Blog Post

2020 DOJ Compliance Guidance on Employee Surveys

Richard P. Kusserow | July 2020

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) 2020 Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs (Guidance) includes additions based on the DOJ’s experience and important feedback from the business and compliance communities. It emphasizes the importance of continuously updating a compliance program and assessing its adequacy and effectiveness both at the time of an offense and a DOJ charging decision.

The DOJ notes the value of surveying employees to gauge the compliance culture and evaluate the strength of controls. Employee compliance surveys that obtain quantifiable data on workforce compliance knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions can be used to benchmark and monitor progress of the compliance program. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) Compliance Program Guidance for Hospitals states that “as part of the review process, the compliance officer or reviewers should consider techniques such as. . . questionnaires developed to solicit impressions of a broad cross-section of the hospital’s employees and staff.” In 2017, the OIG issued a new resource entitled “Measuring Compliance Program Effectiveness: A Resource Guide” that suggests using surveys to learn about employee knowledge, understanding, and attitudes related to compliance issues.

Notwithstanding all of this, results from the 2020 SAI Global Healthcare Compliance Benchmark Survey, developed with and analyzed by Strategic Management, indicate that only about one in five organizations had an independently conducted compliance effectiveness survey in the last year. Evidence from other questions in the Survey indicates that organizations clearly favor developing and administering surveys internally; however, the validity and reliability of such surveys is suspect, as the questions and processes are controlled by the very parties who are affected by the results.

Results from a professionally developed and independently administered survey can provide very powerful insights on the status of the compliance program. Compliance Officers considering an independent survey of employees face the question of conducting either a compliance culture or knowledge survey. Both have been cited as methods to determine how well program aspects are functioning. If a validated and tested survey is used and administered independently, and ensures anonymity of respondents, there can be great value in the results. The value can be magnified many times if the results can be benchmarked against a large universe of those using an identical survey instrument. Organizations can also benchmark results from one survey to another to demonstrate program improvements.

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For more information on this subject, visit the Compliance Resource Center or see the following articles: OIG Resource Guide Cites Surveying Employees to Measure Effectiveness and Organizations Should Evaluate All Elements of a Compliance Program Through Employee Surveys.


About the Author

Richard P. Kusserow established Strategic Management Services, LLC, after retiring from being the DHHS Inspector General, and has assisted over 3,000 health care organizations and entities in developing, implementing and assessing compliance programs.

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