Making Policy Compliance Stick

Many companies have policies, procedures, and codes in place for the purpose of achieving and maintaining compliance. While the objective is to ensure that these guiding principles are followed by everyone associated with the organization, the ultimate goal is driving good behavior. In many cases, it requires the changing of existing behaviors in order to make compliance stick – and that isn’t necessarily an easy task.

What drives behavior change?

According to global compliance education solutions provider UL EduNeering, a primary reason why policy compliance fails is because there is a disconnect between policy and behavior. In other words, the policy never reaches the right people because it has not been properly integrated into the organization’s day-to-day operations. Thus, the desired behavior does not occur on a large scale. Simply announcing a new policy, unveiling a revised Code of Conduct, or adding one more compliance training session is not enough to drive behavior change. Instead, top management must take a more proactive approach to ensure the policy resonates with all members of the organization.

Communication is essential for changing behavior

In order to change behavior as it relates to policy compliance, effective communication is essential. UL EduNeering equates communication with marketing; the leadership needs to “sell” the need for policy compliance to the entire organization. This requires the strategic implementation of the three “Rs”: relevance, repetition, and reinforcement. Let’s take a closer look at each of these concepts as they relate to policy compliance and achieving the desired behavior change:

  • Relevance. Just as marketers often tailor their message to resonate with different segments of their market, organizational leadership must ensure that the message is delivered in a manner that is relevant to the specific needs of different factions within the organization. A message that resonates with middle managers, for instance may have little meaning to rank-and-file workers. Similarly, in a multinational organization, compliance training that fails to account for cultural differences may not have the same impact on workers in overseas facilities as it does with those in the native country.
  • Repetition. It’s no secret that repetition enhances recognition and believability when it comes to product marketing – we’ve all been influenced to make a purchase at some point by a TV or radio ad that has been broadcast repeatedly – and the same holds true for compliance and behavior change. The more often a message concerning a change in a compliance policy or procedure is repeated, the more likely the chances of achieving the desired behavior.
  • Reinforcement. Communicating via multiple channels will serve to drive home a message regarding policy compliance and reinforce its importance and validity. These days, companies typically have a variety of resources at their disposal to accomplish this, including newsletters, email, letters from the CEO, corporate blogs, intranet sites, and social media. Timely and relevant ethics training is essential for ensuring that your company promotes and maintains a culture based on high ethical standards, not only from the rank-and-file members, but through the top levels of management. Find out more about our ethics training courses and e-Learning solutions.

Tools and methods for promoting compliance and achieving behavior change

One of the most effective compliance tools for promoting behavior change is a well-crafted Code of Conduct. An effective Code will spell out which behaviors are acceptable and which ones will not be tolerated. Ongoing compliance training that is specifically targeted to the different areas of the organization will reiterate the importance of compliance to employees. In-person summits can be used to deliver important policy compliance messages to key members of the organization. As the tone for organizational behavior always starts at the top, it is also vital that top management personnel serve as role models by “walking the walk” when it comes to compliance and appropriate behavior.

The Lighthouse white paper titled Developing a Code of Conduct: A Step-by Step Guide demystifies the procedure of creating a code of conduct by providing an easy-to-follow six-step process. You’ll get useful tips on how to structure your code from beginning to end, as well as a list of best practices to follow for effective code development, implementation, and enforcement.

Incentivizing compliance to drive behavior

As the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics publication entitled “Using Incentives in Your Compliance and Ethics Program” points out, the use of appropriate incentives is a required element of an effective compliance and ethics program in accordance with the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Using incentives can also be an extremely effective way to drive and change behavior. Additionally, incentives can place a positive face on the compliance program and make it more palatable to members of the organization, instead of being perceived as a necessary evil.

There are a number of ways incentives can be used to impact behavior in regard to compliance. For instance, financial incentives can be offered to employees who demonstrate leadership in promoting the organization’s Code of Conduct. Public recognition of employees who exhibit strong adherence to compliance policies on a regular basis can also be an effective motivational tool. Some companies have even gone to the extent of rewarding whistleblowers who report incidents of misconduct.

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