Safeguarding Against the Undercurrent of Volatility
About This Episode
Increased regulation, emerging technology, climate change, worker protections, the ongoing-pandemic – these are just the beginning of risks and threats organizations will have to react to and safeguard against in 2021 and the years to come. Skillsoft VP of Compliance Products, Norm Ford, joins host Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek to build upon the predictions he set for 2021 and share insight into how organizations can foster workplace cultures that are safe, ethical, and better prepared to do the right thing in times of volatility.
The views expressed by guests are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Skillsoft.
Michelle BB00:00:07 Welcome learners and leaders alike to the edge, a Skillsoft podcast, where we engage in candid thought provoking conversations on the topics of learning and growth in the workplace. You know, we are only a couple of weeks into this new year and already, um, you know, 2021 has revealed to us a number of risks, challenges, and, and frankly, an undercurrent of volatility that I think we feel viscerally not just here in the United States, but certainly around the world. Now I do believe that much of that stems from the COVID-19 pandemic, which, which threatens unfortunately, to become more deadly in the coming weeks and potentially months. Uh, but I do think there's hope, right? The speed with which scientists have developed a vaccine and the current rollout, I think gives us cause for optimism. But in light of all that is happening in our world. I wanted to use this particular podcast to touch on what is a very timely and relevant topic.
Michelle BB00:01:06 And I promise you, it won't be boring, but we're going to talk about risks compliance. And very importantly, we're going to discuss the knowledge that people must develop to foster workplace cultures that are safe, ethical, and prepared to do the right thing. Especially in times of heightened volatility, no matter your industry or profession, there is a good chance that your organization has a team in place whose mission it is to protect your organization, its people and its customers from a world of threats, both inside the organization and out now they don't exist to tell us what we can't do. I think that's something that's probably a misperception, their mission doesn't center on rules and consequences. They are there in fact, to protect us and to empower every team member within our organizations, with the process controls and importantly, the knowledge that enables people to safeguard their companies against threats.
Michelle BB 00:02:09 Now these threats include things like cybersecurity, data privacy, but also workplace harassment and other ever present dangers of behavior that can take place in an organization that can affect its people and its customers and put them in harm's way. And in 2021, these risks are going to go grow increasingly more complex as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to transform how we live, how we work and how we learn, but I am hopeful and I am confident that across this globe, we are up for the challenge. And I feel this way because in my own organization, we are fortunate enough to have a norm Ford and norm is the head of our compliance VP of product for compliance. He is vigilant, he has experienced, and he's a wonderful person. So norm is returning to our podcast today to PIL, to build upon the predictions for 2021 that he shared with our listeners back in December norm, welcome to the edge.
Norm 00:03:10 Thanks, Michelle. That was very kind. Uh, so let me just, uh, start by just reminding everybody who I am and just giving you a brief introduction. Uh, I'm norm Ford I'm Skillsoft's VP of compliance products. I have over three decades in compliance in both the U S government and commercial sectors. I was actually a co-founder of one of the first online, uh, compliance training companies go train.net, um, and compliance to me is really important. Um, and the reason why is because I guess I started off in, uh, in the, in the ILT world, uh, actually delivering training to people live and it goes back to realizing that compliance is about the safety and health of workers and their families and making sure that people are aware of their rights and what to do to ensure that those rights are protected and also to help organizations manage risks. So all of those things are extraordinarily important to me and, and it's kind of the touchstone by which I, I go through my, you know, my life as a, as a company.
Michelle BB 00:04:16 Well, well thank you norm. And for those who don't know, um, I mentioned this before, but norm was a guest on our recent podcast series about Skillsoft's predictions for 2021. And in that session that we did, it was, it was a short one, but you shared your outlook for the risk compliance and safety issues that organizations are going to face. And you brought to life a range of challenges that organizations are or could be facing in the months and years ahead. And I think it'd be good because there are probably some folks here who haven't yet heard your predictions, although I do encourage you to go back and do so why don't you tell us a little bit about your outlook, maybe, maybe focusing on the top three to five themes. Yeah,
Norm00:04:56 Sure. So I guess, you know, if I, if I bring all these things, uh, to a boil and distill it down to what I think the big risk is, it's definitely going to be changed in volatility. And there's a number of factors, uh, that are going to impact change and volatility, but really it's, it's addressing change and volatility employers are going to need to cope with uncertainty and rapid shifts in nearly every aspect of business preparedness and risk management will become very important. And in order to deal with those things, companies are going to have to have better data and analytics in order to, uh, organizations to meet these challenges. So what's going to drive change in volatility. What are the big, what are the big risk factors? Um, just really at a high level things like, uh, an active regulatory environment. We, you know, with the change of administration, I definitely anticipate that there's going to be a much more, much more regulations in 2021, as well as regulations and laws globally that are going to impact global employers and US-based employers, emerging technology is going to be a big issue.
Norm 00:06:05 Climate change. It's been with us for a while. It's, it's going to be even more prominent in 2021. As you mentioned, Michelle, the ongoing pandemic in our efforts to return to some sort of normalcy. We're not out of the woods yet. Uh, but you know, I think it's going to be, um, uh, hopefully things will start to get better in March, April, but we're, we're going to be trying to return to normal throughout 2021. And we'll, you know, I'll talk more about that in a second. Um, and then domestic politics and geopolitical futures are, are going to drive a lot of this change and volatility. Things are going to happen that we can't predict the we've got to be ready to respond to. And then all of these things really, uh, you know, impact challenges to our supply chain, which definitely impacts businesses, um, but can impact us as individuals as well.
Norm00:06:57 So what I want to do is really, um, hone in on about three or four of these items, uh, because they really they're really going to impact, um, you know, companies that we worked with and compliance in general. So the first one, um, an active regulatory environment, we are seeing an, I anticipate we're going to see more privacy regulation, privacy laws. I think most folks are familiar with GDPR and some of the, uh, the privacy laws that have been enacting United States. And in fact, California and November of last year enacted, uh, the California privacy rights act, uh, which will, uh, come into play, um, later, uh, this year and early next year. Uh, so I just paid seeing more and more of these privacy laws that are gonna impact business. And it definitely, definitely it's something that's, that's going to be fairly easy to pass because, uh, consumers are much more aware of privacy than they've ever been in the past.
Norm00:07:55 And I think, um, you know, it's not, it's not something that, uh, is, uh, is a party based issue. Uh, so I think that, uh, I, I think that we're definitely gonna see more privacy laws worker protections for sure. Um, and I'll get into more details on that, but basically I think the incoming administration is going to focus on, uh, temporary standards, actually regulations dealing with worker protection as a result of COVID 19, you're going to see Mo more on the enforcement ends, uh, from the Biden administration, as opposed to deregulation from the Trump administration, um, work on future standards, including things like heat, stress, workplace violence is going to be very significant. We really don't have a comprehensive anti-bullying law in the United States, which I think is surprising for a lot of folks given that, you know, in places like the UK, they have an anti-bullying, uh, regulation law, but I expect to see a lot of discussion and perhaps new laws and regulations around workplace violence and anti-bullying, and then organizations, uh, focused on improving, leading and lagging metrics.
Norm00:09:06 And these are primarily have to do with safety. Uh, so analytics, data, uh, data and analytics become really important. Just a couple of other high points to look out for in the coming year. Um, in executive order on combating race and sex stereotyping, uh, pregnant workers, fairness act, and I fully expect, uh, uh, uh, president elect Biden to put in place. Once he takes office a proactive requirement for federal contractors, uh, to require diversity inclusion or implicit bias training and programs for their employees. So, uh, under worker protections, uh, a big healthy legislative agenda there, then moving on, uh, emerging technology, it's going to be quite interesting because a lot of these things are in place. I think companies are trying to make a decision as to how much to buy into these things. Things like, uh, AI, robotics, blockchain, these are things that impact companies operationally strategically.
Norm 00:10:11 And from a security standpoint, they're trying to make a decision of, of how to implement these technologies. What's the cost, what's the risk? Are there regulatory risks behind implementing these technologies in terms of, you know, if I have an AI and robotics, uh, structure infrastructure in my organization, you know, is that going to bring on new regulatory oversight? So there's a lot of decisions to be made. Competitors are making those decisions. And so organizations are going to be, feel, feel very pressured into, you know, either deciding to go with these things or not. And one thing that's interesting now talk about these emerging technologies. One thing that popped up quite recently is Apple's, uh, uh, privacy change, which, you know, it was kind of an emergency or emerging technology change. I'm not sure if you're familiar with this one, but, um, Apple recently decided to make, uh, the privacy option that was previously buried deep within the user's phone and put it front and center when they open an app that has the normous implications on, on privacy. That little technological change has enormous implications on privacy and, and potentially the bottom line for a lot of companies that rely on advertising and data gathering from that platform. So companies like Facebook, for example, uh, you know, if a customer for user opts out, uh, of, of, you know, data collection that can be devastating for a business model that relies on the collection of that data to determine the value of their advertising
Michelle BB 00:11:43 And an Apple in doing so, made that much easier, right. By putting it front and center
Norm 00:11:48 Exactly made it much easier for users to do that. The thought being is more and more users will do that, and that will dramatically impact, um, you know, the business operations of those companies. So those are, those are some of the kinds of things that, you know, are really changing, uh, the risk profiles of some companies, uh, that have to do climate change.
Norm00:12:08 It's been a crazy year last year for climate. I mean, we've seen flaw fires in Australia, the Amazon, the West coast, uh, floods, more storms than ever before. And you, you can imagine the impact on, on, uh, you know, business when we have an increase in those things, agriculture, that's pretty obvious, uh, the food supply chain infrastructure, things like communication, the power grid, you know, when some of these fires happened in the West, it actually caused power outages in the West. And that can be significant for business operations, human health, and productivity, you know, an increase in disease, transmission, and temperature extremes outside workers having to work in temperature, extremes, um, business and financial. So things like, you know, damage factories, supply chain impacts, droughts, making resources, more expensive price uncertainties on, on, on, you know, commodities and, and, and, and basic, uh, products that organizations need to operate straight, even stranded assets or, um, you know, one, one term that's a lot of people may not be familiar with.
Norm 00:13:20 This is I'm not just branded assets, but obsolete, uh, products. So in, in fossil fuel industries where, uh, organizations or, or, or, or companies that are building machinery for the fossil fuel industry, they may not have a market to supply to assets that are, uh, in newly designated flood areas or that service some of those fossil industries, uh, you know, some of those assets may be stranded. In other words, they may be, they may be Val valued, worthless, uh, as these things happen. Uh, and then, you know, things like carbon pricing could get adversely affect, uh, business profitability. And then, uh, you know, the big one obviously is, um, the last one I want to really emphasize and, and, um, and, and get into some detail on is, is the ongoing pandemic and, and our, our, um, our recovery from that pandemic. And what we've learned through studies that we've conducted Skillsoft is conducted.
Norm 00:14:25 And other studies is that, um, from people working at home from employees, working at home, in many cases, the cost of the company has actually gone down from, you know, employees working from home for various reasons. And worker productivity has actually increased workers feel that they actually are doing more by working from home now, whether or not that's going to be sustainable remains to be seen, but that's, you know, in fact that's what we're in this environment. There's a lot of workers that are anxious to get back into the workplace. Um, many workers have adjusted from, uh, from working from home and, and a lot of workers are actually finding it preferable. So they've overcome that initial, you know, how do I manage this with my day-to-day life? And they've, they've overcome those obstacles. And they finally found a work around. So they're finding it quite nice to work at home.
Norm00:15:14 Sometimes I think what we're likely to see though is kind of a hybrid approach with a lot of companies, um, meaning that, uh, instead of the expectation of five days in the office, maybe there's going to be three, two or one day in the office, and we're going to see more shared spaces. So maybe not a designated sitting area. Um, maybe you share, uh, your workplace, uh, with another, uh, with another employee when they're not there. Um, and it's still more, I think more workers are going to go completely remote. I think, uh, I think we'll have a hybrid approach, but I think, I think there are some workers that will definitely be more effective and more job places, uh, working remote completely.
Michelle BB00:15:56 And then normally ask you a question about that. I just wanna expand on that for just a moment, because certainly we're talking about the people who can, who have the ability to work remotely, but for those who, um, have to go to an office or a manufacturing floor or out in the field, I would imagine as well, that for companies there are now new protocols and new requirements that they need to follow in order to keep these people to keep their workers safe.
Norm 00:16:22 Absolutely. And I think, you know, workers are going to demand that, right? Um, the government is, we talked about, you know, with the incoming Biden administration, really focused on that, uh, and really they're really going to codify it is what it's going to come down to and, um, and workers are gonna demand it. So the, these COVID protocols that we're now seeing, uh, you know, in retail environment and some manufacturing environment will become more long lasting. Uh, because unfortunately, I don't think this is the last pandemic that we'll see hopefully the last one for a long time, but it certainly won't be the last pandemic that we see. So yeah, so employers are going to have to really adapt their policies, uh, and support the remote workers. And one thing I want to mention, um, really is this is, this is actually quite interesting because, and I think you touched on this earlier, Michelle, it's going to be interesting, uh, to see what happens, uh, during the course of this year and the years afterwards, there's been a significant migration of workers out of the densely populated urban areas.
Norm 00:17:25 And so the question we have to ask is how is migration and the increase in remote workers impact us, us as, uh, as a country and as a culture, um, will business now have access to a broader talent pool workers in theory could, uh, could work from anywhere in the country. You know, even in a farmhouse in rural Kansas, you know, theoretically, a worker could support a company in New York city will the cultural, economic, and social divide that exists between rural and urban America that existed pre pandemic be lessened permanently by this shift. I mean, these are all big questions and these are all seismic questions, but, you know, it's interesting, you know, you think about we're witnessing these things now and is this, is this the beginning of something, uh, really significant drastically new yours is a temporary thing. I think it's, I think it's more the former, I think it's, it's the beginning of something significant
Michelle BB00:18:17 You seismic. I agree with you. I think, I think we are, you know, right now we are still dealing with a lot of tactical day to day. When do I win, or if do I open an office back up based on, um, um, the community transmission spread rates, but still, you know, as companies grapple with, um, whether or not to open an office, I think they have to be thinking even bigger about what does that new office look like. And when I separate work and work place, what does that mean? And what do I have to do with real estate? I think there's so many bigger items that organizations are going to have to grapple with as a result. And, you know, one of the things that I think you and I spoke about before that I want to touch on, you know, the pandemic has been a catalyst for a number of changes, right?
Michelle BB00:19:04 A lot of the things that you talked about already were we're driven by this work from home, um, in part, not all, but some but one thing that I think surprised me and shocked me norm when you and I spoke is that, um, we're dealing now with a different kind of, you've touched on workplace violence, but we're dealing with different kinds of workplace harassment. Then we were, when we were in the office office. And in some cases it's a little bit more insidious and organizations now have to deal with harassment taking place on these digital platforms and the, you know, the data privacy that goes along with that. And so, so can you touch a little bit on how these risks are evolving and heightening in this, um, in this remote world we live in? Yeah, absolutely.
Norm00:19:55 So as you recall, we did, uh, I mentioned that we did a survey of, I think over a hundred, uh, risk managers, compliance officers over 140 of the, of these folks, uh, in, in, uh, in conjunction with compliance week. And what that survey found was a 22% increase in inappropriate communications or conduct on messaging platforms and video meeting applications. So things like, you know, Slack and teams for, for messaging and, and zoom WebEx, for example, for, uh, these, uh, applications, these video meeting applications. And definitely there are concerns with inclusion, you know, gender-based harassment, racial tension, I think are really further aggregated by social distancing. The fact that we're not face-to-face with people. And, uh, I think that just, you know, from a, from a social standpoint, that that can embolden speech, uh, and, and it, it really is about, um, becoming, uh, you know, less formal, uh, because, you know, you're in your, you're in your bedroom, you're in your living room, you're in your dining room, something familiar with you.
Norm00:21:06 Um, and, and you tend to be less formal than if you were face-to-face with someone in an office setting. And so I think that's some of the, uh, that's some of the factors that are causing this. I think, you know, the, the, uh, the environment is also causing a bit of this as well. I mean, the stress of the pandemic, uh, you know, the political environment is, is definitely, uh, causing a lot of stress, a lot of tension, and that may open the door for, you know, let's just say opportunities for these problems to occur. And, you know, you, again, you factor that into the fact that there's, uh, perhaps a lack of direct supervision, um, not the kind of availability of HR support, uh, that you would have in the, in the face-to-face workplace. Uh, you couple, all those things together, and that kind of makes sense that you would see an increase, uh, in, in these inappropriate communications.
Norm00:22:05 And, you know, I don't think that, that when we look at these things, I don't think that organizations necessarily have to, uh, look at new laws or regulations. Cause there's, there's, there's not, I don't anticipate in new laws or regulations dealing with, um, you know, Mo remote worker harassment, because the existing laws do just fine and covering that, but what organizations will likely need to do. And what I really recommend when I, when I speak to organizations that they do is simply remind their employees and reinforce their current anti harassment policies and, and really speak to the fact that even though you're working remotely, you're working from your home office, um, those things still apply. Right. Um, and, and I think, and also consider additional training. Um, you know, we've developed training specifically for this particular use case. And I think, I think employees, uh, employers could benefit greatly from that type of training.
Michelle BB00:23:04 That's I think that's really, you know, that that is actually a really good point. That number one, we should remind people of, um, you know, even though we are in this perhaps more casual environment, that company policies and protocols, um, still hold true. And that, that we really do need to treat each other with the same, um, degree of care, you know, frankly, that we would in the office. But, but also that at this time, when I think that we are experiencing more stress, when perhaps there may be something going on personally, we need to give a little bit more grace to people and not react right away and, and, you know, be more mindful of how we communicate and also how we utilize these tools that have been given to us, because it's so easy to just type that flaming response when in fact that is probably the worst thing that we can do and may in fact, lead to some kind of inappropriate communication.
Norm 00:24:09 I couldn't agree with you more. I could not agree with you more.
Michelle BB00:24:12 So why don't you, you know, I think that, you know, you talked about the research and you talked about what you would recommend for organism, you know, that organizations do, but let's talk a little bit about your team and the research that you've been doing, but also how you're determining the types of learning experiences that customers need. I mean, look, you touched on five, really big meaty topics. And I imagine that that just, you know, you and your team are thinking about all of the things that our customers are going to need as we start to see the shape, um, our rules, our regulations, the way that we, um, operate, how we train people. So how do you determine the types of learning experiences? How do you, how do you teach people to safeguard against these risks?
Norm00:25:05 Wow, it's, it's, it's challenging. I'll tell you. I think, you know, earlier I mentioned that, um, the workplace is becoming more geographically dispersed, and so we're, we're ha we have the traditional workplaces, you know, the factory, uh, job floor. Uh, we have, uh, workers spread all over the country and all over the world, in fact, uh, and fortunately what we're finding, uh, is an e-learning delivery model works well in that environment, um, for numerous reasons. Um, but, um, what we're also finding is as the complexity of the world increases and due in part by, you know, the regulatory environment increasing. So we're seeing regulations being promulgated by, at the state level versus at the federal level. And that adds a lot of complexity for companies in the United States, uh, as well as those with employees abroad, you know, that it, you know, if you've got employees spread all over the world, you've got to train them on the same topic, harassment, but there's different requirements, different nuances to that.
Norm 00:26:11 Um, based on where they're located, uh, in many instances in con in the world of compliance training is compliance. Training is mission critical, meaning that workers can not enter their job space or perform form a job task until they've completed their compliance training. So we have to keep that in mind, it has to be available. We can't wait for, you know, the classroom to form and the training to be delivered. It has to be available, you know, on demand. So I think we're well positioned to support that. Uh, but we need to get, you know, we need to get better because as I said, change and volatility is the order of the day. Um, in general terms, you know, what compliance training is about is the need for employees to know, or to identify risks and how to control them. And so these risks ranged from COVID to control protocols that differ on a state, even a city level, definitely on a country level.
Norm00:27:08 So we've got to make our content more agile, and that's what we're doing now with our, our, our modular based content. It's got to be more agile so that, uh, you know, organizations can pick the appropriate module that's right for them. Um, and it's gotta be quicker. We've gotta be, we've gotta be quicker to market because things happen so rapidly. We can't wait a couple of weeks or excuse me, a couple of months, uh, for content to be delivered. We've got to get it out in a couple of weeks. So what we did was we, we moved our content to more of a modular based structure, and we've implemented this new product called a compliance brief, which gets, uh, a very high end high quality training course out in about two weeks. So we're, we're very focused on responding to this, this change in volatility that we're seeing, we develop tools like Skillsoft servitude and content to configuration to make it easier for customers to customize content and to bring additional resources to bear.
Norm00:28:08 And, you know, I've worked with several clients and trying to help them navigate the difficult and complex regulatory environment that exists particularly around harassment prevention. So, you know, I can tell you, that's one of the, one of the most difficult tasks that a company has, is to comply with all the different state requirements that are out there. Do they go with one course or do they need to go with multiple courses? And so as I work with those customers and explain to them the requirements that each state imposes and the need to make sure that the person that lives in that state receives just those requirements, I think I, you know, I always see that aha moment and go, Oh yeah, I didn't. I just really didn't think about that. I thought maybe one course might be all that we need to do, but I see that I really need to have different courses for different employees depending on where they work and depending on which requirements they have to comply with.
Michelle BB 00:28:59 Well, you know, I think it's really interesting because I love this, this idea that you are taking an agile approach, because my sense is, and you know, what, what we did this past years is something called sense and respond. We knew that we needed to get new content out there quickly based on the needs of our customers, whether it was around business continuity, whether it was around diversity, equity and inclusion. Um, we knew that we needed to open up our platform to, to, to those individuals who might have been unemployed or furloughed. These are all things that we had to do. And we had to act quickly, you know, as you think about 2021, and you look at your roadmap, is there something on there that you are, you know, that you are saying, this is going to be the, this is going to be the big one. This is what we really have to focus on. Is it workplace safety? Do you think it is more around some of the data privacy issues or what concerns you, what keeps you up at night?
Norm 00:29:57 It's, it's the known unknowns keeps me up at night. So, um, yeah. That's and I'll touch on that a second, but, you know, um, yeah, we talked about those risks, right. And so, and so we've made, we've placed our bets on those risks, and I think they're pretty safe bet. So things like, um, things like worker protections during the pandemic, you know, we we've, we've got content already out there. We're developing additional content on working at home safely, working in your home office. Um, we know that we expect the Biden administration to mandate codify additional regulations. So we're pretty confident about that. Um, climate change, content, wildfires protection, you know, you've got what to do in case of a wildfire. If you're working from home, um, privacy and information security, that's huge, we're developing a whole new curriculum and it's going to be a global based curriculum.
Norm 00:30:53 So that, that curriculum is rolling out. That solution is rolling out, uh, in January, just in a week or two. And then, uh, the language is state that are rolling out. So those, those are the big tickets, exciting ones. Um, but as I said, I mean, it's those that you don't know. So for example, just to give you, uh, just a quick, uh, analogy of that, you know, in December of 2019, COVID came on our radar, uh, because we track these things. We have an infectious diseases course, and the SARS came on our radar, for example. So, and as is that as we got more and more information, uh, through, through our internal sources about, about COVID, it was quite scary. Um, as soon as we found out that it was transmitted through, uh, through the air respiratory, uh, that was, we, my folks, you know, are very familiar with disease, transmission and personal protective equipment.
Norm00:31:48 Uh, that, that was quite scary. So we went from thinking about, you know, modifying and infectious diseases course, to responding to literally dozens of new courses that had to be developed, you know, in a matter of days, getting that out to our customers, to make sure that they were prepared, that, that they informed their workers on best practices. So it's those, again, it's those known unknowns or that, you know, we, uh, that, that scares some us, cause I know, uh, now that they're going to be some of those and, and we've actually got budget carved out and, uh, and, and places placeholders for stuff that we don't have names for, but we anticipate we're going to have to build training on
Michelle BB 00:32:32 No, that's, um, I think that's a great way to put it right. I mean, the things that we are know that are known, we can plan for, and those that are unknown, we need to know that they're out there and likely on the horizon and, um, prepare as well. You know, it probably is worth stating here that, um, for all of our listeners, if you have a team at your organization, and of course you do that, that focuses on risk and workplace safety and is addressing a lot of these compliance issues that norm has touched on that we should be incredibly grateful for the work that they do often likely behind the scenes. But norm I think one of the things that we need to recognize is that it's not the job of the formal, or not only the job of the formal compliance and risk team, um, that needs to address issues like this, right?
Michelle BB 00:33:24 So we're all on the front lines as protectors of our organizations, of our customers and of our people. And in the end, we're all the defenders of things like data and intellectual property. So it seems to me that, that there is an element here of building a strong culture where it isn't about a check the box exercise, but rather that we as individuals have the knowledge and the skills and the confidence to know what we need to do and to always do the right thing. So can you, can you tell me a little bit about how you see culture factoring into the equation?
Norm 00:34:01 Well, Michelle culture is everything and I'm not being hyperbolic there. Culture is everything when it comes to compliance or even, even, uh, business performance. Um, and there's no greater example than, um, you know, there there's a famous scandal that happened involving a West coast bank. And the scandal was a brought about by the creation of millions of fraudulent savings and checking accounts on behalf of bank clients without their consent. And what's interesting about that is when regulators investigated that they determined that the singular root cause of that event was culture. That was it, it was culture. And they did that, you know, very soon after the scandal broke, they immediately went in there and determined that. And what that meant, you know, when I heard that, what that meant to me was there's going to be more scandals coming from that bank. And in fact there was because when it's a cultural issue, that means that that's the way that, that, that those employees in that the leadership operates within that organization.
Norm00:35:10 And as long as that culture, uh, permeates, uh, the business, uh, then expect more of those risks to occur. The five years ago at Skillsoft, we created what we refer to as a compliance maturity model. It really, it, it goes to almost defining company culture. And you touched on, on that, uh, briefly, um, you know, with the check, the box, uh, culture. And what we determined was that companies that we with, uh, that are, you know, in the world fall into five stages of development. The first stage, they have an awareness of their compliance requirements, but that's just about it. Second stage, they, um, they have a check the box, they're just doing the bare minimum to survive. Third stage. They have a top-down, uh, uh, behavioral change. In other words, management is saying do this because four stage is self-driven behavioral change. That's where we start to see a change in culture where changing culture is occurring.
Norm00:36:08 It's the organization has adopted this notion of compliance culture and doing the right thing, culture as part of their business. And then lastly, stage five, a state tribe company, they fully integrated compliance into their business strategy, meaning that they've adopted this new culture and they've, they've attached it to the bottom line, the performance of the company. And so we see a lot of that. Uh, we see a lot of companies that are all along that spectrum companies that, that want to change their culture because they're not performing as well as they should. Um, sometimes it's successful. Sometimes aren't cultural change is probably one of the most difficult things for an organization to achieve. It permeates almost every aspect of the business from leadership and how li leaders go about managing and leading their company. So leadership training around cultural change is hugely important. Um, how employees are compensated, it really addresses.
Norm00:37:05 It really is part of cultural change. Training is integral to the process of achieving cultural change. And from my perspective, from a, from a training perspective, it's really important that the training be high quality, this, and it needs to be designed towards changing behavior. So things like relevance, meaning emotional impact designed in the content is hugely important to help, uh, foster and facilitate that, that positive culture keep in mind the compliance training is not just checking the box. It's an opportunity for the leadership to set standards of conduct and communicate expectations of performance to the entire organization. And so, and so it's, you know, a lot of times people just think of clients, I've got to do it, but it really is an opportunity to reinforce the cultural and ethical values of the company and to do it the right way.
Michelle BB 00:37:56 And so are there, you know, when you talk about that maturity model, who's doing that well, or, or give us an example of what good looks like in this case norm.
Norm 00:38:04 Yeah. So, um, wow. There's a lot of companies that look good. I tell you, um, you know, one that comes to mind I guess, is there's, um, I don't want to name names. There's a, there's a global corporation, uh, that they're, they're, they're focused in glass manufacturing, things like display screens, uh, medical equipment, uh, they have around 500,000 people worldwide, more than 30 countries. Um, I know that their administrator is very engaged in continually partnering with us, uh, for new ways to engage their learners, um, that use our library, um, virtually all of our localized content associated with that library, as well as additional training around basic safety principles. They engage when they looked at us, they engage their safety leaders throughout the world. So in places like Italy, Germany, the UK, um, China, uh, you know, they, they, they had them engage, look at our content review, our content get buy in.
Norm00:39:05 So it wasn't, you know, here's the corporate office saying you have to use this, it was take a look at this, is this something that, that is going to benefit your organization? Uh, so it was a, you know, it was a team-based approach and that was, that's a clear demonstration of their culture. Um, and then, you know, one, another great example of the partnership was, you know, at one point in the relationship, not too long ago, they communicated that they really need a robotic safety course. We didn't have one. And so we committed to them that we would develop that. And we worked with them, uh, to develop the course, to make sure that met not only our customer's needs, but met their needs as well. And so it was that, you know, it was that willingness to partner, uh, that showed that this was important to them. It was not just a, a consumer based transactional kind of relationship. It was, it was truly a relationship around, um, you know, taking compliance seriously. So they're definitely a stage five company and, you know, safety culture is definitely a part of their DNA and that reflects primarily in their business performance.
Michelle BB00:40:14 It sounds to me like when you have a strong compliance culture, you are investing in the learning and development function of that, because a lot of it is about teaching people, not just the how, but the why is that true? Yeah,
Norm00:40:30 Absolutely. I, I think, you know, um, if you just teach the, how then you're, you know, you've just got checklists. And so it's really important, you know, when you say how to me, the first thing that comes to mind is, you know, a good example is, is this idea of meaning relevance and emotion and the last part of that being emotion, uh, where you've got to make a connection. And, you know, you could, you could say why, but you've really got to, you really got them to internalize the why, right. And, and order to make the change, you've got to impact them emotionally. So, and you do that by, by putting, you know, relevant scenarios, videos, uh, examples in front of them and you, and you, and you tell them, this is how to your point, this is how this impacts you. This is why this is important to you. And, and if you're able to make that connection through this training event, you achieve behavioral change and modification.
Michelle BB 00:41:29 That's a great example, norm, and I, I appreciate that. And I think that's really for people to understand what it means to have a really strong culture. Um, okay. We are, I can't believe that we've been running so long. So this is a great time to ask my final question. I ask it of everyone. It's actually a three parter. Um, you know, when we talk about the pandemic, which we did quite a bit today, it has allowed us to look at things a bit differently. Um, I think it's shifted our perspective in a number of ways, both professionally and personally. Um, I've spoken with so many people who have new hobbies, the last person I spoke with, I don't, I, it might've even been Mike Hendrickson in our organization bakes bread, and you can ask him about that. Um, but I think that, you know, overall there is a sense that there are some things that we've started doing that have been just materially different than what we did prior to the pandemic.
Michelle BB00:42:28 There are things that we've stopped doing, you know, and a lot of them do re revolt revolve around, um, that commute to the office and traffic. Um, and then there's some things that we're going to want to continue to do that have been, you know, experiences that have been shaped by, um, this working from home or this remote work environment in which we found ourselves, or just, you know, the way in which our lives have changed significantly since the onset. And so again, this question is what have you started doing since the onset of the pandemic? What have you stopped doing and are grateful for having stopped? And then third is we, as we really strive to think about this new normal, what's something you're going to take with you, what will you continue to do?
Norm00:43:15 It's probably the hardest question of the entire, well, I'll probably go to overshare. So, um, you know, I think when I think about the last year, I, you know, I think it was a phased evolution for me and I, you know, quite honestly that that year started off with a lot of stress eating some COVID pounds and probably a few more trips to the liquor store than I care to admit. Um, so it started off kinda rough. Um, and then I moved into kind of the exercise phase of the COVID experience. So I thought, you know, this can't go on. So I started to exercise more and I have an organic farm. Uh, so I found myself spending a lot more time at the farm, putting my hands in dirt, uh, which was, uh, cathartic for me. Um, and then, um, and then finally it probably the most important thing I think was, you know, I've had some childhood friends way back from, uh, from elementary days that, uh, you know, grew up high school.
Norm00:44:21 And, and then in college we kind of went separate ways, but I reconnected with them and we do, uh, every two weeks we do, um, we do a zoom call. I love that. And we we're we've, we've kept it up and we vowed to keep it up. Uh, so it's that, um, you know, it's, it's the reconnection and prioritization of old friends and family. Um, so, um, you know, what am I stopped doing? Well, I'm into moderation now. I I'm proud of, I'm proud to the doubts. Um, so especially the less stress eating of ice cream, um, I think I've gotten that somewhat under control. Um, so, uh, I'm grateful for that. And then, um, you know, I, like I said, th the reconnection and prioritization of old friends and family, I, I definitely do tend to, uh, continue with that. And really that the other thing I think is just to be more mindful of the power of words. Um, you know, I think, um, I think sometimes we don't realize the impact that our words have both the written and spoken word to people. And if we just stop and think and speak thoughtfully and mindfully, um, I think that will solve a lot of issues. And for me, that's, um, that's something that I learned probably more to do during the pandemic. It's something I want to continue with.
Michelle BB 00:45:38 That's the one that I, I need to work on a little bit myself. I gotta be honest, but I love that, um, this notion of being thoughtful with others, but also with ourselves, right. So I think we have to show ourselves a little bit of grace, um, and thank you for being so open and honest here, but also I just, I love the idea and I know, um, I've had a guest on, I don't know if you know, jazz Rose, but he is also a farmer with a farm and this notion of putting hands in dirt, there's something really, um, I don't know that the tactile don't know, maybe they, it, it it's. So, um, there's something special about it. And so I, uh, I am the spring going to start a garden and I will, that's going to be the thing that I start.
Michelle BB00:46:25 So we'll see norm, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us on the edge. I appreciate your insight, your candor, but also some of the lessons that I think we all need to learn, as well as the things we need to prepare for as we head into 2021 to our listeners, thank you for tuning into this episode. And hopefully you got a lot out of it as much as I did. Um, but, but tune into all, because you know, we're here to unleash our edge together. And on behalf of the entire Skillsoft team, keep learning, keep growing. And in light of this conversation, take the time to understand the risks, um, and the compliance needs and the safety related issues that your organization faces, um, and look into the learning opportunities that in, that can empower you to do the right thing. I'm Michelle BB, this is the edge. Take care, be safe, be well
About Our Guest
Norm Ford is VP of Compliance Products at Skillsoft. Mr. Ford has over 30 years’ experience in Conduct of Operations, Nuclear Operations, Training Drills, Qualification, Certification, Training Procedure and Technical Training issues while serving organizations including Lockheed Martin, the US Department of Energy, and the US Department of Defense.
About Our Host
As Chief Marketing Officer, Michelle leads a global marketing organization, focused on transforming today’s workforce for tomorrow’s economy. Since joining the company, she has been responsible for Skillsoft’s global marketing strategy, which includes generating awareness, driving preference, and building affinity for Skillsoft. Additionally – and perhaps most importantly – Michelle serves as the company's brand evangelist, helping to build a vibrant community of passionate learners.
With more than 25 years of marketing, branding, and strategy experience, Michelle has made it her personal mission to support the advancement of women in business. Prior to Skillsoft, she served as Chief Marketing Officer of IBM Watson, where she was instrumental in developing the first “Women Leaders in AI” program, which honors women who put AI to work across industries and around the globe. She also served as the global head of marketing for The Weather Company, an IBM Business, helping companies understand how to anticipate, plan for, and ultimately make better decisions – with greater confidence – in the face of weather.
Michelle is a prolific speaker on a range of topics, including the war for talent, digital transformation, and marketing in a post-pandemic world. She covers these topics and more as the host of Skillsoft's podcast, The Edge, now in its second season. She has authored countless papers covering a range of business and marketing topics, was at the center of Skillsoft’s leadership role in DEI through free “Leadercamps,” and has taught two Percipio courses on the Pink Pandemic and Public Speaking.
Michelle is also a founding member of CMO Huddles, a group dedicated to bringing together and empowering highly effective B2B CMOs to share, care, and dare each other to greatness. Michelle holds a Master’s degree from Simmons University and sits on the pro side of the Oxford comma debate.