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. We are a company of about 50 people. The job of making sure the office is meeting its “back to work” compliance requirements (PPE available, elevator instructions, use of common areas, masks, etc.) has fallen to me. The city and federal guidance isn’t great, so I’m making some “common sense” rules on my own. Ultimately the CEO is going to sign off on whatever I advise, but I feel a huge burden of responsibility that perhaps shouldn’t be on my shoulders (I am no medical expert; I’m a lawyer!). How do I push back on this without it appearing I’m trying to get this off my plate?Rita

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Amii: You’re not alone in having “Chief Public Health Officer” added to your job title—one of my CEO clients relayed the same situation to me this past week. The reality is: business needs change. We all need to pitch in, and by the nature of your role, you are likely seen as someone who understands the importance of establishing and following guidelines. Try and think of it as your company viewing you as a value-add they can depend on for critical procedures.

Larger companies have formed pandemic committees to jointly problem solve and come up with recommendations. With 50 employees, I appreciate you probably don’t have that option so, unless there is another willing to lead on this issue (like HR), I’d recommend the following:

  • Get expertise: Contract an expert consultant to provide recommendations and be on call.
  • Broaden your perspective: Reach out to your industry/local business network to benchmark what others are doing.
  • Don’t go it alone: Partner with your internal HR, facilities, and other allies, and enlist a smart, respected employee to represent the employee perspective.

I would not recommend completely refusing the task. As the company lawyer, you will want to be involved in these decisions that could lead to risk down the road. From a relationship perspective with your boss, take it as a compliment the CEO is turning to you for help and reframe this as an opportunity to shine when your company urgently needs your leadership.

Q. Contact tracing … why have there been no apps created for this yet in the States? One of the policies for us getting back to work in large numbers at our office (before a vaccine) is tied to the widespread availability of contact tracing apps. Do you have any insight on why these are not available yet on a widespread basis?Anonymous

Amii: Contact tracing apps are spreading quickly throughout the world but, as of this writing, the United States is not implementing a nationwide system. Instead, states and cities are developing their own applications.

To help standardize these efforts, Apple and Google announced a specification that utilizes Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus. Alabama, North Dakota, South Dakota, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia are already developing contact tracing applications, with more states sure to join.

In addition, there are some apps being developed for employers. Before adopting a contact tracing app to help employees return to work, a business would need an extensive review of both the product and company procedures to ensure employee data and privacy are protected and that laws such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) are not violated. 

Q. What are some good ways to “market” or promote the compliance function if my organization doesn’t already recognize the need and value of a strong compliance program?Anonymous

Amii: It’s challenging to get much accomplished if your company doesn’t recognize the need and value of a strong compliance program. Though no one would ever wish for a scandal or crisis, it can in some organizations, unfortunately, be challenging to galvanize support until it happens.

To promote and increase visibility for compliance, paint a picture and make risk come to life for your organization. Use real examples in your marketplace demonstrating the value to the company of effectively managing threats to achievement of business goals, shareholder value, company morale, and loss of competitive edge. Recent news headlines make for engaging conversation—draw their attention to the soap opera-worthy imbroglios at Wells Fargo, Boeing, Goldman Sachs, and WeWork. The more you can tie risk management to achievement of strategic objectives, the more likely you are to get deserved attention. Try to enlist other executive sponsors for compliance and ethics, so you are not going it alone.

Q. I recently moved from a private law firm practice to the compliance profession; how do I get a world-class job in this field? Taking ICA FCC course. Your advice is highly appreciated.Richard

Amii: Congratulations on making the shift to compliance! Your postgraduate compliance education is a great start. I also recommend getting involved with the professional compliance community to build your network (SCCE, ECI, ICA and, of course, Compliance Week, to name a few). You’ll be delighted to discover that compliance and ethics professionals are a generous and insightful community, very willing to help colleagues. Reach out, connect, and get involved. Now is a good time, when people are not traveling and are seeking meaningful connection. Build personal relationships and grow your network through LinkedIn and other platforms. Ask for a brief call and offer to be helpful.

To aim for a top job, you need to make sure you are up-to-date on your geographic jurisdiction along with any specific laws and regulations pertinent to your industry. Create a continuing self-study program for yourself: Learn the best practices frameworks. There are several good “compliance 101” resources out there—Compliance Week, SCCE ICA, and ECI have published books, white papers, and Webinars, and most sponsor compliance certifications. These are excellent ways to get up-to-speed quickly on multiple topics and personally connect with compliance experts in your industry. In addition, some universities offer graduate compliance courses for specific industries, such as healthcare. Good luck!