5 tips to create a high impact compliance program


What makes a high impact compliance program? Given the state of many corporate compliance programs, it’s a question we get a lot. Here at MCO, we look at more than just the checklist of activities or the features or even the hotline to report potential violations. Fundamentally, business has shifted from simple checklists to how behavior is being impacted.

Recently, we sat down with Susan Divers, Senior Advisor at LRN for her top five tips on what makes a high impact compliance program.

  1. Rules are fundamental but values are key. Research at LRN shows that compliance programs based on values as well as rules have a much bigger impact on the choices employees make. Senior leaders as well. A good example is all of the rules and legislation that came from federal guidelines such as SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley) and the almost oppressive way these rules caused employees to act. What we’ve learned from that is that rules are good but it’s better to have a reason for people to behave ethically, be compliant, and have a corporate culture that supports that.
  2. Employees need to feel safe to speak up. A big factor in high impact compliance programs is that employees need to feel safe enough to speak up and willingly contribute. It’s important to point out that employee safety is more than training, or using certificates, or checklists asking whether or not they have a comment. It is about engaging employees and empowering them to always do the right thing.
  3. Focus on your company’s mission. And then make that a part of your compliance program. There is a well-known airline whose mission says they want to connect people during meaningful events in their lives. Tying the compliance program to the company’s mission gives employees a focus. Maybe the business’ focus values integrity and respect. These types of values lie at the heart of good, solid financial reporting and no bribery.
  4. Make the program known and then operationalize it. This is key. Don’t leave your compliance program sitting on a server somewhere, unknown to most of your company. And whatever you do, don’t leave it to be run by lawyers. Leverage your internal communications team – chances are they have some great ideas on how to get the message out. And most of all make your compliance program part of your business process; if it is, it will be much more effective.
  5. Empower employees to find and use what they need. Employees will be far more likely to search for the information they need and then act upon it if they can actually find what they need. For example, if an employee wants to know if they need approval to give a gift to a government official, businesses should create a way for the employee to easily find what they need, click on a link and get that approval. Employees will not sift through 20 pages of hard-to-understand language, but they will do the right thing if the information is easy to find and act on.

One final thought from Susan. A big key in a high impact compliance program is inspiring the commitment to ethical behavior. Businesses are moving away from simply making money for their shareholders. They want to contribute to sustainability, ethics in the workplace, and treat people with respect.

Want to know more about creating a high-impact compliance program? Give us a shout; we’re expecting you.