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How to Build a Culture of Compliance and Drive Positive Behavior Change in Your Learners

October 6, 2021 | By Asha Pandey


How to Build a Culture of Compliance and Drive Positive Behavior Change in Your Learners

Compliance necessitates behavioral change, driven by employees’ understanding of the significance behind compliance. And that can’t happen through one-off training. In this article, I outline learning strategies that will create a culture of compliance.

Why Do Some Compliance Programs Fail?

Compliance programs can be a cornerstone of an organization’s ethical and legal responsibilities. However, not all compliance programs succeed, and understanding the common reasons for failure can provide valuable insights for organizations aiming to foster a strong culture of compliance.

  • Lack of Top Management Commitment: When leadership doesn’t endorse compliance, programs often lack the resources and enforcement needed for success.
  • Insufficient Training and Communication: Employees need regular, effective training to understand compliance requirements.
  • Poorly Defined Objectives and Metrics: Without clear goals and metrics, it’s challenging to measure program effectiveness.
  • Inadequate Resources: Limited budgets, personnel, and tools can impede the implementation and maintenance of effective compliance programs.
  • Resistance to Change: In some corporate cultures, there can be a resistance to the changes required for compliance, often due to a lack of understanding of its importance.
  • Over-Reliance on Automation: While technology is essential, over-relying on automated systems without human oversight can lead to gaps in compliance.
  • Ineffective Incident Management: A lack of proper mechanisms to report, investigate, and address compliance breaches can undermine a program’s integrity.

What Is the Cost of Non-Compliance in a Corporate Culture?

The cost of non-compliance in corporate culture can be substantial and multifaceted, impacting both tangible and intangible aspects of a business:

  • Financial Penalties and Legal Costs: Non-compliance can lead to hefty fines, legal fees, and settlements.
  • Reputational Damage: A failure to comply can severely damage a company’s reputation, affecting customer trust and investor confidence.
  • Operational Disruptions: Compliance issues may cause operational interruptions, leading to productivity losses.
  • Loss of Business Opportunities: Non-compliance can result in lost contracts or barred entry into certain markets.
  • Increased Scrutiny and Regulation: Companies with compliance failures often face increased scrutiny from regulators and may be subject to more stringent regulations.

What Is a Culture of Compliance?

A culture of compliance refers to an organizational environment where adherence to legal and regulatory standards is deeply integrated into the company’s values and operations. It involves a collective commitment from all levels of the organization, from top management to individual employees, to consistently act ethically and in accordance with both internal policies and external legal requirements. This culture emphasizes transparency, ethical decision-making, and proactive engagement with compliance issues, thereby fostering trust and integrity in business practices. It involves:

  • Proactive Compliance: Organizations proactively stay ahead of regulatory changes and industry standards.
  • Employee Involvement: Every employee, regardless of their role, understands and participates in compliance-related activities.
  • Ethical Decision-Making: Decisions are made not just on legal grounds but also based on ethical considerations.
  • Transparent Operations: Encouraging openness and honesty in all business dealings and internal communications.

Attributes of a Culture of Compliance

A culture of compliance is characterized by several key attributes that distinguish it from mere regulatory adherence:

  1. Leadership Commitment: Top management demonstrates a strong commitment to compliance, setting the tone for the organization.
  2. Continuous Education and Training: Regular training programs ensure employees are up-to-date with compliance standards.
  3. Clear Communication: Open channels for discussing compliance issues and concerns.
  4. Accountability and Responsibility: Everyone in the organization is held accountable for compliance-related actions.
  5. Proactive Risk Management: Identifying and mitigating risks before they become issues.
  6. Ethical Standards: A strong emphasis on ethics, going beyond legal requirements.
  7. Feedback and Improvement: Regularly reviewing and improving compliance processes.

Challenges in Creating a Culture of Compliance

Establishing a culture of compliance is not without its challenges:

  • Resistance to Change: Established organizations may encounter resistance when adapting to new policies and procedures.
  • Resource Allocation: Allocating sufficient resources, both financial and human, can be difficult.
  • Maintaining Consistency: Ensuring consistent compliance practices across all levels and departments.
  • Keeping Up with Regulatory Changes: Regulations can change rapidly, making it hard to stay current.
  • Balancing Compliance and Business Goals: Finding the right balance between strict compliance and business agility.
  • Measuring Effectiveness: Developing effective metrics to measure the success of compliance initiatives.

Why Is a Culture of Compliance the Need of the Hour?

Today’s remote work model has redefined how companies monitor and enforce compliance, creating a need to reimagine training around it.

When employees work remotely, misconduct and non-compliance are often difficult to monitor and analyze. Part of the challenge might be attributable to inherent barriers in communicating with a remote workforce.

In a fast-paced world, when changing compliance narratives aren’t appropriately communicated, explained, or understood, compliance disconnects may arise. As a result, the acts of individual (or a few) employees may significantly impact the organization’s culture of compliance. This highlights the increased importance of compliance training in a work model that represents a paradigm shift from what we have been accustomed to until now.

Why Should Building a Culture of Compliance Be a Part of Your Core Training Strategy?

Compliance is not an option. From government regulatory bodies to professional and ethical standards, organizations, and international quality assurance watchdogs – they all have mandates that participating organizations must comply with. Training the workforce in compliance yields other tangible and intangible rewards:

  • Most compliance requirements often make businesses more competitive.
  • A compliant organization is often well-regarded within their domains and earns peer and customer appreciation as a result.
  • While compliance might add operational (unit) cost, because of the training and implementation efforts, it also provides pricing power to compliant organizations.
  • Training the entire workforce on compliance mandates prevents costly lawsuits, litigations, and regulatory penalties.

In fact, most businesses owe their very existence to compliance. Without being compliant, businesses might not have the legal standing to continue operating. Non-compliance by individual employees might jeopardize a company’s future, and therefore, instilling a culture of compliance through compliance training must be a part of every organization’s core training strategy.

What Factors Can Enable You to Create a Culture of Compliance?

Organizations cannot mandate a compliance culture. It requires embracing fundamental change, at all levels of the company, to embrace compliance:

  1. Mindset change: To make compliance a part of the organization’s culture requires a mindset change – beginning at the highest levels of management down to the lowest rungs of the company.
  2. Behavioral change: Embracing compliance requires a paradigm change in organization-wide behavior. To become compliant often requires not just thinking differently, but also doing things or behaving differently.
  3. Creating awareness and a strong sense of purpose: In the current era, where a significant portion of the workforce operates remotely, it’s understandable that employees may waver in their thoughts about compliance.. The only way to deal with those possible lapses is by ingraining compliance awareness into a strong org-wide psyche.
  4. Sustaining the momentum through continuous learning: Compliance is continuous – and not just a seasonal or cyclical mandate. It therefore requires an equally continuous learning strategy to sustain over the long term.

Discrete compliance training programs don’t leverage all the above factors and, therefore, aren’t ideal to produce positive behavior changes across the workforce. The most effective way to instill a corporate culture of compliance is to integrate and indoctrinate it as part of a comprehensive training strategy.

What Strategies Can Help You Build a Culture of Compliance Through Your Workforce Training Programs?

Periodic or one-off training programs are ineffective when it comes to building an organization-wide, sustained culture of compliance. This is especially true when you have a widely dispersed remote workforce. What’s required is a sustained compliance awareness training program aimed at bringing about compliant behavioral change. Five strategies to consider include:

  1. Continuous learning:

    Compliance training shouldn’t be a “one and done” thing! The strategy must include continuous communication and ongoing outreach campaigns to create compliance awareness. One way to foster positive change, and to sustain learning momentum and encourage continuous learning, is to create communities of practice – by bringing together groups of like-minded employees – through social learning platforms.

  2. Immersive, experiential, and personalized learning:

    These strategies bring “fun and play” to work to improve decision making, reinforce a culture of compliance, and drive positive behavioral change.

  3. Microlearning and Just-in-Time learning (JIT learning): 

    Employees, especially when they’re working remotely, frequently revert to the “norm” (their non-compliant form). Microlearning and JIT learning are great “gentle reminder” strategies and work by leveraging the power of nudges to form (and maintain) compliant habits.

  4. Blended learning:

    Within a corporate learning ecosystem, blended learning strategies, which incorporate mentoring and coaching sessions along with regular feedback (positive and corrective), are proven to enhance a culture of compliance and reinforce positive change.

  5. Accessibility considerations:

    In a hybrid workplace, it’s crucial to consider how to make your learning programs universally accessible.. Whether your employees work on-site or off, your eLearning offerings must comply with the accessibility guidelines laid out by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Offering accessible learning will ensure that compliance training complies with the ADA, so that employees with special needs can access it and participate in the org-wide culture of compliance too.

Implementing these strategies will go a long way to promote a cross-organizational compliance mandate. However, the key to successful implementation is to integrate compliance training within your overall corporate training strategy, and not make it an add-on offering.

Parting Thoughts

Independent, stand-alone compliance training programs aren’t as effective at creating positive behavioral change as would an integrated L&D strategy. The best way to build, and sustain, a compliance culture is to weave compliance within a corporate-wide training strategy, making compliance a core segment of such a strategy. Doing anything less than that risks employees misunderstanding the role of compliance within the organization and won’t generate the positive behavior change required to make compliance a second nature.

I hope the learning strategies in this article provide the requisite insights on how you can use them to create a culture of compliance.

Meanwhile, if you have any specific queries, do contact me or leave a comment below.

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