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Creating a culture of compliance

Creating a culture of compliance in your organization

Every organization needs to operate compliantly.  Covering the many areas of compliance that affect businesses requires extensive training. 

Traditionally that learning has emphasized certifying compliance, yet compliance training can and should go further.  Building a culture of compliance offers a new approach to training that ensures your people are always operating responsibly, responsively, and compliantly to the greater benefit of the organization.

The challenges for compliance training

Compliance covers many areas from government legislation to economic activity to social behavior.  So, training needs to be comprehensive and wide-ranging.  Compliance affects all levels and areas of an organization.    

It is also clear cut.  There are no marks for being even 90% compliant.  This means compliance training has to be authoritative and unambiguous.  Get it wrong and you’re likely to pay.  And, as we’ve seen from examples of Big Pharma, the cost can be prohibitive. But even on a smaller scale, non-compliance can hit a business’s bottom line.  

Yet it’s not only the range and reach of compliance that causes problems.  It’s also that it is an area of constant change.  New initiatives and regulations can necessitate an almost immediate shift in processes, procedures, and employee behaviors.  If your training programs aren’t adaptable and easily updatable, you run the risk of not being ready for the change and falling into non-compliance.  Where the likelihood of change is high you need to build that into the way you train your people.

Barely adequate compliance training

Unfortunately, compliance training has often been found wanting.  Much certification rests on a tick-the-box approach to compliance training which may not survive too much scrutiny.  This might mean passing a quick test or simply vouching that you’ve completed the program.  In the worst examples, people simply game the system doing the bare minimum to register as compliant while not materially altering their behaviors when it matters, leaving the organization at risk.  

Even when employees approach compliance training in good faith, it remains the case that the traditional training approach has been about recognizing awareness and getting everyone on the same page.  This may be a good start, but all too frequently it’s also the end.  Where the training falls short is that it doesn’t translate into action and to changes in behavior.  It’s passive where it most definitely needs to be active.

What’s in it for me?

Compliance training suffers from an image problem.  It’s widely perceived as onerous and something to be endured not enjoyed.  

It frequently lacks relevance.  Or it’s directed at the wrong audience.  Programs fail to distinguish between those who need to do the training because it directly affects their work, those who just need to be aware, and others for whom it’s not needed at all.

Or it is abstract – a recitation of new rules and regulations – with no attempt to explain why those rules are in place and how they affect people’s work.

That sense of irrelevance is compounded by the separation of training from working.  Compliance training can take people out of work to attend seminars or workshops.  This division gives the impression that compliance training and working are somehow unconnected, whereas in fact to operate compliantly means applying training in your work.

And it is often inaccessible.  Metaphorically it is inaccessible because it doesn’t connect with its audience.  And it’s also literally inaccessible when it takes place largely in the classroom and there are only limited resources available outside.  

If people who need compliance training can’t see the point of it, the burden on the learning grows.  You enter a vicious circle where more training is required to remediate the previous training, while the real problem is left unaddressed.  

A different approach: from the bottom up

It need not be that way.  An alternative approach is possible and desirable.

The starting point to transform your compliance training is to recognize that awareness is not the same as action and that certification does not guarantee implementation.  The key to more effective compliance is to deploy training that increases motivation, improves relevance, and demonstrates the benefits of acting compliantly.

The first move is to make compliance training a continuous process.  One-off events and campaigns may be very effective in the short term, but their impact quickly fades because they’re not sustainable.  You need to make compliance more procedural and fix it in the workflow.  That means allowing people access to training while they work.  

What’s more, is that training needs to be personalized so they can see how compliance affects the way they work, now and in the future.  Equally, they need to understand the consequences of non-compliance that their action or lack of action may cause. 

The goal is to build relevance so that employees see where they fit in the compliance picture and where their direct responsibilities lie.  Training needs to focus on individual learners rather than operate a scatter-gun approach in the vain hope of reaching all.  Those learners will need direct access to tools, information, and support to work compliantly.   

The bottom line is that some areas of compliance may never affect you, but some most definitely will.  If you concentrate on what you need to do, you benefit the organization as you help build compliance from the bottom up.  

Building a compliance culture

Having reconfigured how you direct your compliance training you need to turn your attention to making it sustainable.  Acting compliantly needs to be seen as part of working effectively.  Far from being a drain on time and resources, compliance is key to improved performance.  Most compliance legislation actually makes organizations more efficient, productive, and hence more competitive.  The benefits of good compliance can be seen in customer trust and an enhancement in reputation that translate into greater business opportunities and ultimately a healthier bottom line.

But all that can be quickly undone by the action (or inaction) of a few individual employees.  The message needs to be that with compliance we sink or swim together.  Personalization of compliance training emphasizes the individual’s role and responsibility.  Training needs to reflect that compliance for everyone is a vested interest.

It then needs to move from attesting compliance to changing mindsets and behaviors.  Awareness is just the first step to a change in behavior in doing things differently and being mindful of acting correctly and legally at all times.  When acting compliantly becomes part of performing effectively you’re more likely to be responsive to new requirements when they arise.

It’s a continuum not an episode.  To support it, learning and training need to be continuous.  Compliance training has to be tailored to its audience and be delivered and deployed in ways that make it readily accessible when it’s needed.  

Compliance can’t be an outlier from the organization’s broader culture of learning.  It needs to be a central part of training programs from onboarding onward.  Ite should be tied into any recognition or award schemes and be considered a factor in career development.  

The ultimate aim of compliance training should be to deliver positive behavioral change that sustains and maintains high levels of compliance, reducing the need for intervention and remediation.

Compliance training means better business

Compliance training should be relevant and support people where and how they work.  To achieve that, it needs to move into the workflow. Compliance is not optional, so it has to be part of how we work.  We need to communicate that to perform well means to operate compliantly.

The benefits of compliance training can be measured not in the number of certificates but in key performance indicators.  Organizations that operate compliantly not only avoid penalties they also reap the rewards of greater customer satisfaction and recognition, an enhanced reputation, and increased competitiveness.  These advantages translate into financial gains.

The message is clear: more effective training that builds a culture of compliance leads to better business.

Compliance must become part of normal working practices so you can ensure your business is operating safely and legally. Get in touch to find out how Learning Pool can help you with this process. 

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