Compliance Tools: The Best Tool is Your Company Culture

Company Culture is Among the Best Compliance Tools

Written by ComplianceBridge Policies & Procedures Team on February 23, 2017

The Best Compliance Tools…

Policy managers need all the compliance tools they can get. Company culture is a very strong lever in compliance management. In fact, it can make or break your whole program.

Every organization has a culture. It defines everyday actions and interactions. It affects employee morale, risk and organizational success (or failure).

Culture is important to policy and compliance managers because of its central role in outcomes. Culture drives behavior—good, bad and ugly.

Here are some factors that influence organizational culture and compliance.

  • Company Size. Large organizations tend to require more structure and detailed processes. Smaller organizations are more free flowing.
  • Organizational Structure. Policies need to match and support the organization. Structured policies work fine in hierarchical organizations. For matrix organizations, you may need to have more cross-functional policies and procedures.
  • Workplace Climate. The way employees feel about the organization makes a dramatic difference in operations. Trust, belief in organizational integrity and a feeling of respect for their contribution are all great compliance tools. Without them you cannot succeed.
  • Location. Local culture affects organizational culture. Recognize the difference between small town and big city attitudes, between downtown and midtown. Everything from dress codes to interaction formality and what people do on their breaks are affected by where your organization is located.
  • Industry. Similarly, industry plays a large role in culture. Banking and financial institutions tend to be fast paced and formal. Start up technology companies tend to be informal and even playful. Public safety organizations have a very strong chain of command, while academic institutions tend to be more collaborative and collective minded.

All of these factors play a role in setting organizational culture. Use them to inform your policies and procedures.

Influential Stakeholders in Company Culture

Another way to look at culture is through the lens of stakeholders. Each group has their own view of the organization and understanding those views aids in achieving compliance.

  • Employees. Your staff expects and deserves safe working conditions, fair work schedules and a positive work environment. Policies and procedures should support good morale and motivation.
  • Management. Management sets the tone for the working environment. Tone and direction need to be consistent over time and across policies and procedures. Management behaviors tends to be followed or mimicked—which is great in a well-functioning organization. When it is dysfunctional, management behavior can set a bad example and can lead to unethical actions and non-compliance.
  • Suppliers and Partners. Policies and procedures should reinforce your integrity and reliability with outside vendors. You need their trust and respect.
  • Customers. Customers want quality products, reasonable pricing, and courteous interactions. Make sure your policies and procedures support positive customer relations.
  • Community. Every organization is part of a larger society. Use your policies and procedures to underscore your commitment to local institutions. For example, codify your support for local councils, boards and charities. Encourage employee volunteerism. Recycle. Give back to the community.

Make sure you consider every stakeholder when creating and revising policies and procedures. This multi-faceted view may cause you to reconsider your wording and context. Use your understanding of culture as a compliance tool.

Build a Culture of Compliance

Most people want to do the right thing. Your challenge is to convince stakeholders that policy compliance is indeed the right thing. Here are some ways to move in that direction.

  • Create or revisit your mission statement. Make sure you have a concise, meaningful mission. Objectives, policies and procedures should all stem from this mission.
  • Set an open-door policy. Give your stakeholders easy ways to provide feedback, in writing or in person. The only way to improve is through true understanding.
  • Be consistent. All policies and procedures should be consistent with the overall mission and with each other. For example, make sure compensation levels, promotion opportunities, and skill requirements are well-known and fairly administered.
  • Communicate regularly across the organization. Make your messages clear, solicit feedback, provide transparency, reward good behavior, and close the loop. Reflect relevant feedback in policy updates. Proactively connect stakeholders to policies for improved compliance.
  • Train, test, repeat. Whenever you distribute a new or updated policy or procedure, follow it up with appropriate training and testing. Monitor who has acknowledged receipt and passed the test. Remediate where needed. Consider retesting over time to ensure ongoing awareness and compliance.

Culture is an inevitable element in every organization. Use it to your advantage. Stay in alignment with it and you have a good chance of keeping compliance traveling in a straight line.

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