Easy implementation of compliance

As managers or compliance officers, how can we ensure the rapid and smooth implementation of new regulations and rules? And what should we do when individual requirements do not make sense to the people who must comply with them?

The setting for our cosy Saturday is well-established: We are engaged in an enjoyable, shared board game, and we all agree on the rules. Everything runs like clockwork, and the strategy for the next move has just been developed. Suddenly, another player casts doubt on the rules and is even cheeky enough to suggest changing them! The initial reaction is bewilderment, then frustration and finally anger. Because we were just about to reach our goal. The game grinds to a halt…

However unproductive it may sound, Danish companies face similar situations every day. Here, the “rules of the game” are the ever-growing stream of complex requirements and regulations that companies in many industries have to deal with. Regardless of the sectors’ various specialities – energy, medicine, finance, insurance, health, etc. – compliance with legal requirements, norms and standards is what constitutes a company’s “licenses to operate”. Without proper and effective quality control, risk management and documentation, you are not “compliant” and risk losing your livelihood.

The 4 biggest challenges in implementing measures to ensure compliance requirements are met

When we advise clients on the implementation of measures to ensure compliance requirements are met, we see some recurring challenges. Here are the 4 main ones:

Having to do something differently: The most common misconception is the idea that you can get people to change their behaviour (e.g. meet compliance requirements) just by feeding them more information. This almost never works!
Unclear purpose: Few compliance staff (and even fewer executive managers) are able to explain compliance in a way that makes sense to the people who must meet the requirements. Why is compliance important and what is its purpose?

Linguistic divide: Different disciplines, each with their own focus and goals, can often find it difficult to meet via a common language. Compliance says: “We take care of the business!”. The business responds: “How can you take care of the business when you do not understand it?”

“Police officer” vs. “trusted advisor”: Compliance is still being met with inertia or outright resistance, and is struggling to have an impact on decisions or gain support for new processes and activities. This is because they are often viewed as having the role of (unnecessary) “police officer” and not an advisor there to help the organisation.

If you are expecting a tool that can solve these four challenges overnight, unfortunately we have to disappoint you. Because such a tool does not exist. The solution lies in the collaboration between compliance staff and their stakeholders, management, and the people who have to execute the compliance requirements. The people on the floor, in the lab coats, behind the screens, with the measuring tapes, the calculators, the needles…

6 tips for implementing measures to ensure that compliance requirements are met

However, based on our experience of implementing measures to ensure that compliance requirements are met, we have developed six generic tips and recommendations on how to use communication to achieve greater support for, and anchoring of, compliance activities – all the way to the last stage of the business.

Use storytelling:

No rules should be presented without a strong narrative establishing the why. Establish a method to the madness. Storytelling can help create a stronger relationship with stakeholders and a deeper understanding and motivation to support changes and new activities, including the implementation of measures to ensure compliance requirements are met.

Reduce the use of specialist language:

Think about who you are communicating with. If you want someone to do something differently, use language that they understand and present solutions in a relatable way. Show that you have taken the time to familiarise yourself with their everyday work.

The big picture:

An important part of compliance is seeing problems before they occur. Prevention rather than treatment. But you cannot take ownership of what you cannot understand yourself. Therefore, compliance must also be communicated in terms of the bigger picture, using concrete examples and best- or worst-case scenarios. What is the worst that could happen if compliance requirements were not met in your company?

Due diligence:

Perfect timing is always difficult to achieve, but earlier involvement and alignment of expectations with the “practical people” could be given higher priority to good effect. This is about fair deadlines and earlier (specific) communication regarding what the compliance staff need.

Communication and good questions build bridges:

A bridge of mutual understanding must be established between compliance staff and the business. The bridge must be built on a foundation of clarifying questions, respect for inter-disciplinary work and good stories about the things that are already working well. Useful tools may include workshops with stakeholders, a joint review of the value chain and a general review of what is good for the business as a whole.
Feedback and solutions: The ability to step out of the role of “police officer” and into the role of “trusted advisor” may be achieved by compliance staff (in the context of compliance requirements) contributing professional discussion, concrete feedback and progressive solutions to the business. In this way, the business will experience direct value (of relevance to them) as a result of compliance.

Next step

Compliance is a function that is constantly changing. Organisations are only growing more complex, additional requirements are being established and the “rules of the game” continue to change. If we want to succeed in implementing measures to ensure compliance requirements are met and eliminate the frustrations of the people required to meet these requirements, it is necessary to develop a new way to communicate. We have to think about communication that focuses on behavioural changes, gains and recipient understanding. We have to set the standard for a new way of collaborating with the business.

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