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Compliance beyond the fines: Why it’s time to rethink your strategy

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Compliance, is it like brussels sprouts or cupcakes? (This quote was originally coined by Heather Bussing of HR Examiner). Many people (aside from the few that actually enjoy them) eat brussels sprouts because they’re good for you whereas we eat cupcakes because we like them and enjoy them, and the same goes for compliance. Many organisations feel that compliance sits on the brussels sprouts end of the spectrum, but what we all must understand is that compliance is not just something you have to do because it’s good for you. Compliance is good in and of itself.

Compliance can and does impact every element of an organisation. It can be preventative and lower risks; it can become embedded in your culture and impact employee engagement, and it can set you apart from your competitors. Yet when most of us think of compliance, we fear the heavy fines or heat from regulators. However, although fines are a concern for many businesses, non-compliance can cause far more issues than simply being fined. Product delays, drops in productivity and workforce disruption are all results of non-compliance.

It’s clear that non-compliance can have a serious impact on your organisation and that heavy fines aren’t the only concern. So, how else can compliance affect your organisation positively and be more cupcakes than brussels sprouts?

Prevent discrimination and harassment

Every workplace should provide equal opportunities and be free from discrimination and harassment. Discrimination and harassment harm employees and impact their health and career, they harm employers as they are liable for the damage and it harms the business overall and can often result in absences, high turnover of employees and low productivity.

Compliance needs to work with HR to not only fix any issues with discrimination and harassment but create a diverse environment where employees can thrive. Changing the way, you attract and hire a more diverse workforce is a great first step, but you’ve also got to retain them. Review your company’s culture and hiring practices to avoid creating an echo chamber and start moving away behaviours that stifle diversity.

It’s all about pay

Payroll is most organisation’s biggest cost and needs to be constantly monitored. Getting payroll right is fundamental to every aspect of the organisation and the company has liability for getting it wrong. If your organisation has repeated payroll problems, this can reflect a bigger culture problem and financial issues and once you have a problem with payroll, the errors tend to snowball fast. To ensure your payroll initiatives are correct and secure, check and audit data, review your payroll systems and processes and check the payroll across every location — the rules are different depending on geography!

This in turn, demonstrates respect to your employees. The way HR processes, like payroll, are managed, reveals how the organisation operates and can reflect well on your employer branding. Showing concern and attention regarding employee data, particularly with GDPR now in effect, will foster a culture of trust and ultimately, contribute to business success.

Safety is key

Protecting your employee’s safety and health should be a fundamental priority regardless of legal requirements. If you don’t prioritise their safety, accidents, injuries, lawsuits, fines and potentially the end of your business are all possibilities. Regardless of industry, all organisations should look for possible safety concerns whether that’s with the equipment you use or the environment that you work in – how organisations treat safety reflects their attitude toward the value of human life and wellbeing of employees.

Communicate to your employees that your organisation take safety seriously and that all aspects of safety and wellbeing are a priority. Go out and talk to your employees and see if they flag any problems with the work environment. Similarly, do your research on what can and can’t be changed in your workplace and try to make any adjustments where you can.

For businesses in industrial services, or for organisations that work with contractors, health and safety is of the upmost importance. Due to the nature of these organisations, hiring and rehiring skilled people is essential and monitoring their training records is paramount to ensure safety standards. By tracking employee records, organisations have visibility over any health and safety training and can assign the relevant training as and when needed.

And then the fines…

Without doubt, whenever anybody thinks of compliance the words, ‘heavy fines’, probably spring to mind. With GDPR now in Europe and CA and state data privacy laws in the US, protecting employee data from hacking or misuse is a top priority for businesses and should be part of every compliance strategy.

For most companies, data is their primary asset and protecting it to stay ahead of the competition is imperative. Compliance must keep on top of all data privacy concerns whether that’s by reviewing the security of the organisation’s IT systems or reviewing training processes to ensure employees understand how to protect their own privacy and data. If you don’t have the resources to evaluate your data security, consider getting an external expert to help.

Implementing fun ways to approach data privacy can help with training your employees on the topic. Think of competitions or fun tests to help them learn and communicate the importance of data privacy. Humans are your biggest security risk, so by helping your employees to understand why data privacy and security are so important, you will be minimising the risk of any data breach.

All organisations should see compliance as an opportunity for learning and development, rather than seeing it as a tick box exercise. If your compliance strategy could use some sprucing up, look at the reasons behind the regulations and consider why they are important. An effective compliance strategy not only protects the organisation, but it can affect employee engagement, attract new talent and impact your employer branding. So, rather than comparing compliance to brussels sprouts, compare it to cupcakes and establish a comprehensive compliance strategy that you like, enjoy, and that will impact every element of the organisation.

Mike Bollinger, VP Global Thought Leadership & Advisory Services, Cornerstone