Executive coach and former Chief Compliance Officer Amii Barnard-Bahn responds to your anonymous questions on some of the grayer areas compliance officers face, such as culture, hiring, training, and ethics. Click here to submit your own for inclusion in our next edition.
Q: I work for a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) that provides Customer Service Call Center support to an American online travel agency. The client has several loopholes and ambiguity in their processes, policies, and IT security. This has resulted in many of the call center employees abusing these loopholes and committing fraud.
These frauds don’t come to light immediately. By the time we discover the frauds, the fraudsters have already made a run with their money.
Although we’ve communicated recommendations on how exactly we can plug the process gaps to minimize frauds, our client has rejected ALL of those recommendations by saying that such options aren’t workable. So the call center ends up paying the client a lot of money every time there’s a fraud done by a call center employee.
What can the call center do to minimize frauds (besides educating employees and creating awareness) when the client is so uncooperative?
Amii: It sounds like you are experiencing multiple problems:
- Your call center employees are stealing from your client;
- Your employees leave your employ before you catch them;
- You reimburse your client for your departed employees’ frauds; and
- You have identified and given your client fraud mitigation strategies and compliance gap solutions, but they have rejected implementing these.
Two big questions for you. The first is regarding your employees: Have you thoroughly examined why your employees would steal from your client? For example, does your company pay competitively, have healthy working conditions, and treat workers with respect? For this to be a repeat pattern, employee engagement and trust must be quite low and should be evaluated.
My second question: Why hasn’t your client terminated the client relationship? And then I have to wonder, why haven’t you terminated the relationship? If you can’t control theft on your side, and your client refuses to make the changes that you believe will mitigate the risk, is it worth your company’s reputation to keep this client? (It can’t be a competitive advantage to populate your client site with unethical employees). Based on what you’ve shared, your company is regularly writing off a part of its profit for fraud reimbursement. This just doesn’t seem like a sustainable business model.
Your situation exemplifies the risk inherent in a BPO model. BPO is not for everyone. You can’t directly control your client; you can only make compliance recommendations or try to negotiate them as a precondition in your contract. As you know, you are ultimately responsible for your employees’ actions. Compliance Week periodically hosts a Third Party Risk Management and Oversight conference and also has excellent third-party risk resources online that might aid you.
Q: What are some signs it’s time to leave your job? I’m not UNhappy where I am, but I feel like I’m always pushing against a wall that won’t budge. My compliance budget is never what I request, it’s difficult to get a “seat at the table” unless leadership needs to be updated on something I am working on. I make good money, but I don’t feel like I am making a difference. Is there a litmus test you use?
Amii: My top three signs it’s time to consider leaving your job:
- Your health or personal life is suffering.
- Your personal ethics and values are at risk.
- Your learning, growth, and personal satisfaction have flat-lined.
If you are experiencing one of the first two scenarios, the situation would be urgent. More likely is the third, in which case timing is everything.
Sometimes it makes sense to leave. If you’ve been in your role three to five years and your growth or access to challenging work is declining, it may be time to consider a change. Lateral moves are often required to move up later in your career. Sometimes even taking a temporary step backwards to pick up an important skill may be required for long-term advancement.
Have an honest and open career discussion with your boss regarding next steps. If advancement is not possible at your company (e.g. if you have “topped out,” or your boss isn’t going anywhere soon, or your company is experiencing a downturn in its business), you may need to decide whether to hold in place or make an external leap.
Sometimes it makes sense to stay. You may be getting the experience you need at this time in your career. Or your current role may be allowing you to focus on other important priorities in your life. Or perhaps you love your organization and are biding your time to see if a promotion is in the cards. The value of a steady paycheck is a factor to consider: Can you quit tomorrow and be financially solid for about a year? It’s true that it’s easier to get a new job while currently employed, so the prudent course is to strategically map out your career strategy while continuing employment.
Regardless of the reason, consciously “waiting it out” is a respectable strategy—if you know what you are waiting for. Set a timeline on how long you are willing to stay that feels comfortable to you and keep learning during this time. Use this time to identify what is missing from your current job. You may want to start a “soft” job search to learn what is out there and gauge how happy you are. It never hurts to test the waters, and you can also validate that your skills are current.
And try this visioning exercise (it works!): Jump ahead into the future one year. You have the perfect job, and you’re coming up on your one-year anniversary. Write a brief journal entry that describes, with specific detail, the type of company you’re working at, the type of people you’re working with, what you do in an average day, what you’re learning, and what your challenges are. This visualization is proven to help manifest the job you’re looking for. It will help you firm up your “ideal job avatar” for your future job search. Best of luck!
Q: I’ve been stuck in the same position for five years. I’m very strategic about how I plan things on a daily/monthly/yearly basis for my job. … How can I do the same thing for my career?
Amii: Your instinct is right: You can apply those same strategic skills you use in your daily work to your career.
It sounds like you are ready to design a strategic roadmap for your career, either in your current company or a different one. Approach your career like you would any project. Decide on the ultimate outcome you want (Greater responsibility? Switching to a different industry? Specialization?) and block regular time on your schedule to work on this. Break it down into concrete goals and milestones, with a timeline.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Start by assessing your “as-is.” What do you like about your job? What are you skilled at? How do others describe you—your gifts when you’re in flow, at your best, and the behaviors and beliefs that hold you back from achieving your full potential? When you feel “stuck,” what exactly is happening?
- Then think about where you want to be. What do you seek in a new role? What attracts you? What do you look forward to learning? What attributes of your current role do you want to keep?
- Once you’ve mapped out the gap between where you are and where you want to be, begin researching and thinking about roles that interest you. Talk to other professionals in those roles. Find out if you are qualified. Do you need to gain knowledge, skills, or experience through classes, on the job training (like stretch assignments or corporate initiatives), or professional association involvement?
- Discreetly explore inside and outside your company to educate yourself on options. And if you haven’t already, begin cultivating a strong network—before you need it.
In closing, this type of work is where an executive coach would be helpful. I will be launching a free career assessment tool in January that may be useful to you as well. Best of luck.