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Using liaisons to extend the reach and influence of your program

Rebecca Walker (rwalker@kaplanwalker.com, linkedin.com/in/rebecca-walker-605a944/) is a partner at the law firm of Kaplan & Walker LLP, located in Santa Monica, California, and Princeton, New Jersey, USA.

A persistent challenge for compliance and ethics (C&E) programs is the difficulty of reaching every site, every business unit, every employee, and key third parties when programs tend to be leanly staffed and located exclusively or primarily at headquarters. Another challenge for many programs is the difficulty of embedding the C&E program in the business sufficiently to ensure a program has a voice in appropriate business decisions—the big decisions about corporate strategy, acquisitions, and markets, and the smaller decisions, such as whether to engage a potential partner. And yet another is the ability to reach different locales (that may have very different cultures) with messaging that will effectively reach hearts and minds. Enter compliance liaisons (or champions, ambassadors, representatives, or “insert your own more creative title here”). A strong liaison network can significantly extend the reach and effectiveness of a program, creating tentacles that extend beyond headquarters in order to both push out the C&E program and pull in local information and assistance.

In the past decade, I have had the opportunity to review C&E liaison programs in a variety of organizations—some exceedingly effective and some utterly ineffective. At one organization, I assessed their C&E program multiple times over 15 years or so, during which a liaison program was commenced, withered away, and then came back to life in a way that has served the C&E program and the company exceedingly well. I have identified several characteristics that are most important to creating sustainable and effective liaison programs. In the following, we will explore some of the ways in which compliance liaisons can benefit an organization and some strategies for creating an impactful liaison program.

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