10 Tips for Ethics Training


Mandy Moody, CFE
ACFE Media Manager

What is the best way to train your employees on ethics? Well, it depends. According to Bethmara Kessler, CFE, CISA, Chief Audit Executive at the Campbell Soup Company, a company’s ethics program depends entirely on the company. Kessler led a Pre-Conference Session today at the ACFE Global Fraud Conference in Baltimore about how companies can build effective ethics programs.

Employees all have different preferences on how they like to receive training. Kessler said many IT-focused companies prefer e-training that can be done on a computer without human interaction, while other companies have staff that get the most out of face-to-face training. The key is determining what those preferences are and what is best for the company.

“Training is most effective when it is taught live, by managers, and in small groups,” Kessler said. “If possible, avoid lecturing in a large auditorium or conducting training via a webcast. Ethics training requires dialogue, analysis and discussion.”

Kessler cited a helpful list from CEB on creating an effective and engaging ethics training program. It recommends the following 10 practical tips:

  1. Do not drown employees in details. Kessler said that a survey she read said that people can typically only handle hearing three main topics at a time before they begin to tune out. Executives and middle managers should remember this when conducting training and consider spacing it out.
  2. Focus training disproportionately on management. Kessler recommends having an executive-specific ethics code with unique training for those at the top.
  3. Make training interactive. Ask questions to facilitate discussion.
  4. Keep training modules short to hold employees’ attention.
  5.  Use a variety of media types (e.g., live seminars, webcasts, etc.). But, remember, webcasts should supplement training, not replace it.
  6. Use simple “dos and don’ts” lists. Be unambiguous and directive.
  7. Employ engaging gimmicks such as quizzes, games or skits.
  8. Personalize the ethics code to the company. For instance, use the company’s name and logo in the presentation.
  9. Have managers conduct the training whenever possible.
  10. Tell stories of employee misconduct that occurred at the company and how it was handled. (But be careful of slander! Only tell hypothetical stories or those that do not include names).

When creating an ethics policy and implementing an ethics program, remember there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Like Kessler said, the training depends on your company, depends on your staff anddepends on your dedication to setting aside time and resources to taking a proactive approach to preventing fraud.