COI Compliance Online Training: 6 Tips For eLearning Professionals
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6 Tips eLearning Professionals Should Consider In COI Compliance Online Training

A conflict of interest (COI) occurs when an individual acts in their own personal interests, even if it leads to negative repercussions for their organization. In some cases, employees may not even be aware of the fact that they are violating ethical standards. Which is why it's so crucial to integrate COI compliance into your online training program. Doing so, can help safeguard sensitive information and ensure the future success of your business.

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What Constitutes A Conflict Of Interest (COI)?

There are several criteria that can be used to identify a conflict of interest. Here are a few situations that typically constitute a COI in corporate settings:

  • The employee’s judgement or ethical standards are called into question.
  • The employee has a particular bias that may hinder the organization’s success.
  • There is a conflict between job responsibilities. For example, an employee holds two distinct positions in two different companies or boards. If they act in the interest of one to the detriment of the other, this constitutes a conflict of interest.
  • An employee recommends a product or service to a client or customer, knowing that they will benefit financially. As an example, a sales person also works as a consultant for a commission-based company. They suggest an add-on item from their catalog because they will directly profit from the transaction.
  • The employee uses company resources for personal gain, either directly or indirectly. For instance, it may benefit a member of their family.

6 Tips For Creating COI Compliance Online Training

1. Assess Employees' Ethics With Online Simulations

Truth be told, employees may not be very forthcoming in surveys or questionnaires, especially when ethics are involved. This is particularly the case if you aren’t using anonymous feedback methods. However, online simulations give you the opportunity to test their ethics in a realistic setting. Instead of sending them into the workplace and running the risk of compliance violations, you can identify issues early on. For example, create several online simulations that expose employees to different situations and characters. One might involve a client who offers them a gift in exchange for special treatment or sensitive information. Evaluate their performance after they complete the online training simulation and pinpoint their strengths. You should also offer personalized constructive feedback and specify what they did incorrectly so that they can improve.

2. Clarify COI Violations

Certain employees may still be unclear about what constitutes a conflict of interest. They believe that sharing information or accepting a gift won’t have a negative impact on the company. As such, it’s important to highlight all possible COI violations and their consequences. There are also conflict of interest categories that you may want to include. For instance, a financial COI pertains to ethical violations that lead to monetary gain. While a research violation is the result of information sharing, specifically data that compromises company profits or intellectual rights. Nepotism is yet another COI violation, which involves hiring or giving special treatment to a particular person.

3. Put It In Writing

Every aspect of your COI compliance protocols should be in writing. Additionally, employees must sign all relevant documents to indicate that they understand the policy and agree to the stipulations. This helps prevent confusion in the future and holds employees accountable for their actions. It’s also wise to include a disclosure agreement in the contract. For instance, clearly outline how employees should report COI violations, by when, and to whom.

4. Foster A Communicative Online Training Community

Organizations must have an open line of communication with their employees. If they do violate COI compliance, staff members should feel comfortable reaching out to their superiors to discuss the issue. Consider creating an online forum or social media group where employees can ask questions and clarify ambiguities. In some cases, they may be more forthcoming with their peers than their managers. And an online forum gives them some sense of anonymity. An online FAQ is another valuable resource, as employees can address concerns and get the help they need on their own.

5. Host Monthly Online Training Webinars

There are times when employees need to interact with their managers, online trainers and peers on a more personal level. Online training webinars give them the opportunity to address their concerns and brush up on COI compliance. Choose a topic for each event and schedule it well in advance so that employees can add it to their agendas. Include a brief description of what the webinar will cover and allow employees to ask questions at the end. You can even invite guest hosts and Subject Matter Experts who can share their experience.

6. Separate Personal From Professional

This tip pertains to organizations that deal with data or intellectual property. For instance, a company that handles market research or invents cutting edge technologies. It’s crucial to separate personal work or accomplishments from professional obligations. As an example, an employee develops a new piece of software on their own time without using any company resources. This software is their intellectual property and does not fall under the purview of the organization. However, if they choose to sell it to one of your competitors this may enter into a gray area. Again, putting it in writing and creating detailed guidelines can differentiate personal from professional and eliminate confusion.

Use these 6 tips to develop a conflict of interest compliance online training strategy for your organization. COI compliance online training clarifies ambiguities and gives employees the knowledge they need to stay within the ethical boundaries. Thus, it's always worth the investment. In fact, keeping up with COI compliance could significantly improve your online training ROI.

Would you like to learn more about creating effective compliance online training courses for your company? Read the article Top 5 Compliance Online Training Best Practices  to discover the compliance online training best practices that all eLearning professionals should know.

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