Emerging risks on unethical behavior across business cycles require innovative approaches to create awareness on expected behavior, besides internal policies and controls. The Game-Based Ethics Engagement Approach (GEEA) is a measure which helps in engaging participants/stakeholders in influencing them by either acting as a deterrent or by encouraging them to blow the whistle. The following post examines the key nuances associated with GEEA.

Evolving regulations and dynamic business environments have a multitude of risks across the business cycle. Some of these risks are associated with unethical or deviation from the accepted behavior of an employee, director, supply-chain partner, contractor, business associate or investor. Research states that a majority of these unethical behaviors and practices are committed by first-time offenders. As per the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ (ACFE’s) ‘Report to the Nations – 2016’, from a study conducted by them, only 5% of the perpetrators were convicted of a prior fraud-related offense.

A business’s approach to mitigating risks are ever-evolving. There will be awareness measures that would act as a deterrent to the identified behavior or an enabler for whistleblowing. Traditionally, these awareness programmes were done through training and emailers. However, in the recent years, the adoption of digital communication modes like videos, infographics, and posters have become an essential mode of creating awareness like the ones adopted by General Electric (GE).

Why game-based ethics engagement?

At times, the current awareness methods are not effective and engagement with the stakeholders are limited. Furthermore, the current approaches are also overwhelmed with challenges in developing business scenario-specific guidelines.

In this context, games could be a better alternative to spread ethics awareness. Using games to create awareness engages stakeholders, enables the core principles to impact thoroughly and prepares stakeholders by role-playing true-to-life business scenarios. A Study conducted in 2015 predicted the market for Gamification in the corporate world to rise from $1707 Billion to $5500 Billion by 2018, showing the exponential need and growth of games as a mode of communication.

Broader approaches for games-based ethics engagements

The approaches towards game-based ethics engagements could be classified based on the types of channels, namely, digital and personal. A digital channel includes quizzes, memory/mind games and flashcards for quick information—all shared digitally with the stakeholders. This can also be developed as micro-learning/micro-engagement models keeping in mind the shorter attention span of today’s generation. The personal channel engages people through a workshop which could consist of physical games (tug of war, puzzles), visual games (quizzes/interactive games) and audio-visual games (videos, plays, etc).

These approaches help engage with stakeholders on ethics, reinforce the principles via games, effectively communicate the tone at the top and Middle-level management and gather insights on local business complexities in adopting compliance based on workshop learnings and observations.

One of the key approaches to develop a more impactful ethics culture in the organization is to develop layers of ethics champions within the company across different locations/departments. Leaderboards help identify the interests of the participants, recognize participants across the organization channel and involve them in the process of creating an influential culture. Besides Only using games, companies should consider making these activities competitive by including leader boards to motivate the stakeholders in engaging in ethics awareness.

Best practices

Essential consideration while using games for awareness

There are four key considerations that are essential while using games for ethics awareness. They are:

  • Contextual theme: The theme (ethics, leadership, harassment, etc.) should be contextual and shall contain specific scenarios that are relevant to the business environment.
  • Relatable content: The ideas and content, along with the relevant props, should be relatable to the business context for the people who are involved in the games.
  • Relevant stakeholders: The participants should be a relevant set of people whose role contains many opportunities for unethical behavior and/or whose role contains many opportunities to observe such unethical behaviors.
  • Effective delivery: The approach, presentation, and manner in which the games are conducted are critical for the effective delivery of the ethics message.

Pre-requisites for using games in ethics awareness

  • Creation of the games requires a lot of planning and many times involves utilizing resources across departments.
  • Needs involvement of senior management on an ongoing basis to support in executing this activity or to deliberate on the outcomes from such games.

The outcomes from the games or the impact that it had on awareness are intangible and not always measurable (for instance, the awareness will not necessarily result in more whistle-blowing).

In conclusion, game-based ethics engagements could become an essential part of ethics communication channels and can effectively complement existing channels of communication. This would enable innovative approaches towards handling ethics in the organization and will encourage stakeholders to deliberate and debate on the ethics issues on an ongoing basis.

About SKP Group

SKP is a long established and rapidly growing professional services group located in seven major cities across India. We specialise in providing sound business and tax guidance and accounting services to international companies that are currently conducting or initiating business in India as well as those expanding overseas. We serve over 1,200 clients including multinationals, companies listed on exchanges, privately held and family-owned businesses from over 45 countries. Read more here.