A successful compliance program starts with the C-suite. Comscore’s Ray Williams highlights the importance of leadership involvement and investment: greater employee satisfaction, productivity and retention, not to mention better economic performance for the company.
Companies that incorporate compliance as a key component of their culture tend to perform better. They have a better reputation – both internally with employees and externally with customers and partners – and they experience safer and more respectful environments. These benefits cannot be overstated; employees who feel safe and free to express themselves are more creative and productive.
Too many times we’ve seen organizations drop the ball at one point or another in executing their compliance strategy. These pitfalls range from the mismanagement of sexual harassment in the workplace to bias conflicts and safety violations, all of which can negatively impact the corporate brand. These failures often stem from the top, because the C-suite fails to recognize the true impact of an integrated compliance program.
The solution to this overarching issue is creating a compliance and ethics program that is led by the C-suite and integrated into every aspect of the business, because these best practices will trickle down, improving employee retention and productivity. Without involving the C-suite and truly building a culture on compliance and ethics, behavior can put a company at risk, and the organization will have a harder time recruiting and retaining employees, as well as customers.
My organization has made a significant investment in our compliance program to develop a people-centric culture and reach important goals, such as revenue growth through increased productivity, cost and risk reduction and improved safety. To bolster these efforts, our team works directly with senior leaders to build a culture of compliance.
Leveraging curated resources, all employees – regardless of their role or business function – are expected to understand the importance of ethical behavior and required to complete regular compliance training. These efforts begin with and are sustained by the C-suite, who not only serve as the role models for the rest of the organization, but also fund the program by continually investing in it.
There is no question that strategically integrating compliance throughout an organization is essential to achieving business goals. However, the real challenge is getting an organization started on a compliance journey and ensuring the program is sustainable over time. Below are a few proactive steps organizations can take to build a culture of compliance.
Secure Leadership Buy-In
The effort to create an ethical, people-centric plan must have the full support of the leadership team. Our leaders are informed about and trained on compliance requirements and behavioral expectations. They understand the important role compliance plays in our organization and how it impacts and improves the overall business. With our leaders involved, we align our compliance to support key business objectives and it has become a standard operating procedure. In fact, it is baked into the company’s strategic planning process. Our executives set the tone for our company culture and lead by example through their actions and vocal support to inspire employees to follow.
Align Risks to Business Goals
High-risk issues, such as workplace safety, harassment and legal considerations require the largest training commitment and should be prioritized. Leaders in the organization should sit down, identify risk and determine how best to mitigate it.
For my organization, it was important to have a customized compliance training program that was aligned to our goals and embedded in the daily routine of our employees. For example, we have employees based globally and need to continually update and customize their trainings to ensure it meets their region’s needs. Therefore, the compliance training we selected helped us to adapt to the evolving requirements for harassment training in the state of California, Delaware and more. When employees began to recognize both that the leadership team was invested in the training and that it aligned with the company’s goals, they felt more committed to the program.
Be Strategic, Stay Relevant
Training should be targeted to deliver the right message to the right people in the right way. When employees are required to do training that is irrelevant to their role and perceived as boring, they become disinterested. A data analyst will have different requirements than a customer success executive, as will an accountant or human resource manager – it’s important to ensure employees do not get distracted from irrelevant trainings and miss the key points of the ones they are actually required to complete.
Instill Pride In Your Employees
Many training programs overlook the emotional aspect of compliance, failing to recognize that emotional training messages help team members feel that the company is looking out for the safety and well-being of the employee, their co-workers and even their loved ones. People enjoy feeling that they are a part of something bigger than themselves. By instilling the pride in employees that comes with working for an ethical company, employees will stay longer and work harder to support company goals.
The right mindset and resulting behavior change — safe, ethical and respectful behaviors — are necessary not only to decrease the risk of penalties, but also to transition to an environment where individuals and the business thrive. Training is at the heart of changing behaviors and creating safe and ethical workplaces.
With the C-suite involved, employees will feel invested in their training and the goals of the company. Building an effective compliance program is a continuous journey, and organizations can realize great success in this regard by involving the leadership from the start.