When was the last time you took an employee aside and informed him or her that there would be an unexpected bonus in the next paycheck or some other reward for a job well done?

This type of “spot reward” can be an excellent motivational tool and is used to recognize many types of exceptional performance. My question is, have you ever given—or received—this type of reward for ethical behavior or compliance performance?

Organizations worldwide struggle to ensure their employees are performing their jobs in an ethical manner and are in compliance with ever-changing laws and regulations. I say “struggling” because our news sources provide daily accounts of corrupt practices and bad behavior, some of which have terrible consequences for society.

The United States Federal Sentencing Guidelines state that part of “an effective compliance and ethics program includes appropriate incentives to perform in accordance with the compliance and ethics program; and appropriate disciplinary measures for engaging in criminal conduct and for failing to take reasonable steps to prevent or detect criminal conduct.”[1]

Including ethics and compliance as a metric in performance reviews and disciplining employees for not doing the right thing are a good start, but what about incentives? What about adding an emotional, “feel good” element—one that is publicized and valued throughout the organization?

A spot reward for an outstanding performance in compliance and ethics is one way to motivate employees to advance an organization’s values, to adhere to its code or standards of conduct and to comply with the laws and regulations that govern the organization’s operations and employee behaviors.

Of course, spot rewards require supporting actions such as:

  • publicizing ethical missteps in a way that enables all employees to learn from others’ mistakes; for example, providing specific examples of how employee acted in an unethical manner (while ensuring the privacy of the employee), and
  • sharing outstanding ethics and compliance decisions made by employees.

Leaders routinely provide incentives to employees who improve business results. Why not provide rewards and incentives for ethics and compliance performance?  What do you think?


[1] R-120 of Fed Sent Guidelines in the Complete Compliance and Ethics Manual of the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics