Workflow of the Week: Automating the Master Services Agreement
Workflow of the Week: Automating the Master Services Agreement

Understanding the Routine Ethics and Conflict Disclosure Workflow

Emily Bogin |

How to verify employee conflicts and risk-factors across your annual, quarterly, or as-needed ethics and compliance verification processes with workflow automation.

When organizations need to certify that their employees and their activities are all accounted for, they often send out a quarterly or annual certification to confirm that:

  1. No employees have broken the company code of conduct
  2. There are no conflicts of interest
  3. Should there be a conflict of interest, the company has this in writing and can adjust accordingly.

But how do risk and legal teams manage an intake of this kind of information in a way that prioritizes efficiency and risk management?

Workflow Automation for Secure Information

Gathering risk-relevant information is a process that cries out for automation: it often depends on high-volume, repetitive tasks that are prone to human error— and even the specter of hefty fines if not completed correctly. For example, teams likely won’t be able to use something as basic as Google Docs to gather PII from your employees, but they also may not want to invest in a one-and-done solution that only covers one particular pain point, yet demands a time-consuming implementation process and heavy-to-enable adoption. 

Workflow automation offers a best-of-both-worlds approach to these kinds of processes. With one platform, a legal team (or any part of the organization) can build out no-code surveys that ask exactly the right questions – because the employees who own the survey can also own the tool to build the survey correctly. 

Some of the questions that are often found on these certification requests include:

  • A list of previous employers
  • Reporting on business relationships (IE, are employees working with business outside of the organization)
  • Disclosure of recent or non-recent work as a member of a board of a different company or organization
  • Disclosure of relationships to others who have been recent members of boards of other companies
  • Reporting on personal political activity
  • Attesting compliance with the company’s code of conduct

With workflow automation, the way that an employee answers a question can determine which other questions they see – and which they are required to fill out. Their submission can be flagged, escalated, or checked off easily and automatically, depending on how they answer. 

Why Automate the Employee Ethics and Conflict Disclosure Processes?

The benefits of workflow automation go beyond capturing sensitive information quickly and securely. Without a robust workflow automation tool to engage employees in a certification workflow, legal teams often send surveys out but cannot easily identify those surveys’ success. For example, it can be difficult to identify who has not responded to a request for certification, but workflow automation tools often have audit trail functionality and data analytics capabilities that enable legal teams to filter those who have yet to respond. Moreover, workflow tools can build in escalation paths, solving for potential problems before they come up. For example, when an employee forgets to respond to the request, the workflow can automatically send a follow-up email – either to the employee in question, or, depending on the needs of the team, to that employee’s manager.

When employees respond to these forms and attest to business relationships with other companies, the back-end logic of the workflow can automatically determine how to characterize these relationships. Does it constitute a conflict of interest, or is it irrelevent to the organization? Depending on the answer, the workflow can trigger additional layers of intervention, by alerting managers or legal of possible concerns or suggestions on how to manage uncertainty.

Routine certifications of compliance can be frustrating, but they don’t have to be. Workflow automation offers a path forward that enables legal teams to easily create and distribute surveys that can be executed and managed automatically, triggering alarms for additional support only when needed. With sophisticated data analytics, these quarterly certifications don’t just ensure compliance, but do so with as little hassle as possible.

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