The word “compliance” doesn’t exactly stir up feelings of excitement, and there are a few good reasons why. Ensuring your organization checks all the legal boxes and follows industry standards gets complicated. Some rules and guidelines overlap, and others seem to contradict each other. Plus, there are often complex steps and a ton of legalese to sort through.
But no matter what industry space you’re in, compliance with laws and standards is part of doing business. It’s something your organization must do to protect its interests, employees, and consumers. More importantly, compliance can demonstrate that a company and its leaders care about ethics and doing what’s right. While the process of following laws and guidelines might seem tedious, it doesn’t have to be. Here are four ways to make compliance less cumbersome.
Governance, risk, and compliance is a comprehensive strategic approach. GRC examines how laws, internal and external risks, and compliance programs connect. For instance, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulates workplace safety. Under OSHA regulations, employers must create safe work environments for employees and follow certain precautions.
Yet the nature of some work environments and industries carries unique or additional risks. Nurses in hospitals face the chance of disease exposure and transmission. For their part, delivery drivers deal with the possibilities of traffic accidents, equipment mishaps, and onsite hazards. Each organization must determine what risks to manage and how they relate to workplace safety laws.
Compliance programs, including training and procedures, help mitigate or reduce threats to worker safety. At the same time, these programs ensure employees and organizations follow or exceed minimum standards. Using GRC tools and strategies connects the dots between legal requirements, risks, and internal procedures or behaviors. Looking at operations holistically makes it easier to spot potential problems and avert them.
Since compliance can be complex, regular internal audits help keep companies on track. It’s easier to catch and correct noncompliance issues when they’re just starting to emerge. You don’t want to wait until deficient processes or unethical behaviors become ingrained into the organization’s culture. Or noncompliance issues are so untamed that an external audit brings hefty penalties and fines.
The purpose of an internal compliance audit is to examine a business’s procedures and risks under a microscope. Some companies assign employees or compliance teams to perform these audits, and others hire audit firms. Either way, the audit process reveals where internal procedures are falling short or creating risks.
Say your company delivers products to retail stores, and your delivery team uses trucks to accomplish this. You recently bought new trucks and are using equipment from the previous fleet to secure boxes during transit. Some of that equipment includes load bars designed to lock in place against a stack of boxes. However, an audit determines that the load bars are not compatible with the height of the new trucks’ interiors.
As a result, the bars aren’t staying in place while drivers are on the road. This creates an employee safety issue and increases the chance of injuries. Instead of waiting for an injury or worse to happen, an internal audit committee recommends equipment replacement and employee training. Your business avoids workers’ comp claims and/or employee turnover.
Compliance doesn’t happen without people. However, employees at all levels are human. They can overlook or forget crucial parts of workflows and procedures. The more complicated a process or procedure, the more likely misunderstandings and misinterpretations will happen.
Ironically, repetitive procedures that ensure compliance may also lead to errors and omissions. When employees get on autopilot, they may develop tunnel vision and forget to critically think through each situation. Take, for example, a procedure meant to verify clients’ identities. Employees may start to go through the motions or ignore red flags to get the job done.
Some companies turn to technology to automate compliance, while others centralize easy-to-digest documentation. Establishing resource teams, such as escalation desks, also give employees access to subject matter experts. What documentation and tech tools fail to clarify or address, human resources can.
Presenting compliance activities as chores or rules can dampen a staff’s enthusiasm for carrying them out. This approach will feel more like a parent telling a child what to do rather than explaining why it’s important. Businesses that find ways to integrate compliance with values have an easier time convincing and inspiring employees to fulfill compliance responsibilities.
Think about when someone gives you feedback about a project or problem you’re working on. Simply telling you what to do may help you accomplish the task or get you over a temporary hurdle. But instructions alone don’t necessarily cement the knowledge and discernment you need to work through similar tasks in the future. That requires understanding why those instructions or steps exist and how they connect with a larger objective.
Appealing to values like honesty and integrity is one of the more obvious ways to align compliance with company culture. Crafting a mission statement that pledges to deliver high-quality customer experiences is another. Employees who jeopardize client privacy aren’t following through on that promise. Those who embrace the promise, on the other hand, will be more willing to engage in the compliance activities required to deliver on it.
Overseeing compliance may not be the easiest or most thrilling responsibility. However, it’s essential to business sustainability and risk management. When leaders integrate necessary activities into strategies, processes, and cultures, adhering to guidelines and laws becomes manageable. By treating compliance as part of your company’s systems, you can make requirements more convenient for employees to follow.