Everybody at your company dreads compliance. Nobody understands the process or the requirements, and everything is a mess. There’s no time and even fewer resources to deal with compliance, and it’s an annual scramble of discovering all the crud you were supposed to do all year that people forgot. Your team can never remember what evidence was used for what requirements in the past, and version control of documentation is a nightmare.
This is a culture of avoidance, and it makes compliance and auditing incredibly painful. But chances are, you already know that. A culture of avoidance also sets you up for costly violations that could even damage your brand reputation. What you need is a culture of compliance.
A Culture of Compliance Strengthens Your Entire Company
To be truly effective at tracking and maintaining your compliance, you’ll need more than a set of policies and procedures. You need a culture of compliance that permeates every level of your organization. Companies usually see compliance as a siloed activity that rests on the Chief Compliance Officer’s shoulders, or is commonly referred to as “an IT thing.” It has no relevance in the day-to-day operations of the business.
But the fact is, compliance makes your company stronger. Everyone in your company needs to buy into the fact that compliance enables your company to provide a more secure and reliable level of service, not just enable you to sell more things. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s about. Compliance ensures that your customers are taken care of, and many customers increasingly make their purchase decisions based on the security and the compliance stance of the vendor.
A lot of people think of audits as something they have to do, and so they do as little work as possible to check the box. Companies that buy into a culture of compliance are much more effective at maintaining and tracking their compliance. Everyone is on board, rowing in the same direction. They don’t dread compliance, because it’s organized and manageable. These companies use compliance requirements to help them take their business to the next level.
Building a culture of compliance is easier said than done, but it is possible. It starts with these four critical foundations:
- Leadership buy-in
- Integration into daily activities
- The right system for managing compliance
Get Top-Down Ownership
Culture comes from your executive leadership. It’s formed by the core values they communicate and demonstrate to the rest of the organization. If you want to create a culture of compliance, you’ll absolutely need the buy-in from your C-level leadership.
Unless your executives are already passionate about compliance, you’ve got some work to do. Don’t just tell them that compliance is important to the company—show them how compliance affects the core values they care about most.
Is your company built on the core value of innovation? Show them how a culture of compliance can actually improve innovation. Is efficiency a core value? Connect it to compliance. If your organization is all about customer service, build a case for better service through better compliance. Show your executives how a commitment to compliance helps keep your company out of the latest security breach headlines.
When you can demonstrate how compliance strengthens your company in the way that your leadership cares about, you’ll win their buy-in.
Integrate Compliance into Everything
Many companies silo their compliance processes from the rest of the organization’s daily activities. For them, compliance is merely about checking off a list of items. It’s just something they do once a quarter or once a year, and it has no relevance to their product development or customer retention. Then, when it’s time to “do compliance,” they put a brake on their “real work” to fulfill a bunch of time-consuming compliance tasks.
But if you build compliance into everything you do, you don’t have to spend time away from doing your real work. You’re always doing your work, and you’re always maintaining compliance. If you integrate your compliance needs into daily processes and communications, you can save hundreds or thousands of man-hours each year.
Move away from a one-off box-checking approach, and start integrating your compliance process to your core processes. You’ll create a more sustainable solution for the long term.
Hold Employees Accountable
It’s not enough to get leadership buy-in, or to build compliance into your daily business processes. You’ve got to hold everyone accountable for it—at every level.
Don’t ignore non-compliance, or compliance mistakes. Have a defined system for handling those errors. If you don’t have systematic, built-in accountability, you won’t have any accountability. It’ll just fade away.
You don’t have to be heavy-handed about accountability, but your compliance processes do need to have teeth. Here are some ways to build in systematic accountability:
- Create a training program for every employee, at every level. Require a refresher class on a regular basis.
- Clearly communicate expectations on a regular basis.
- Have departmental compliance reviews on a monthly or quarterly basis that include upper level management.
- Incorporate compliance into employee reviews.
- Reward compliance by incentivizing employees, departments, and the entire organization.
- Be proactive with repeat offenders.
Use the Right Technology
Accounting sends you everything in spreadsheets. The designers PDF all their documents and files. The director of engineering writes everything in the body of an email. Sales hands you written notes. No one gives you all the information you need from them, and everyone delivers it late. Half the time you’re getting documents you don’t even need.
Your job would be a lot easier if you were using the right technology. (Hint: spreadsheets aren’t the right technology.) Basically, the right technology comes down to three things:
- Organization—Organize your compliance management process into a cohesive, well-oiled machine. Assign tasks to specific people, with due dates. Make it clear what’s expected and when.
- Automation—The more you can automate the compliance management process, the better your compliance initiatives will go. Automate the process of herding the compliance cats, reminding personnel of their responsibilities, scheduling activities throughout the compliance cycle and making it easy for people to remain compliant on a continual basis.
- A single submission process—If you’re accepting handwritten notes, phone calls, voicemails, emails, meeting minutes, network file shares, multiple file sharing services, you’re running the risk of losing track of what you’ve collected. Instead, set up a single submission process that makes it easy for people to submit their evidence. You’ll collect everything in one place and you’ll always know what you’ve got. Most importantly, you’ll know where your gaps are, and what evidence you’re missing.
Stop relying on spreadsheets to track compliance. Stop manually managing the compendium of evidence across a network location that some poor soul has the dubious distinction of managing. Spreadsheets don’t offer effective traceability, and they won’t give you an accurate audit trail. Many companies discover that spreadsheets actually create more problems than solutions.
More often than not, we see companies that think they have everything covered, but they never mapped compliance requirements line by line to identify what they were missing. Time and time again, they’re surprised to find how much work they have to do to pass their audit.
The TCT Portal from Total Compliance Tracking makes compliance tracking easy by providing an organized compliance management framework to coordinate compliance initiatives, automation, and a streamlined submission process. Managing compliance complexity has never been so easy with one secure, convenient place to manage it all. We can streamline your audits and make everyone’s lives easier. Give your management team a higher level of confidence that you’ll come out at the end of your audits with the results you need.
There’s a Better Way to Manage Compliance
A culture of compliance takes away the dread of compliance tasks and makes auditing smooth and efficient. Tired of the same old struggle to track your organization’s compliance? There is a better way! Start laying these four foundations to build a culture of compliance at your company.
Make your compliance tracking easier at your organization. Find out how TCT can help.