History is replete with any number of corporate scandals, such as those of Enron and Volkswagen. In the former case, an Enron consultant who also worked as an auditor created a major source of conflict. In the wake of Volkswagen’s ‘dieselgate’ scandal in the mid-2010s, accusations of a possible conflict of interest were lobbied not at individuals, but at regulators for profiting off of Volkswagen’s violations of the Clean Air Act.
Such instances, in which conflicts of interest had serious consequences in their respective industries, underline the importance of any organization’s duty toward monitoring and mitigating potential conflicts of interest in order to uphold ethical standards. There are many ways corporations can identify potential ethical pitfalls and try to head disasters like these off at the pass. One such tool is a simple, well-constructed conflict of interest questionnaire.
Ethical transparency, backed by efficient tools used to promote this transparency, is no longer merely a regulatory demand. It’s a factor upon which investors, employees and consumers, base their decisions. This is where COI disclosure comes into play! It’s vital to give employees a way to acknowledge possible conflicts that may arise; if these possible conflicts are never disclosed, the risks associated with them will never be understood, discussed, and avoided.
How to Design an Effective Conflict of Interest Questionnaire
Crafting Targeted Questions
When deciding what questions to include in your organization’s conflict of interest questionnaire, it’s best to be both direct and comprehensive. Asking clear, unbiased questions enables respondents to understand intent, reducing the chance for confusion or misinterpretation. Utilize a mixture of quantitative questions, or questions that require specific answers that can be used as points of data, and quantitative questions, which are more-open ended and provide the opportunity for the respondent to provide context.
These questions should also give employees the opportunity to disclose the exact nature of the possible conflict, and how it relates to their position at the company. Identify the type of conflict, which tend to fall into one of these main categories:
- Financial interests
- Employment or consultancy
- Personal or family relationships
- Use of company information, resources, or intellectual property (IP)
- Favors or gifts
An effective questionnaire should also require information on the timing and duration of the potential conflict in question, if applicable, and details on how it could possibly impact the respondent’s role within the organization.
Using Technology to Streamline the Process
One thing you shouldn’t forget when considering the best options for having your employees disclose potential conflicts of interest: We live in the future! Our current digital age has provided us with a wide array of platforms and tools that streamline data collection and analysis, and these tools could be vital in helping your organization design questionnaires for conflict of interest disclosure.
You may very well be able to manually draft out a static conflict of interest form or questionnaire that addresses the needs within your company. But don’t be too quick to dismiss the potential benefits of using a digital or automated solution to help your organization manage conflict of interest disclosure. Software can automate the questionnaire creation and distribution process, saving you time and effort. Once responses have been gathered, automated options can also provide real-time data analysis on the responses you receive, and allow for updates to the questionnaire as the needs of your business and its employees evolve. Can a Word document do that?
Integrating Results into a Comprehensive Conflict of Interest Management Plan
Once you’ve obtained relevant information from your questionnaire, you need to find the best way to put that data to use. Whatever results you’ve gathered from the distribution of your business’s conflict of interest questionnaire need to feed into a greater management plan, so that your business can continuously improve on how it recognizes potential conflicts and addresses them.
Effective data integration involves a continuous process of identifying, recording, communicating, and addressing the conflicts revealed through the questionnaire. By doing so, organizations can enhance their decision-making process, minimize potential legal and financial issues, and uphold their reputation.
Manage Conflicts of Interest With ComplianceBridge
A conflict of interest questionnaire is a great way for your business to recognize and manage potential conflicts of interest within your team, but as is the case with many things, the most difficult element of rolling out a questionnaire to your employees is knowing where to start. A great place to begin is with ComplianceBridge, which offers vital tools that allow you to simplify and streamline the process of managing possible conflicts of interest in your workplace.
Our software is designed to be easily customizable so you can best meet the needs of your business, letting you create custom question sets that support a variety of question types from short answer to multiple choice to fill-in-the-blank. Employers also have the option of adding conditional questions that only appear depending on how a previous query was answered, or weighted questions that carry greater importance during scoring.
Once questionnaires have been automatically distributed to respondents, results can be seen in real time, making it easier for management and employers to spot areas where attention may be needed or to identify trends in responses. A Comprehensive conflict of interest questionnaire can be a serious boon to your organization, and ComplianceBridge has the tools you need to make their creation and distribution simple and effective. For more information, contact us to request a one-on-one demo today!