Compliance is essential for creating a safe workspace and preventing violations of any laws or regulations. In this article, we look at 10 ways to foster workplace compliance across your organization.

Table of contents
  1. What Is Compliance in the Workplace?
  2. 10 Ways To Create a Culture of Compliance
  3. Building a Culture of Compliance Takes Time

As a compliance officer, you’re responsible for creating a culture of compliance in your organization. Compliance is essential to providing your employees with a safe work environment. It also prevents your organization from being penalized for violating any rules and regulations. 

But this is easier said than done. Compliance fatigue, complacency, and a lack of employee engagement can make a compliance team’s job challenging. 

There are, however, several things you can do to ensure employees adopt legal and ethical practices at work. In this article, we look at 10 ways you can foster compliance in the workplace

What Is Compliance in the Workplace?

Compliance means that your organization follows any external laws and regulations that apply to it. These include laws and regulations at the federal, state, and local levels. Internal policies, practices, and training all support compliance. 

Compliance in work settings affects all levels and areas of an organization. It also covers a wide range of topics. Among others, business needs to be compliant with laws and regulations around

  • employment 
  • anti-discrimination 
  • health and safety 
  • tax 
  • data protection
  • environmental protection.

More broadly, compliance means an organization and its employees act appropriately and ethically. In essence, compliance means doing the right thing. 

Examples of compliance in the workplace include

  • displaying hazard posters under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) standards
  • DEI training to prevent discrimination
  • securely storing employees’ personal information to protect them from a data breach. 

Effective compliance is essential for the safety of your employees’ physical and mental health. It reduces the risk of workplace injuries. It also prevents incidents of bullying, harassment, or discrimination. 

Compliance also ensures your organization avoids violating any laws or regulations. These violations can result in legal penalties, including fines, and reputational damage. 

But encouraging compliance in your organization goes beyond the occasional one-hour training session. Here are ways you can integrate compliance into your workplace culture. 

10 Ways To Create a Culture of Compliance

Compliance starts at the top

When it comes to compliance, the best place to start is at the top. Good managers lead by example. So it’s essential that leaders demonstrate their commitment to compliant workplace practices

There shouldn’t be separate standards expected of leadership. If employees are expected to demonstrate certain behaviors, then management should be too. 

Leadership is responsible for modeling acceptable behaviors. When they do, this has a trickle-down effect on the rest of the organization. 

When company leaders set an example, employees will follow. For example, when compliance training comes around, management should complete it before, or with, their team. This encourages employee participation. 

It’s also important for leadership to communicate the value of compliance. A good way to start doing this is by reframing compliance. 

Many employees see compliance as a ball and chain around their neck. Instead, leadership should explain how compliance helps build a safe working environment for everyone. They can also emphasize how it contributes to creating a responsible, profitable business.  

Ensure that management understands the importance of their role in creating a culture of compliance. They also need to understand the key messaging around compliance. They can then help communicate this throughout the organization. 

Define your company values

Company culture is built on core values. They provide the foundation for a value-driven culture, one that encourages employees to do the right thing. So you must have clearly defined company values to support a culture of compliance

Values that do this include integrity, honesty, transparency, trust, respect, and accountability. 

These values help guide your business strategy toward compliance. What’s more, they ensure compliance is more than a “check the box” activity. 

They act as a roadmap, guiding employees’ decisions and actions. They also show how regular small acts of compliance fit into the bigger picture.

Tailor your compliance training

While everyone needs to be mindful of compliance, how they do this may vary depending on their role. Employees are responsible for compliance in different ways and at different levels. That’s why you shouldn’t take a one-size fits all approach to training. 

Instead, you may need to adapt your compliance training program to suit different types of employees

For example, management likely requires different compliance training from interns. Management requires a big-picture understanding of compliance, including a deeper legal understanding. 

Interns, on the other hand, only need to know the basic regulations they need to comply with during their time with the organization.

To accommodate this, you can build management-focused training into leadership programs. Incorporate employee-focused training into your onboarding program and regular ongoing training sessions. 

You can also tailor your messaging around compliance to suit your intended audience. This ensures employees understand what is expected of them.  

Keep in mind that, regardless of the type of employee, you need to regularly offer compliance training to your employees. Sometimes this is required by law. Even where it’s not, you should consider doing so to reinforce expected standards. 

Laws and regulations are also constantly updated. It’s essential to review your training programs regularly to reflect these changes. 

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Make compliance enjoyable and accessible

The mere mention of “compliance” often elicits a groan in response. Employees don’t want to sit in front of another outdated training video. It’s important to make compliance enjoyable and accessible to your employees. 

As a start, vary your training delivery methods. You can deliver compliance training in-person in small groups or individually, by video, or online. 

One way to make compliance training more enjoyable is to combine it with other team-building activities. Or you can structure a training day around lunch or afternoon tea. 

Giving the day a dual purpose makes the compliance training more enticing. This increases the likelihood of your employees engaging with it. 

Also, make sure your training materials are up to date. Your employees should be able to access them at any time easily. Include any relevant compliance regulations in your onboarding training, employee handbook, and intranet

Compliance should also be accessible in a practical sense. Think about how to reduce practical barriers to compliance for your employees

For example, to encourage employees to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) you can put spares in every company vehicle. This way, your deskless employees always have access to the equipment and are more likely to use it. 

Use positive reinforcement

Rewards are a good way to recognize and encourage compliant behavior in the workplace

Make an effort to identify examples of workplace compliance and publicly acknowledge them. Doing so motivates employees to be compliant. It positively reinforces the behavior of the employee receiving the recognition. 

When other employees see someone being rewarded for their behavior, they’re more likely to follow. It also demonstrates that compliance is a priority in your organization. 

It’s important to reward and recognize compliance fairly and consistently. For example, if you start a monthly compliance award, define the criteria that determine the winner. If some employees view your efforts as favoritism, rewards can have the opposite effect and impact your employees’ morale. 

Include compliance in performance reviews

Performance reviews allow you to regularly check in with your employees. You can use this opportunity to reinforce company expectations around compliance

During a performance review, confirm whether the employee has completed their required training. Also, discuss with them how they model a culture of compliance in their work. 

Dedicating time to discuss this conveys the importance of compliance. It gives your employees a chance to reflect on how they model compliance and any changes they need to make to their behavior.

By including compliance in performance reviews, there is a direct link made between it and yearly bonuses or promotions. This encourages individual accountability around compliance.

Focus on “should do” rather than “don’t do”

According to McKinsey, constantly hearing “don’t do this” or “don’t do that”, can erode people’s trust. So, when delivering training or discussing compliance generally, frame it positively. This builds trust with your employees and encourages buy-in. 

You can do this by focusing on the positive behaviors employees should adopt, rather than what they shouldn’t do

It’s also important to explain the purpose behind a compliance measure. Employees are more likely to practice compliance when they understand the reason for it.

For example, you could simply tell your employees “don’t discriminate in the workplace”. But a more effective approach is to explain what discrimination is, why it happens, and how to respond to it. This deeper understanding equips employees to self-identify and address any compliance issues.

Measure and review your compliance efforts

To know whether your compliance efforts are working, you need to measure them.

That’s why it’s essential to conduct regular compliance audits. Use these periodic reviews to check that your practices and policies comply with the relevant regulations. 

Also, use them to measure whether your employees are following your policies and procedures.

How you measure success when it comes to compliance depends on the laws and regulations that apply to your organization. Metrics that may suggest a strong culture of compliance include

  • a decrease in workplace accidents
  • a decrease in customer complaints or an increase in positive customer feedback
  • positive feedback via an employee survey. 

Measuring compliance allows you to hold teams and the organization accountable. It also highlights any ongoing concerns that need addressing. 

Emphasize employee engagement

Employee engagement is key to building a culture of compliance. Engaged employees are more productive and more invested in their work. 

Engagement also creates a sense of belonging. When employees feel like they are contributing to something bigger, they are more likely to take compliance seriously. They also are more likely to connect to the company’s values that support compliance. 

The relationship between compliance and employee engagement is a two-way street. Employees are more likely to feel connected to—and engaged with—a company that does the right thing. 

To improve employee engagement when it comes to compliance, technology has a role. But face-to-face interactions are also important. 

Compliance departments shouldn’t remain a name in an email signature. Compliance officers should interact in person with employees and be available to answer any questions they have

Clear, two-way communication is essential for engagement. Employees need to understand what is expected of them. At the same time, they should feel comfortable providing feedback or concerns about a compliance program. 

This allows you to address any issues that might be preventing employee compliance. 

Use an app to help manage compliance

Compliance can quickly become unwieldy to manage, especially for larger organizations. The good news is that there is a range of helpful apps available. 

You can use these apps to

  • keep track of compliance requirements and document your efforts
  • store your policies and procedures
  • track and deploy employee training programs
  • communicate directly with employees about compliance issues
  • generate and share compliance reports, safety forms, and checklists. 

Managing these functions electronically from a single platform reduces the risk 

of non-compliance

It also removes barriers to access. With most apps offering mobile device compatibility, your employees can connect from anywhere. 

Your employees can use an app to report safety incidents in real-time. They can also receive reminders about upcoming training sessions, helping them to stay on top of compliance. 

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Building a Culture of Compliance Takes Time

Compliance is essential to creating a safe workplace for your employees. It also helps you avoid any violations and associated penalties. 

But creating a culture of workplace compliance in your organization won’t happen overnight. It requires ongoing efforts across all levels of the business.

Company values and employee engagement are two essential factors in organizational compliance. It’s also important for management to lead by example. Using an app can also streamline your compliance processes and reduce the risk of non-compliance. 

By following our above tips, you can transform compliance in your organization. Doing so takes compliance beyond the occasional outdated training video. Instead, it becomes something your employees live and breathe.