RedHawk Communications brings ethics training into the 21st century, by blending instructor-led sessions with online tools.
With the recent spate of regulations surrounding corporate accountability, ethics programs have never been more popular, or more needed. Eatontown-based RedHawk Communications brings this kind of training into the 21st century, by blending instructor-led sessions with online tools. Co-founders Cathleen Sullivan and Jay Sullivan talk about niches, Enron, and being understood in Beijing.
How did RedHawk Communications get started doing this work?
RedHawk was founded in 1989, and soon after that we were hired to create ethics training videos for Sony. We found it fulfilling to create communications that had an impact on corporate culture. The market was very small at the time, but so were we. We were able to carve out a small niche for ourselves.
Thirteen years later we find ourselves at the right place at the right time. Because of Enron and others we are a growing company in a growing marketplace, and online training has become a large part of our business.
What got you personally interested in doing this work?
We were excited by the prospect of creating programs that have impact on corporate culture. When you work with people from the factory floor to the boardroom during ethics training, you begin to see the commonality among people; everyone wants to work in an environment where there is open communication and trust. Ethics programs help to create better relationships and ultimately better work environments.
Why do you feel there’s a need for what you provide?
“BE” (before Enron) most of our clients were Fortune 100 companies. Ethics programs at that time were “nice to have” programs, implemented mostly by very large companies. Recent Enron-inspired regulations now require all publicly traded companies to have ethics programs; it’s mandatory. Privately held companies are now following suit. So, the market has grown considerably over the last two years due to the regulations.
Beyond meeting regulations we also know that good ethics means better business. People intuitively know that, but many times they are afraid to speak up for fear of losing a job or an account. Our programs help companies focus on the long-term benefits of ethical business practices.
How has your training changed over the years?
Customization is the foundation of our behavior changing strategy. We’ve learned over the years that relevant content is what makes ethics programs effective. In the early days, we had our share of experiences where we saw employees glaze over when the programs were not relevant to their everyday job. We built customizable instructor-led sessions back then. Now, all our products and services are built so they can be customized for the client’s needs. At the end of the day, we build programs that are very specific to the company and the audience.
We also customize the delivery strategy. In some cases we deliver online training only. In other cases we use a blended model–online training combined with instructor-led training. It all depends on what will be most effective given the client’s culture, organizational structure and budget.
What kind of challenges did you find in creating your online training programs?
The biggest challenge was to understand the production process and budgeting. We were up many late nights and didn’t make much money during the first few projects. Having produced many other types of media over the years helped in the learning curve, but it took a while to get the production process down so that it was streamlined and profitable for us and straight-forward for our clients.
Another challenge was learning how to deal with so many different desktop environments. We deliver training around the world–in some cases with streaming video–so we had to design our training to work on desktops from New Jersey to France to Beijing.
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