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Easing Compliance: Expanding an Ethical Culture Through Technology

Raphael Richmond, Global Director-Compliance, Ford Motor Company [NYSE: F]

In every era, from the Model T to our future with autonomous vehicles, Ford Motor Company has had the dramatic vision to make peoples’ lives better by changing the way the world moves.  

What’s also clear is that for customers to feel good about using our products today and tomorrow, they must trust our company and trust our brand. And that trust must be built on a strong foundation of ethics.

At Ford Motor Company, our brand promise is to “Go Further”— building great products, a strong business, and a better world. When it comes to ethics, we have taken that one step further and challenged all of our employees to “Go FurtherThe Right Way.”

They have responded. 

For the past seven years Ford has had the honor of being named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies by the independent Ethisphere Institute—the only automaker on the list. One of my most important jobs at Ford is to help maintain that hard-earned culture of ethics and compliance.

But with over 200,000 employees across six continents, a constantly changing global landscape, and new ethical challenges impacting our company on a seemingly daily basis, it can be a daunting challenge for our team.

And for our ethical culture to be sustainable, we must provide solutions that don’t just fix today’s problems, but anticipate tomorrow’s. 

Because compliance is not a zero-sum game, we are able to make our app available as open source material—both framework and content 

That’s why our team is constantly striving to come up with solutions to create “less-effort compliance.” 

We know that in our fast-paced world, in order to be successful as an ethical company, we must make it as easy as possible for employees to do the right thing, and as hard as possible for them to do the wrong thing.

Which is why when our team sat down to brainstorm on ways to expand “less-effort compliance” two years ago, reducing the amount of paperwork and policies our employees would need to memorize, we quickly focused on the one thing that people have with them 24 hours a day—their smartphones. And we decided to create a compliance app. 

But we also knew that in order for any app to be successful, it would have to meet four key criteria:

1) Accessible: With salaried and hourly workers around the globe, not to mention the contract and agency staffs that work with Ford every day, we knew that we would have to make getting the app as easy as possible, which meant it would have to be available on the app stores – so everything on the app would also be available to the public.

2) Short: If we’re not careful, we lawyers and compliance professionals have a tendency to value thoroughness at the expense of ease of understanding. We knew that for any app to be successful, it couldn’t include legal briefs, or endless pages of policy. It had to include bite-size information that was clear and concise.

3) Simple: We also knew that in order to be useable, the app had to be friendly, it had to be simple, and it had to have a clean user interface.

4) Focused: Finally, we knew that the app couldn’t be everything to everybody. It had to focus on the key topics that were most critical to our goal, which was maintaining our strong ethical culture around the globe. 

The end result was The Right Way app, which contains short summaries of a handful of key policies in our industry, like gifts and favors, anti-bribery material, and tips for managers. A section of frequently asked questions help bring the policies to life, and even includes helpful features like a decision tree to help determine within moments whether it’s okay to accept a favor from a supplier or dealer.

We also knew that “less-effort compliance” includes making it easy for our employees to speak up when they see something that isn’t right, which is why the app also includes the ability to easily report a suspected violation directly to my team around the globe. 

But no app is successful unless people download it and use it. We’re proud to report that we’ve had thousands of downloads from iTunes and the Android app store in our first year. We also received ratings of more than four stars in both stores.

We are now building on that success, recently translating the entire app into key local languages used by our team: German, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Thai.

Best of all, because compliance is not a zero-sum game, we are able to make our app available as open source material both framework and content—for any company or non-profit that might want to explore customizing for their employee base. 

We’re pleased to have had a strong response to our offer so far. The only thing we ask is that anyone who innovates additional features let us know, so that we can continue to enhance our user experience as well! 

But our efforts don’t stop with an app, we are also working on a variety of other projects to expand our “less-effort compliance,” including more engaging training, as well as materials that better demonstrates to employees not only direct consequences of unethical actions, but the indirect consequences. 

Our latest efforts—a video is forming the basis for new anti-bribery training upcoming for our global team.

Ford Motor Company has spent more than 100 years creating an ethical culture among its employees and building trust among its customers. We know that those two ideas are inextricably linked, and only by constantly innovating and making it easier for our employees to be ethical, can our company be successful for another 100 years. We hope that by sharing what we’ve learned, we can also help your business operate the right way.

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