11 Compliance Questions with Caveni Wong

I sat down with Caveni Wong, founder and principal at Principle Compliance - a business providing consulting to companies that need help developing and managing effective compliance programs. 

Caveni was born in Hong Kong, lived in California and New York, and now calls Charlotte, North Carolina home. She has extensive background in change management and compliance consulting, having worked for Ernst & Young and IBM, and having graduated with her MBA from Duke University. 

Because of Caveni's amazing background and passion for great compliance programs, we wanted to get her thoughts on how to create effective compliance and training. Without further ado, here is our interview with Caveni Wong:

IHO: Why did you choose to get into compliance?

Caveni: After working at IBM for a few years, I longed for a career that felt more meaningful. I didn’t even know that ethics and compliance existed as a career path until a recruiter at LRN contacted me. Working in ethics and compliance makes me feel that I’m helping to make the world a better place.

IHO: What is Principle Compliance and how do you help companies foster ethical cultures?

Caveni: I’m answering this question backwards. An ethical corporate culture starts with a set of core values that is meaningful for the company, clearly articulated and reinforced by executives, and internalized by employees at all levels. This doesn’t happen magically but requires all the elements of an effective compliance program to pull off. An ethical corporate culture is the result of a long-term process and doesn’t happen overnight.

Principle Compliance helps companies along this process, adjusting the approach based on their starting points. We may start by gathering information from employees about the current culture, identifying areas of weakness, followed by revising policies where needed, implementing communication and training to reinforce the values at every level, and detecting/responding to instances of non-compliance. We may help with the whole process, or just a piece of it.

IHO: Walk me through your general approach to building an effective compliance program.

Caveni: Oops, I think I just answered this question! But I’ll add another comment. Making friends with business leaders, understanding their business and actively seeking their feedback is crucial in building an effective compliance program. Not only does this make the program stronger, it also strengthens support across the organization.

IHO: Why is it important for corporate counsel and compliance professionals to train employees on legal issues?

Caveni: Employees need to know what the right thing to do is, whatever their function or position in the company. This is accomplished through training and communication. I add communication because whereas training is a periodic event, consistent and timely communication reinforces that training and helps employees internalize the concepts. And I’d expand the training curriculum to include ethical values in addition to legal issues.

IHO: If you had to list the top three most important topics for companies to focus on for employee training, what would they be and why?

Caveni:

1. Company Core Values – once employees internalize the core values and live by them, a lot of compliance issues would go away.

2. Code of Conduct – the Code should reinforce the core values and set standards of behavior in key ethics and compliance concepts. Making sure that employees understand and abide by these standards is the foundation of an ethical culture.

3. Ethical Leadership for Managers – first-line managers are the ones employees turn to when they have questions, complaints, or doubts about a course of action. Managers need to exemplify the core values of the company and learn to guide employees in doing the same.

IHO: There's so much information on compliance. How do you know what information to present during training and what to ignore?

Caveni: When the students’ eyes start to glaze over, it’s time to stop presenting. I’m only half-kidding, because you know that really happens, a lot.

Before deciding on how much information to include, we need to understand the audience and their jobs. Then include only the key points that are relevant to them while getting the message across. Make sure to deliver the training in an engaging way, whether in-person or online.

Compliance and legal professionals get so excited about a topic that we want to tell people everything we know. But if we do that, we’d end up losing everyone.

IHO: What's the 1 tool you can't live without for compliance training?

Caveni: For live training, a good projector that doesn’t turn everything green or upside down. Trust me, it’s happened. A comfortable room. Also, a bit of pre-work to build rapport with the audience before training starts. I cheated and listed 3 things, but these are really important!

IHO: Walk me through the step-by-step process you use to prepare for a training presentation

Caveni: I use a 10-step process:

1. Determine objectives, format and length of training

2. Identify audience

3. Draft rough outline of training topics

4. Separately, start brainstorming on ways to make the presentation interactive

5. Identify real life scenarios that illustrate the topic at hand

6. Fill in the outline with training content, working in scenarios and interactive portions

7. Review draft and replace text with more creative ways to present the information

8. Go through the presentation again and “beautify” with graphics/sound/animation wherever possible

9. Test presentation with key stakeholders

10. Incorporate feedback, review obsessively 10 more times, and get the show on the road!

IHO: What are some successful presentation tactics for engaging your audience?

Caveni: Make it real by discussing actual situations that the company has experienced – even better if someone with authority and experience with the situation can talk about it. This gives the training a lot of credibility. Then give the audience the opportunity to discuss and practice what they’ve learned.

IHO: What are some time-saving tips for busy attorneys and compliance professionals preparing for training presentations?

Caveni: Less is more. Don’t worry about putting all the content you want the audience to learn on the slide. The presentation should only prompt the big ideas and the audience should focus on what you say instead of what’s on the screen. Jot down bullet points for speaker notes, not entire scripts. Anyone giving a training presentation should know the subject well enough to speak about it without having to read a full script. Make friends with company resources (e.g. in corporate communications) who can beautify the presentation for you – unless you’re a whiz in that department.

IHO: If your friend, who just took a job as corporate counsel or compliance professional, called you to ask for advice on training their company's employees, and you only had a few minutes to give them your best tip, what would you say?

Caveni: Get to know the audience before you even plan the training by speaking with key representatives, then incorporate what you learn in the training. During training, credit those individuals for giving you invaluable insight. This would help build your credibility and establish why they should listen to you in the first place.

Thanks for the great interview, Caveni!

Click here to get in touch with Caveni to talk about your compliance program!