Compliance Culture Within Your Organization

Regulatory compliance is arguably one of the most significant challenges your organization faces. No matter your industry or sector, there are likely regulations to which you must adhere. Unfortunately, that’s often easier said than done.

According to research released by Deloitte, since the financial crisis, we’ve seen a 60% increase in operating costs spent on compliance. Compliance, the firm contends, is no longer chiefly the domain of the chief compliance officer, but instead needs to be a team effort; an organization-wide initiative. And therein lies the problem.

While there certainly are businesses that openly and egregiously ignore the frameworks set by regulators, in many cases, it’s individual employees that are the problem. Plan and host as many training sessions and compliance seminars as you like. Establish and distribute a comprehensive, rigorous corporate code of conduct.

There’s still no guarantee that people will listen — and while it’s true that individuals can and do face charges for compliance violations, it’s ultimately your business that will be held responsible for their actions. 

It’s your restaurant that suffers if kitchen staff fail to maintain a clean workplace. It’s your facility that will be held liable if someone is injured for behaving in an unsafe manner. It’s your transportation company that will face fines if someone cuts corners on vehicle maintenance.

How do you avoid this, though? How do you ensure your employees actually care about adhering to regulations? Simply put, by building your business’s culture around compliance. 

What Is Compliance Culture? 

Although the phrase itself practically verges on being a buzzword, compliance culture is essentially what’s written on the box. It represents the concept of a business committing to regulatory compliance from the top-down, wrapping it into every initiative, decision, and project. 

It’s about making compliance a core priority of one’s organization both implicitly and explicitly to such an extent that it shapes the behavior of everyone from the freshest intern to the most seasoned member of the C-suite.  

Compliance in organization

Why Does Compliance Culture Matter? 

Aside from reducing the chance that your business will be hit with a fine thanks to the behavior of a few bad actors, building a culture of compliance tends to have a net positive effect across the organization. 

  • You cannot create a compliant workplace without first prioritizing the health and wellness of your employees. An employee who’s happy and fulfilled will naturally want to act in your company’s best interests (while also being more productive in the process. Similarly, someone who’s frustrated or feels unappreciated is significantly likelier to become a bad actor. 
  • Regulatory frameworks exist for a reason. In the long-term, they often represent a more effective and efficient way of doing things. Following data storage regulations, for instance, tends to make it easier for people to track down critical files when they need them. 
  • Your reputation depends on it. What’s the first thought that comes to mind when we mention Equifax? What about Target or Experian? The simple fact is that noncompliance can, if it harms your customers, permanently stain your brand. 
  • A culture of compliance costs less. When you can trust that your employees will act, in the most part, in your company’s best interests from a compliance standpoint, it provides more than just peace of mind. It can also save you money by significantly reducing liability.  
  • Compliance culture can be a competitive advantage. Customers are increasingly choosing their businesses based on ethics and social responsibility. By its nature, a culture of compliance is both responsible and ethical. It’s designed to build trust, and not just internally. 

How Does One Build a Compliance Culture? 

We’ll assume you already have compliance training in place. That you already have policies, procedures, and guidelines that employees are expected to follow. As we’ve already stated, however, these represent the bare minimum from a compliance standpoint. 

Compliance training

If you’re to build a culture of compliance, you must understand both what comprises it, and how to overcome the challenges you may encounter as your business transitions. 

Elements of Compliance Culture

  • Total leadership buy-in. Organizational culture starts at the top. From management to executives, your business’s leadership must fully support compliance. That includes:  
    • Holding both colleagues and subordinates accountable for policy violations. 
    • Refusing to cut corners. 
    • Understanding the risks, solutions, and current regulatory climate of your industry. 
    • Taking a personal interest in their division or department’s compliance efforts. 
    • Emphasizing that compliance violations can often start with small, daily decisions or processes. 
  • Internal messaging. Internal communication should be both open and transparent. Keep employees up-to-date about policy changes and new legislation. And make sure to explain not simply what people should do, but also why. 
  • Open communication. If an employee witnesses anyone violating your business’s code of conduct, there should be a reliable means through which they can report that violation  — one which also protects them from retaliatory action. This could take the form of an application platform, a website, or an anonymized form. You might even consider offering multiple reporting tools. 
  • Empowerment. When an employee decides to cut corners or take shortcuts, it’s rarely due to laziness. More often, it’s because your business’s established way of doing things is difficult or cumbersome in some fashion. Pay attention to the pain points of your staff, and seek compliant tools that address them. 
  • Integrity. Your business should do everything in its power to stick to its values and ideals. Prioritize the well-being of your workers, and make sure their needs are being met. Foster an atmosphere of respect at every level of your organization. More importantly, make sure your organization consistently follows its stated values. 
  • Incentivization. What systems do you have in place for rewarding exceptional work? For recognizing good behavior or adherence to regulations? Is compliance included in performance reviews and the like? 

Roadblocks to a Culture of Compliance

Departmental silos
  • Departmental silos. There is no place for silos of any kind in the modern-day. Rather than working in isolation from one another, departments and teams must act collaboratively. 
  • Poor process management.  Particularly in larger organizations, manually tracking compliance metrics can be next to impossible. You need solutions that allow you to take the busywork out of organizational compliance. 
  • A lack of visibility. If your business’s left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, you cannot be certain you’re compliant. While you cannot intrude directly on the day-to-day of your employees, you at least need big-picture visibility into how people are working and what they do. 
  • A culture of risk. Many organizations put a premium on risk-taking, to the extent that they practically romanticize recklessness. Often, this manifests as a culture where the ‘top dogs’ aren’t expected to play by the rules. This cannot continue — no matter how much of a star someone is, you cannot allow their behavior to put your business at risk. 
  • No resources. Even if you do establish a culture of compliance, that doesn’t mean you can siphon budget or manpower away from your compliance program. You still need to be willing to invest time, money, and effort.

How monitorQA Can Help Your Business Achieve Compliance

Auditing, reporting, and monitoring together represent one of the most significant challenges to organizational compliance. Even if you’ve built up a culture that emphasizes the importance of ethical and legal behavior, your program can still fail if you try to handle things manually. That’s where monitorQA comes in.

Designed from the bottom-up for on-the-go mobile users, monitorQA’s inspection software is trusted by businesses across multiple sectors. In addition to data-rich dashboards that show you big-picture trends within your organization, it also features a smart audit form builder and automated scheduling. In short, it provides everything you need to streamline your compliance processes and improve safety, accountability, and operations across the board.


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About the author

Andrew has led operations for multiple companies. He began his career managing international operations for a global organization. Eventually he shifted to launching and selling tech companies. Today, he remains involved in several businesses as an advisor and investor. He remains passionate about helping companies achieve operational excellence.

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