Welcome to Six Questions with an Ethics & Compliance Officer, a new interview series created in conjunction with National Compliance Officer Day. Each post will shine the spotlight on a different member of the E&C community, from established CCOs and CECOs with years of experience to rising stars with a passion for ethical behavior. 

Q: How long have you been working in ethics and compliance? 

I’ve been working in this profession for approximately 13 years.

Q: What did you want to be when you were growing up? 

I wanted to design automobiles.

Q: What are some of the most rewarding and challenging parts of your job?

The ongoing support from the Board, senior management, and many other individuals within our organization for compliance initiatives is one of many rewarding aspects of my job.

As a result of the ongoing introduction of new and updated regulations, developing training that is relevant while also minimizing potential employee misinterpretations of a regulation or corporate policy that can make the organization vulnerable to penalties/fines is a challenge.

Q: What are three important traits a Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer should possess? 

I spoke on this topic at the 16th Annual Compliance and Ethics Institute, hosted by the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE), during my presentation called “Just Listen: Silently Connecting to the Untold Stories that Shape Culture.” I highlighted the importance of Chief Ethics and Compliance Officers bringing their “A” game. The “A” game consists of a list of character traits beginning with the letter “A.”

Being approachable, authentic, and appreciative are three character traits on the list. Appreciative was not included on my original list, but my friend, Kristy Grant-Hart, reminded me that it should be included.

I believe that Chief Ethics and Compliance Officers must demonstrate a personality that is approachable by all individuals to receive the information necessary to detect deficiencies within the organization. They must be authentic to be effective within their organization. Authenticity is key to establishing and maintaining trust. We have to be appreciative of the information that we receive from our colleagues and network that helps us in fulfilling our duties to our organizations and society. Without the hotline calls, walk-ins, and elevator conversations, mitigating risk would be more challenging. To see my full list of all 8 character traits, read this.

Q: If someone wanted to get more involved in promoting ethical behavior in their organization today, what could they do? 

I believe demonstrating ethical behavior in their actions and decisions is an ideal place to begin.

Q: What advice would you give to recent college graduates and other professionals who may want to pursue a career in ethics and compliance?

I recommend graduates and other professionals further their education by attending webinars, workshops, and conferences. Additionally, they should interview professionals to learn about their experiences, establish a network that includes professionals in the field, and identify mentors to help them with their professional development.

ABOUT WALTER E. JOHNSON 

Walter E. Johnson is the Director of Compliance & Ethics for Kforce Government Solutions (KGS), an organization that supports mission-critical programs across the federal government. KGS is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kforce, Inc. (NASDAQ: KFRC), a national publicly-held professional staffing firm. Johnson is responsible for managing an ethics and compliance program that complies with the FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulations), DFARS (Defense Acquisition Regulation Supplement), and other federal contracting rules and requirements.

Prior to KGS, Johnson served as Director of Compliance Systems and Finance for Ameritox Ltd and as Compliance Project Manager for the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States, Inc. Johnson served as an Adjunct Professor for the University of Maryland University College and Baltimore City Community College lecturing on business and ethics courses. Johnson earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing from Bowie State University. Additionally, he earned a Master of Science in Administration with a concentration in International Administration from Central Michigan University.