ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) has been in the news recently, the subject of a scandal erupting from some hidden camera videos posted on YouTube, showing ACORN employees engaged in the same type of fraudulent act that a portion of subprime mortgage brokers were guilty of. While that’s ironic, it’s not surprising. This kind of behavior is endemic in many fields, including: accounting, education, and healthcare.
What this indicates is that the awards set for achieving desired business goals sometimes do not include ethical behavior. Put another way: the reward for performance outweighs the reward for truth.
Here’s the statement in today’s Morning News that did surprise me. “She (ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis) says the group is reviewing its training procedures and will have an independent investigator look into what happened. ”
“Review its training procedures?” I’m trying to figure out what this will accomplish. I don’t know what is included in ACORN’s training, but I’ll gather that there’s something in there about compliance. That bit about compliance may infer that one should go about behaving ethically, not lie, do the right thing, etc. Would showing that such information is included in training exonerate ACORN as a whole, backing up the claim that only a few employees were guilty of this behavior?
Perhaps ACORN’s planned investigation of training procedures will show that the employees caught in the video did not receive their Compliance Training. One could assume, then, that these errant employees did not receive any instruction at all on what they could or could not advise. “Nobody told me that I had to stick to talking about tax laws and how to legally qualify for a home loan,” the ACORN ex-employee could say.
Perhaps it will reveal that the guilty employees did indeed receive Compliance Training when they first joined the organization, but hadn’t received a refresher course in a year or so. This might be a more damning statement of the group — an indicator that although one may be given the knowledge necessary to perform one’s duties, one is placed in an environment where that knowledge is not applied or reinforced.
Would the installation of more thorough ongoing training procedures ensure that this would not happen again? I would argue otherwise. It is not the training that should concern us, but how that training is followed through on the floor.
Again, this is not restricted to ACORN. It’s endemic in many fields where the reward for performance outweighs the reward for truth. Thus, training advises one thing, and management does what it needs to do to meet goals.
For ACORN, a review of their training procedures will likely reveal nothing important about the organization, merely that their performance issue exists outside training. Hopefully this will indicate to Ms. Lewis the need for ACORN’s Training Department to partner with their Leadership Team, to find ways to ensure that management backs the standards set forth in training. Such a partnership would help both parties identify at an earlier time that the information taught is not being practiced, and to find a solution to address that.