6 Steps for Building a Powerful Culture of Compliance



6 Steps for Building a Powerful Culture of Compliance

Here come the 2020s, a decade that could potentially have more regulations on the compliance front. Several events of the last few years have shown an evolution in compliance:

  • Regulators slapped huge fines on British Airways and Marriott International for violating the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
  • Equifax was hit for a $575 million penalty last summer by the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for its 2017 data breach.
  • Increased awareness of workplace harassment and the impactful #MeToo movement have placed companies in the spotlight for allowing bad behavior by employees and apathy from leadership.
  • Unfathomable diversity gaffes—such as this incident at a Buffalo Wild Wings, in which a multiracial family was asked to move tables because a “regular customer” didn’t want them sitting near him—result in PR nightmares for businesses, which struggle to fully recover.
These are just a few examples of what the next decade has in store for organizations and their compliance strategies and responses. A culture of compliance, once something that would be optional to develop, is now practically a mandate. Businesses that don’t live and breathe compliance in everything they do—including training—will face an uphill battle against increased regulatory guidelines, complex digital requirements, and increased public attention.

That said, building a powerful culture of compliance isn’t as difficult as it may seem. Little, everyday things organizations do add up, and dynamic compliance training teaches people how to act and why their decisions matter. Here are six steps to take compliance to the next level.

1. Commitment from leadership

Rank-and-file employees often take their cues on how to act from leadership. If the C-suite is excited about an initiative—such as fundraising, customer service, activism, and so on—workers on the front lines usually follow. Compliance is no exception. Without buy-in and enthusiasm from leadership, a culture of compliance can’t flourish. The examples executives and managers set, and their actions and reactions to compliance training and crises, set the tone for the entire organization.

2. Compliance ownership

Too many companies get mired in the idea that compliance is “someone else’s responsibility.” The result might be a company in which no one takes the initiative with compliance or knows who to turn to when a compliance concern arises. Or, in highly regulated industries, bare-minimum resources are dedicated to compliance because it’s viewed as a necessary evil—something done because the law requires it. Businesses that excel at compliance devote people, proper budget, and enthusiasm to it. When all aspects of compliance, including training, are priorities instead of afterthoughts, people take ownership of learning and the responsibility they have to the organization’s success.

3. An established code of conduct

Committing to compliance principles, ethics, and moral behavior is difficult if guidelines aren’t clearly defined so that employees—all employees—know the standards by which they should be acting. An established code of conduct clearly spells out expectations, but it won’t mean as much if it’s not:

  • Promoted: Ensure employees know a code of conduct or mission statement exists, how important the document is, and that it should be a guide for their decisions.
  • Updated: Don’t let guidelines collect dust—revise, clarify, and update as needed, particularly as compliance regulations and best practices evolve.
  • Followed: Demonstrate that compliance guidelines aren’t there for show but are actively referenced and upheld.

4. Policies backed up by action

A culture of compliance doesn’t overlook violations of policy. Bad behavior must have consequences, lest employees don’t feel safe to report when guidelines aren’t being followed or when they or their coworkers are being treated badly. Strong action as a response to noncompliance leads to confident employees who don’t hesitate to act. Even lesser transgressions can be teaching moments that, with the right response, ultimately lead to better compliance.

5. Great training

Even with executive support and active adherence, a culture of compliance can’t thrive without training and continual learning for everyone in the organization. Such training should go beyond basic courses that slam employees with a flood of information with the hope something sinks in.

Engaging compliance training presents realistic, relevant scenarios—automatically tailored to the individual users—that build muscle memory so that employees come away from courses instinctively knowing how to act when a compliance situation presents itself in real life. Besides best practices and the proper way to act in just about any scenario, employees learn that compliance is as much their responsibility as everyone else’s.

6. Nonstop compliance culture

The idea that only a few people in the company need to worry about compliance or that it is a once-a-year thing—forgotten as soon as you finish a training session—prevents organizations from truly achieving a culture of compliance. The training itself, through the behavioral data it produces, offers a strong measure of the compliance culture. Metrics and analytics not only reveal gaps and misunderstandings in employees’ collective compliance knowledge, but also predict where problems might arise in the future. In a culture of compliance, this intelligence is invaluable for shaping strategy, supporting employees, and staving off problems before they occur.

Reinforcement tools such as microlearning and job aids enhance a culture of compliance by keeping it top of mind all year long. That sends a powerful message to employees about the priority of compliance and the value of their contributions to the organization’s success—which will be essential for businesses in the coming decade.

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