Due to rampant hurricane news, another 9/11 anniversary has passed without much fanfare beyond a passing newscaster comment and a thumbnail image on CNN.com. This tremendous turning point in U.S. history — a “where were you when” moment for the majority of Americans — has become increasingly easy to overlook.

Time makes memory grow distant… which is a crucial fact to consider regarding your company’s Code of Conduct.

 

Even though every single one of your employees went through your company’s policies during onboarding — legally signing that they received, read, understood and agreed with everything it details — the chances they actually remember the code (much less abide by everything it outlines) are slim.

This might be difficult to empathize with since you deal with the code on a daily basis. It’s never far from your mind. In fact, you could probably sit down and write it out by heart.

But how long has it been since your employees signed that paper? Do they remember everything the Code of Conduct addresses? Or has it become a hazy “9/11” memory? (Or even worse, do they consider it to be like the credit card customer agreement they sign, full of nothing but legal gobbledygook they don’t even read?)

Unless you regularly walk your team through the code of conduct, it’s doubtful they have read it since their first day… possibly decades ago.

 

Besides the code, there are also seminal events in every company’s history. A lawsuit, disastrous product launch or financial crisis that created a landmark “before” and “after” watershed moment in the company like 9/11 created in our nation’s culture. A situation that forever changed the corporate trajectory or the way business is conducted.

If so, what are you doing to teach your company’s history?

 

My son is thirteen and too young to remember “when and where he was” on 9/11 because he wasn’t even born. He knows the facts about that fateful day, but it doesn’t affect him. There is no “before” and “after” 9/11 for him, just life as he knows it. For his generation (and all that follow), 9/11 is nothing more than a historical event like World War II or the Great Depression.

How many employees have joined your team since your company’s “watershed incident?”

 

Every year, more and more ignorant people integrate into your corporate culture. They hear co-workers mention how things used to be before “X” happened, or possibly get a Cliff’s Notes version of the dark days during the upheaval, but it’s not a part of their personal story. Your employees understand the history and that it’s important, like my son understands 9/11, but they don’t internalize any of the lessons gained from that time because they did not personally learn them.

I was hired to write a video for a corporation who had endured a grueling lawsuit that sucked up enormous corporate time and resources while making employees’ lives miserable. Everyone who lived through that time remembered, learned from and continued to act ethically through the filter established by the lawsuit.

Ten years later, this same company realized over a third of their workforce had joined since the lawsuit. Management wanted to help the new people understand what it felt like to work during that difficult time, so we made a video that every employee watches now in order to vicariously transport them back ten years so they understand and move forward with new insight.

Our story helped create a “this is where I was when” moment for people who weren’t even around for the “when.” (Watch the trailer here.)

Are there any important policies or moments in your company’s history that have slipped into memory? Those unaware of the past are doomed to repeat mistakes, so it’s important to look for those gaps in your training, either by reinforcing training from their first day or creating a vicarious experience like a story-based video that helps team members “live” through important training moments.

Otherwise, years might pass and you’ll wonder why your company has ended up reliving some history you never wanted to suffer through the first time.

 

Bryan Belknap, an award-winning screenwriter, is Creative Director at Resonate Pictures, which specializes in story-based training and branding films. He will be speaking at SCCE Compliance & Ethics Conference in Las Vegas.

 

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