in the voting. Stories with the greatest number of votes were developed into training videos.

Engaging employees as storytellers is an effective approach as it goes beyond translation, and ensures the content is locally relevant to employees no matter the country they operate.  It is about understanding the culture and reaching our employees in a way that is innovative and interactive.

There’s also a critical role for our leadership in cultivating conversations and serving as examples. It’s what they say and what they do that has the greatest influence on our employees’ commitment to knowing and following the rules.

Leadership communication and messages, within our businesses and regions, are distributed regularly to employees, highlighting the importance of compliance and emphasizing areas where we need to do more to drive the culture.  In fact, many of our leaders routinely discuss compliance topics in their blogs, at all employee events, in email messages and in newsletters.  Some participate in interactive integrity web chats to allow employees to raise questions about the integrity program.

While our compliance culture is brought to life by our people, it rests on a significant foundational resource: The Spirit & The Letter.  The Spirit refers to our values and choices, the ethics that govern our behavior around the world. The Letter covers the set of policies that define compliance and outlines how employees do “things right” by following established rules.  It’s our code of conduct — available in 31 languages — and applies to all employees.

Integrity and compliance aren’t abstract concepts at GE; they have defined and sustained us for more than 100 years.  Our leaders lead our compliance culture, compliance teams and communicators develop engaging and innovative ways to harness employee interest, and our employees tell their stories.  Everyone is empowered to be the voice of integrity and as a company, we remain committed to integrity every day.

Author bio:

Gary Sheffer is Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs, GE