The Bertelsmann Family Feud Ethics Game
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The Bertelsmann Family Feud Ethics Game

The Bertelsmann Family Feud Ethics Game Training Program is a groundbreaking and innovative employee training program unlike any other. The company converted its hit game show The Family Feud into an Ethics Game with competing Bertelsmann families battling it out to become the “Bertelsmann Ethics Champion.”

Paul Holmes

The Bertelsmann Family Feud Ethics Game Training Program is a groundbreaking and innovative employee training program unlike any other. The company converted its hit game show The Family Feud into an Ethics Game with competing Bertelsmann families battling it out to become the “Bertelsmann Ethics Champion.” The families guess the most popular answers to a range of ethics questions and the employee audience participates in an interactive learning experience that ties the answers back to Bertelsmann’s Code of Business Conduct.

There are four originally scripted and produced episodes—on Harassment, Discrimination, Electronic Communications in the Workplace and Workplace Health, Safety and Security. In addition to the Video/DVD episodes, a number of original tools and products were created for the Program – an original magazine (BEN (Bertelsmann Ethics Network) Magazine), a Training Guide, a Poster, Postcards and other supporting materials. These products were created by Bertelsmann employees for Bertelsmann employees using every one of our media skills and talents – television, publishing, music, printing, graphic design, manufacturing and logistical services.

The program is worthy of recognition because it is the first time to our knowledge that a company has created a synergistic multimedia toolkit using a multitude of in-house skills, resources and talents to produce ethics training that: connects directly to our businesses and employees by giving them memorable ethics training that is fun, educational and, most importantly, difficult to ignore or forget, enhances our reputation for integrity and protects our company from liability.

Every challenge is an opportunity.  The challenge Bertelsmann confronted, like all businesses, was to ensure that it conducted business with integrity. The opportunity was that as a multi-media company it could do much better communicating our important ethics and compliance messages directly to our employees and connecting directly to our businesses by using our very own resources and talents.

Research involved looking at: historical and contemporary information on what we were doing in-house to train our folks on ethics and compliance, training programs that were commercially available from vendors and benchmarking with leading companies’ ethics training programs. It found that vendor products were either not relevant or too expensive and that very few companies were doing anything creative in this area –we did not come across anyone who was doing an elaborate and customized in-house program making use of their own business talents and resources to create targeted and relevant ethics training.

The objective was to create a multimedia ethics and compliance training toolkit to be distributed to every one of our North American companies’ human resources departments in late 2004 for their use in annual Code of Conduct training for the ensuing 2-3 year period.

Planning entailed developing a core idea amongst a small group – including representatives from our corporate, television, music and magazine divisions. A second stage involved systematically engaging key support from each and every one of our North American businesses (a total of 14 companies). The final execution stage lasted approximately 6-9 months and entailed (1) the writing and production of four original Family Feud episodes, (2) the design and creation of a brand new magazine for employees (BEN Magazine), (3) the design and execution of several key support and marketing materials (poster, postcard, employee brochure), (4) writing of an elaborate trainer “Training Guide” and (5) extensive project management for the printing, manufacturing and distribution of each of the Program materials.

The strategic essence of the Program is that it marries the company’s business activities to relevant ethics training by making use of our multi-media resources and talents to create training that truly connects with our businesses and endures with our people.

The centerpiece of the training program is the Bertelsmann Family Feud Ethics Game DVD/Video consisting of four originally produced and scripted episodes of the Family Feud game show. Each of our businesses will be making use of the Program over the next 2-3 years to provide their employees with relevant and periodic ethics training, as is now required by U.S. law.

The company have provided each business with a multimedia toolkit to execute their training campaigns – posters, brochures, postcards – as well as created a virtual depository of many of these materials for access by all employees through our newly launched Bertelsmann Ethics and Compliance Website. At the Website, employees can view most of the Program products including an entertaining Family Feud Ethics Game trailer with clips from two of the episodes.

Both internal and external audiences have received the Program warmly and enthusiastically. The communications team achieved its objective of creating and delivering complete program toolkits to every one of our North American company HR departments in October 2004.

The HR departments are beginning to roll out the Program to their employees and will continue to do so over the coming months. Outside audiences (including numerous ethics and compliance officers and professionals from leading global companies) have viewed the Program at conferences and private viewings and have been extremely enthusiastic about the effectiveness and originality of the Program.

Accolades received from some of these companies’ officers and professionals have included the following: “This will be the gold standard for in-house training – we’ll never be able to do anything like it”, “You have created the paradigm for in-house training”, and “Can you make this commercially available so that we can purchase it to use in our company?”


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