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7 Building Blocks for a Successful Compliance Program

Let’s face it – managing and maintaining compliance can be daunting. With employment lawsuits increasing by more than 400% over the last 14 years, it’s clear that maintaining compliance and avoiding legal ramifications is a rapidly growing business challenge.

Organizations are scrambling to stay up-to-date with ever-changing laws and regulations. If you don’t know where to start, you’re not alone.blocks

Sixty eight percent¹ of organizations admit they were caught off guard by an operational surprise.

To avoid unwanted surprises, here are 7 building blocks of a successful compliance program:

  1. Create a culture of compliance.  Above all else, creating an organizational culture of compliance is paramount.  A corporate commitment to high ethical standards must start from the top. If upper-level management is already focused on creating a culture of compliance, fantastic – but make sure that communication is fluid and goals are aligned. If upper-level management isn’t focused on compliance, initiate the conversation. Get consensus on compliance priorities and goals and encourage a call to action to align all management levels and departments. Meeting always-changing global regulations requires change, and management must proactively and strategically embrace change. Collaboration and communication is the first step to establishing an effective compliance program that lives and breathes throughout all lines of the business.
  2. Learning as the foundation for compliance behavior. If employees are not aware of existing policies and regulations, how are they expected to be aware of new or updated policies and regulations?  How can they serve customers in good faith? When it comes to compliance, ignorance isn’t bliss. Achieving compliance requires you to identify who does and does not know, and who needs training on specific material. Training programs are the core of any good compliance solution. Having a corporate platform such as a learning management system (LMS) will not only simplify and facilitate training management; it will make HR processes and reporting more efficient with comprehensive reports of training completions and exception documentation. Online training options improve efficiency by making it easy for employees to gain new knowledge while spending less time away from work.
  3. Align corporate and individual goals. There is no use setting goals if they are not aligned across the organization, and compliance goals are no exception. Goals must be disseminated from executive leadership down to each individual. Let’s use this hypothetical situation. An organization’s corporate goal is to increase “compliance adherence” across all departments. Middle management’s responsibility is to interpret and set a department goal to achieve compliance within 6 weeks of notification. Each department goal is then broken down and managed at the individual level. Ex: Sales reps will attend 10 hours per month on required compliance training. The most effective and efficient way to manage this is by integrating your talent management system with your learning management system. This gives you the ability to automate goal management, as well as other performance initiatives, and automatically assign goal based required training and track completions. Integration and automation removes manually processes that eats up so much HR time and ensures that multi-levels of management and employees receive the training needed to satisfy the goal.
  4. Modern content strategy. As the saying goes, content is king. Relevant, important and engaging content has a big impact. Rather than bore your workforce with traditional, outdated training classes, engage them with a variety of materials, from video tutorials to interactive games to social collaboration. Be sure access is as easy and content is in the right form. Will users be able to complete training or read required information on mobile devices? Will the LMS run on the browsers and operating systems your people use? Make sure the content itself supports those various delivery methods – otherwise you’re going to run into trouble.
  5. Just in time learning. Innovative organizations are committed to delivering training content in context when and where the user needs it. Let’s use a financial firm for this example. A manager is informed by the chief compliance officer (CCO) that there has been an amendment to an existing regulation that must be acted upon immediately. After a joint review, the manager understands how to effectively change current corporate policies and procedures in order to become compliant. The CCO contacts the appropriate person to update corporate policy and issue procedure documentation, while the manager simultaneously holds a “lunch and learn” meeting  to update direct reports on the recent change.  This ad-hoc meeting can then be managed in the LMS, individual completions tracked, and proof of compliance is available if needed for an audit.
  6. Easy to Use Interface. A positive user experience goes a long way. It may seem simple and overlooked, but a difficult interface results in low completion rates.  Why? Because if it is too cumbersome to log in or navigate, then employees give up until the next free moment. And how often do free moments present themselves during business hours? Rarely, right? Therefore, easy to access and easy to use interfaces will increase timely participation and the results you want: high training completion rates and employees empowered to be compliant.
  7. Complete visibility. Transparency is critical to maintaining compliance. Visibility into ongoing activities, training assignments and re-certifications helps organizations be proactive, rather than reactive, to potential audits. Part of a successful compliance program is assessing how well your training is working. For HR leaders, robust reports will measure the impact of compliance training, what is working and what isn’t, and provide the information needed to take immediate action to adjust strategy and tactics as needed. Results are measured against key performance indicators (KPI) to evaluate the success of the investment in compliance programs.

A lot of understanding, planning and communication go into establishing a successful compliance program.  I hope these 7 suggestions are helpful starting or expanding your own compliance program.  With the right commitment, communication and tools in place you can build a culture of compliance and the confidence that your organization will be ready if the auditors come knocking.

If you’re serious about compliance and looking for more information, download our eBook, HR Audit Essentials: 8 Tips to Being Audit-Ready.

Do you have any other suggestions to add? Feel free to leave a comment below.


¹Source: Beasley, Branson, and Hancock


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