Building a culture of compliance

Published on 31/08/2020

What is a culture of compliance?

Companies that have a culture of compliance are ones that see compliance as an integral part of their business model. Ethics and compliance are the norms of their everyday workflow, and compliant practices flow from the bottom to the top of the company’s hierarchy.

This type of culture starts with having a legal and ethical framework in place, clearly outlining the organisation’s expectations for any employee behaviour and all business conduct.

It can only be considered a true culture of compliance if everyone is on board with it.

Building a culture of compliance

There are 5 ongoing processes that need to happen in order to truly achieve a culture of compliance:

    • Senior management’s full commitment to a culture of compliance needs to be upheld from the beginning. Your organisation’s leaders should play an active role in establishing and monitoring a culture of compliance. Your senior management need to act as role models as to what the appropriate conduct is, and this should be transparent in their work. By having this, the organisation can then establish an ongoing and effective communication of expectations, policies and procedures that employees have to understand and practice. These expectations, their values and the importance of compliance can then be communicated and displayed from the top down.
Operational directives should be aligned with the messages from leadership related to ethics and compliance.
  • Continuous regulatory compliance training will ensure that everyone is continually up to speed with the latest requirements, and that being compliant is front of mind for everyone.
  • Compliance incentives will enable your management teams to demonstrate their commitment to compliance, whilst also rewarding your employees for “doing the right thing”. Likewise, promotions, peer evaluations and rewards should be closely tied to the integrity, ethics and compliance that individuals within the organisation display.
  • Incident reporting is an essential process for the continuous improvement of any compliance-based aspects of the organisation. Employees need to feel comfortable coming forward with any questions or concerns that relate to the legal, compliance and ethics elements of their day-to-day without the fear of retaliation.

However, educating employees is only a small part of building a culture of compliance. So, how can we make most of it?

How to cultivate a culture of compliance with compliance training

Compliance training should not just be used for building awareness and satisfying regulatory requirements. It’s a perfect opportunity to engage with employees, and a powerful way to communicate on all aspects of a compliance culture.

Compliance training can be utilised to build a culture of compliance by:

Communicating the organisation’s commitment to ethical conduct

From the top-down, senior management should be key figures in displaying the appropriate conduct. This may be small aspects like written testimonials and messages, to larger gestures, such as including leaders (all the way up to C-suite executives) in the training, demonstrating that the rules apply to all.

Establishing the compliance ownership & accountability

Employees need to know where to go if they encounter any issues or have any problems. Therefore, it is essential that there is a clear owner for any compliance issues. It is also important to highlight to all employees that whilst there is one owner for compliance issues, it is everyone’s responsibility to be compliant, and individuals are responsible for their own (mis)conduct.

Encouraging transparency & honesty

Employees need to feel that they will be taken seriously if they do speak up. They also need to feel that they will be protected from retaliation and their whistleblowing will remain confidential. The best way to achieve this is to set up an anonymous reporting channel which can be directly and securely accessed by your employees.

Above all, your employees should understand the importance of speaking up. They should know that speaking up has positive effects on the safety of their colleagues and creates a healthy workplace.

Emphasising the benefits of appropriate behaviour

To properly emphasise the benefits of appropriate behaviour, you should first answer the question ‘what’s in it for me?’. The typical approach to compliance is to warn people about fines, jail time and other consequences that are too abstract for your average employee to even consider. Instead, you should focus on the benefits of doing the right thing and make these benefits tangible. This could be anything from small rewards, to peer evaluations and even promotions.

Making compliance relevant

In order for employees to recognise the importance of compliance, they first need to understand how different regulations and policies affect them in their day-to-day tasks. Therefore, the content of your compliance training should be written in employee-focused narrative. This means that:

  • The scenarios and examples of wrongdoing or common mistakes are something that an employee may experience in their everyday workflow
  • All guidelines are clear and practical
  • Topics should be handpicked so they are relevant to employees in certain departments, locations, roles etc. and create specific versions of training.

Keeping abreast of changes with micro-modules

There are two main benefits that come with sharing updates and changes in policies on a regular basis. These are:

  • The amount of new information is kept in smaller, more manageable chunks that doesn’t overbear the employees
  • A continuous flow of compliance information is maintained, keeping compliance top of mind.

Offering support

When it comes to support, it should always be user-friendly. This allows access to all and any information at the point of need, without the hassle.

A change of attitude towards compliance

Maintaining your employee’s positive attitude when it comes to compliance is essential for a widespread, long-term commitment. In order for compliance training to be perceived as a force for good, employees must understand its value. For example, employees should know that if they are a part of a compliant organisation, they will be working in a safer and more positive environment.

The most convenient and efficient tools to encourage this change in attitude is through meaningful compliance training.

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