by Daniel Udochi | Published on 25 October 2018 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter
As ethics practitioners around the world celebrated Global Ethics Day on 17 October, I found myself reflecting on the ethics journey of MTN Sudan, where I have been responsible for corporate governance, risk and compliance management for over two years. A major milestone was reached recently when our “Quick Quiz” initiative was recognised as the Best Ethics Initiative at The Ethics Institute’s (TEI) first ever Ethics Initiative Awards. What was particularly special was the fact that the final selection was made by colleagues and practitioners in the ethics field from both TEI and the Ethics Practitioners’ Association (EPA); what could be more satisfying than getting acknowledgement from peers?
Looking back, it has been a challenging, but very fulfilling, journey. MTN has always been committed to ethical business practices and, in the last few years, this commitment has taken on an even more prominent role at the center of our business. The cornerstone of this renewed emphasis and focus on ethics was the introduction of the MTN Group Ethics Management Framework/Toolkit.
MTN Sudan began the implementation of the Toolkit by conducting an ethics risk analysis aimed at identifying ethical risks facing our organisation; and, by so doing, ascertaining the company’s ethics risk profile. This was achieved using both quantitative (surveys) and qualitative (focus group sessions) assessment methods.
Following from this exercise, several risk issues were analysed, resulting in the identification of primary risk sources, or root causes. What emerged as paramount among these risk sources was the issue of low staff awareness of the practical application of ethical values and related policies. This revealed an apparent misalignment between our stated organisational objective of maintaining a consistent high ethical culture that drives sustained principled performance, and what was actually happening on the ground.
Despite having tried several approaches (including ethics awareness sessions, and mandatory ethics induction sessions) to address this challenge, little progress was made. This was primarily because these interventions could not be sustained at the frequency required for ethics to become “top of mind”, as we knew it had to be to achieve any real impact. We needed a creative solution, one that would be cost- and time-efficient, frequent and effective, and with minimal disruption to routine business-as-usual operations.
And so, we were inspired to create Quick Quiz.
Quick Quiz consists of automated bi-weekly screen pop-ups that present a randomly selected, scenario-based, multiple-choice question to all staff members who are logged on to the corporate network. The questions provide an opportunity for staff to test their knowledge of different MTN governance policies, our ethical values, and potential ethical dilemmas they may face on the job. Employees can minimise the pop-up and focus on more immediate work, but they cannot dismiss it until they have answered it – and this applies to everyone at all levels.
Upon selecting an answer, the employee is provided with a short explanation for why they are right or why they are wrong, to ensure that each quiz is a learning experience, contributing to an increase in overall staff awareness. The question bank is continuously being added to, based on feedback and on real ethics cases encountered by the ethics team – this also ensures that the dilemmas and case studies presented in the quiz questions are relevant to our specific context.
The solution also allows for reports on various statistics, including the number of participants and percentage of correct/wrong answers overall, or more specifically (for example, by department or by question category). This provides significant insight into areas of strength and weakness in employee understanding, interpretation and application of the policies and values tested via Quick Quiz. Armed with this information, the Ethics team is able to plan targeted interventions to address the identified knowledge and awareness gaps, and track changes and improvements over time.
At MTN Sudan, we can confidently say that the Quick Quiz has helped in no small measure to keep ethics and the required behavior top of mind for all our employees. And the numbers tell an encouraging story. For example, in just under one year since launching, we saw a 400% increase in the number of ethics-related consultation requests, a 113% increase in self-declared potential conflicts of interest and a 300% increase in ethics-related whistle-blower alerts.
It is vital that we hold ourselves and one another accountable for ethical behavior, and it is not far-fetched to expect that this be translated in the way we treat each other at work. Creative interventions, such as Quick Quiz, can play a big role in making this happen and therefore ultimately help to build an ethically responsible society in the wider scheme of things.
Daniel Udochi is General Manager, Risk & Compliance Management at MTN Sudan. The "Quick Quiz" project, which he initiatied, was the winner of The Ethics Institute's first ever Ethics Initiative Awards. Contributing this article is one part of the prize for first place. Congratulations, Daniel, and the team at MTN Sudan!