Fix Your Organization's Compliance Program in 5 Steps
There are many risks that company compliance leaders focus on, including:
- Geopolitical volatility: It's important to provide consistent compliance policies regardless of evolving regulatory bodies and geopolitical volatility. There are also major regulations regarding privacy, such as the GDPR.
- Increasing technological changes: Computing technology is advancing at a quicker pace than ever before. Many companies are still trying to digitize all their assets while using new technology to create new opportunities.
- Changes in business processes: Due to digitization, company processes are evolving at a rapid pace. Compliance policies must keep up with changing business models and company activities to ensure everyone is on the same page.
- Transparency: As more news stories emerge about businesses and bad ethical practices, consumer trust has waned. As a result, customers demand more transparency and constant communication. They expect companies to be ethical in their practices, especially in terms of privacy and customer data. Think about the most recent Facebook controversy.
- Never-ending cyber threats: With thousands of data breaches, hundreds of thousands of ransomware attacks, and billions of identities up for grabs, companies must be hyper-focused on preventing and responding to online threats. Cyberattacks are becoming more sophisticated, and compliance leaders have less time to prepare for each attack. There is not only the financial impact to consider but also hits to consumer trust and company reputation.
It's crucial to be aware of the above risks to have more clarity around prioritizing your compliance policies.
Due to these risks among others, leaders need to have an effective policy in place to handle issues surrounding organizational compliance. Whether you're in the process of implementing a compliance program or improving an existing one, here are five things you should consider to bolster it to the next level.
Create internal partnerships
Compliance policies will not benefit everyone if only specific departments are involved sporadically. For successful implementation, all affected departments must be involved in a structured and systematic way — such as agreeing how often to meet and what information needs to be conveyed. It is important to identify the teams and individuals who handle relevant data. Some of this data can include:
- Transactional data (such as outgoing payments)
- Data on vendors and company partners
- Technology systems data
The objective is for the compliance team to have an increased ability to monitor and predict risks that can permeate throughout the company. For that to happen, they need access to key data points on a consistent basis.
Take steps to improve open communication
The best defense against potential compliance issues is a strong company culture built on open communication. You want employees who are willing and comfortable enough to speak up in the event of a compliance issue — as it is critical to search for any root causes for compliance failures.
Determine how to foster a work environment where employees are not afraid to speak up when necessary. Successful implementation of compliance policies requires that everyone understands the gravity of any potential scenario, and care enough about the company to bring up possible issues.
The steps to create an open working environment and company culture must be tailored based on business values and employee needs. It helps to start with consistent dialogue on various compliance topics such as having quarterly meetings either company-wide or per department, headed by the department manager.
Ensure compliance policies fit in with company workflows
Requiring too many steps of employees to ensure compliance may backfire. Successful implementation of compliance policies can occur when workflows are designed to achieve both business goals and compliance. As a result, aim to build compliance activities into existing workflows.
Continually review how often and effectively employees follow the current policies. For instance, if there is a compliance policy in regard to sending gifts to clients, you might consider connecting gift expenditures to the expense system to get automated reports.
Plant expectations early
To build a culture around compliance, start by letting every potential employee know immediately. Bring it up in their interview; set the expectations early on. This also can be right after an individual accepts a job offer.
Send a quick memo on the company's compliance policies before their first day on the job. It can also be included in the company welcome letter with information on ethical codes of conduct.
Make sure expectations are easy to measure
After you have communicated your compliance expectations, the right metrics should be in place to ensure desired outcomes. Some of these metrics may be:
- Calculation of compliance training reminders sent
- How many training courses are given
- How often employees are educated and updated
- How the training courses are designed
- How many reports have been escalated a week after training
- How many compliance messages were conveyed within a specific time frame
Ensuring compliance isn't just about creating the right policies, it's also about effectively communicating adherence and understanding of these policies.
Fixing your organization's compliance policies doesn't have to be overwhelming. All it takes is proper planning and then proactive efforts. If you can implement an enhanced strategy of communication, tie in compliance processes to what your team is already doing, and confirm that you can easily measure and track progress, you should gain a better handle on your compliance program. Don't just establish it and then let it fall by the wayside.