Lessons Learned at the 2018 Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Congress

Lesson 3: Learning to Listen

“There is only one rule for being a good talker – learn to listen.”
Christopher Morley

The importance of effective communication and more specifically, listening, wasn’t lost on the speakers at the 19th Annual Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Compliance Congress. The consequences of poor listening were summarized by one panelist on the Qui Tam Roundtable when she said, “the vast majority of whistleblowers who contact me have tried to report their concerns to the company, but the company didn’t want to hear it.” In an era when the nuances of an effective compliance program are discussed and debated in detail, the simple yet often lost art of effective listening needs to be a priority.

The value of listening extends across all departments and business units and it starts with field-based employees. A presenter in the Compliance Considerations for Small to Mid-Size Companies session echoed that sentiment, saying, “the stream of questions from the field is not going to stop, but those questions tell a story and you need to monitor them carefully and build your plan from there.” The data from those responsible for interacting with healthcare professionals is critical as you evolve your program and look for gaps and redundancies that need to be addressed in personal interactions and in your continuous training curriculum. And listening for that data begins with open, non-judgmental relationships across the company. Or, as another presenter in the Compliance Considerations for Small to Mid-Size Companies session stated it, “when employees interact with the compliance department, they should not feel like they are being judged.”

The need for open lines of communication doesn’t stop with the field. The industry trend toward “building a culture of ethics and compliance,” and frankly, the regulatory focus on the culpability of those in the C-Suite and boards of directors, more than ever, dictates the need for open and regular communication with company leadership. The proverbial “seat at the table” for Compliance extends upward in the organization. As was stated during the AUSA Roundtable, “Compliance should have a good relationship with the Chief Executive Officer, and the officers of the company. The two departments need to communicate openly and honestly.” He continued, “when issues do arise, the Department of Justice needs to see that you are being proactive and responding to those issues.” In other words, listening to one and another.

During the Chief Compliance Officer Roundtable, the risks associated with the use of third-party vendors was discussed in detail and the need for open lines of communication beyond the walls of the company was stressed. “Work with the stakeholders in the third party and make them feel like you are partnering with them,” one participant said, “be transparent, if you hear that people aren’t disclosing information, that’s a warning sign. If there is any confusion, ask questions.” And listen carefully to the answers.

The key takeaway: to build a truly effective and modern compliance program that proactively addresses the risks across the organization, a policy of open communication must be established from the top down. The concept of an ethics-based approach to compliance may seem nebulous and difficult to quantify, but it begins with fostering a level of respect across the company. And respect begins with real listening. When employee questions, feedback, concern, and complaints are welcomed, appreciated and nurtured in a respectful manner by Compliance and the C-Suite, all aspects of the compliance program, including the training, are enhanced.

Thanks for reading! I welcome your feedback.

Sean D. Murphy
PharmaCertify by NXLevel Solutions