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Conflicting values of millennials a 'wake up call': Fraud survey

Xenia Tan and Heidi Ng; Special to CNBC
83% of millennials won't work for unethical companies: EY

Millennials in Asia-Pacific are the most willing age group to justify "unethical behavior" in the workplace, according to an annual fraud report released on Tuesday.

The online survey conducted by global consulting firm EY's Fraud Investigation and Dispute Services on about 1,700 employees from large companies across Asia-Pacific, said that young working adults of the region are more likely to condone dishonest methods in order to "win and retain business."

Justifying bad behavior

The report titled, "EY Asia-Pacific Fraud Survey 2017", found that 38 percent of millennials or Generation-Y employees (defined as those aged 25 to 34 years old) would, if necessary, resort to "cash payments" to get ahead, compared to 28 percent of all respondents.

Forty-two percent of working millennials would also "extend the monthly reporting period to meet financial targets", higher than 31 percent of all others surveyed.

But the results do not mean that millennials are most likely to engage in fraudulent behavior. Millennials were found to be the age group least willing to work for an unethical employer, with 4-in-5 Generation-Y respondents indicating that they would seek another job should their current firm be embroiled in a fraud scandal.

Hinterhaus Productions | Getty Images

A key reason for the disparity is that company policies on ethical behavior often are adhered to by millennials when explained clearly without a lot of jargon.

"Clearly the message is not getting through," Chris Fordham, APAC leader of the fraud unit, said on CNBC's Squawk Box, citing the lack of simplicity and consistency in policies.

"The employees don't understand it; they want to act compliantly, but they're struggling to understand the policies which are too full of jargon."

Complicated compliance

But millennials are not alone in finding compliance efforts by companies to be a ball of confusion.

Fordham said that while 93 percent of respondents felt that a robust compliance structure was key in deciding on an employer, 85 percent of them do not understand the policies in place, calling it "a wake up call for businesses."

Although more compliance policies and processes have been put in place over the past three years, the expanding investment in corporate compliance has not paid off, with an alarming 69 percent of respondents saying they have concerns about company misconduct.

He called for an overhaul in attitude towards tackling this lack of ethical conduct, "management needs to invest time and effort now to ensure that the level of understanding from the manuals is increasing if they want to ensure sustainability of their workforce," such as through creating simple and specific policies.

Correction: This article was updated to correct the name of EY's Fraud Investigation and Dispute Services.

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