“I do,” say the lovers in front of friends and family.  “I now pronounce you husband and wife,” says the officiant, followed by cheering and clapping.  Marriage ceremonies happen in public.  For a marriage to be legally binding, nearly every jurisdiction requires that the ceremony is witnessed and then written down in public recordsWhy?  Because commitments made in public are much stronger than those made privately.  Social science research has borne this out time and again.

To help your employees be more compliant and ethical, construct opportunities for people to pro-actively and publicly commit to compliance.  Here are three ways to allow your employees to make their commitment to compliance loudly and proudly.

Raise your hand

When we’re asked questions by a teacher, we raise our hand to show that we agree or are in alignment with the answer.  When Americans pledge allegiance to the flag or sing the National Anthem, they place their hands over their heart.  Raising your hand or making an affirmative movement sends a signal to our mind that we agree with the speaker.  Movement of this sort physically manifests our intention to say “yes.” 

When you’re performing live training, ask the group to raise their hand if they’re willing to commit to being compliant and ethical.  When you’re presenting to the leadership team, ask who intends to use the slides to cascade information on a new policy to their team.  Find ways to ask people to pro-actively raise their hand for compliance and business ethics.  The results will speak for themselves.

Write it out

Ask people to make a specific commitment to do one thing to support the compliance and ethics efforts at your company.  Whether you have them fill out a paper card or an electronic form, ask each employee to commit to performing an action.  It can be as simple as committing to complete their annual online training on time or speaking to their team about the Code of Conduct. 

A couple of months later, follow up with as many people as you can to confirm that they completed their pledge.  If they haven’t, ask what you can do to help them.  If they have, thank them and see if there is anything else that you can do to support them or their team.  By holding people accountable by following up with them, you’ll reinforce their commitment to them, which will in turn reinforce the commitment they made to the correct behavior. 

Thank people for their commitment

Social mores dictate that when someone says, “thank you,” the person being thanked reflexively says, “you’re welcome” or a similar sentiment.  When talking to people in person, thank them for being so committed to the compliance and ethics program.  By responding with “you’re welcome,” they are acknowledging and accepting the truth of your statement, namely, that they are committed to the compliance and ethics program.  By saying “thank you” and eliciting “you’re welcome,” you’re helping the person to affirm their own commitment to compliance and ethics, because they have taken on your compliment and validated its truthfulness.

By creating opportunities for people to publicly affirm their commitment to compliance and ethics, whether physically, in writing, or in person, you’ll deepen the commitment to compliance and ethics throughout your organization, one pledge at a time.