Keep on Exercising Your Compliance Program

Compliance has become a definitive segment of the corporate world. No longer is it codependent on risk and legal departments or human resources. When effective, it is a business function with its own two legs and agenda, a true seat at the boardroom table, and an accurate measure of a company’s commitment to transparency, business ethics, and proper handling of regulatory mandates. The problem is that compliance and all its elements are a lot like exercise.

Of course some people love to exercise. Exercise can motivate. It can energize. And generally, it adds to one’s overall health. If such a choice existed where people could forgo exercise but maintain their health however, it is reasonable to suggest that most would trade in the barbells and 30-minute HIIT routines for longer naps and a few more helpings of pie a la mode. We all know that this is fantasy, a fairytale, and that real consequences exist when we choose to eliminate exercise and nutrition from our daily and weekly routines. Compliance controls, audits and training initiatives are no different.

Companies’ compliance functions are barbells and HIIT routines. A dynamic compliance program harnesses its company’s risks and threats in exchange for undesirable grunt work without an immediate return. Like exercise, a compliance department is faced with the task of infusing dreadful tasks into a company’s cultural landscape. This means that compliance must be a routine part of business. It must be a topic discussed by executives, lawyers, operations personnel, middle managers and the alike, and other stakeholders including vendors and shareholders.

This is a difficult task to facilitate, and compliance departments should not focus on pushing this agenda as an outsider or referee. In order to get all segments of a business involved, compliance departments must focus on practical initiatives that feel less like mundane laps around a track and more like a high-intensity Zumba class—full of enjoyment, movement, creativity and old-fashioned fun.  

Engaging with executives, implementing procedures that focus on business ethics throughout employees’ tenures, and pitching new ideas routinely, are all part of a mature compliance program. There is no secret sauce in creating an ethical culture. Every company is cultural different and requires a custom approach to its compliance initiatives. This means that programs, audits, assessments and trainings must be engineered to garner support from the varying personalities and identities at an organization. Although compliance departments must stay abreast of regulatory changes and mandates, success endures when the people at a company are molded to appreciate the benefits of compliance, or when they understand that these routines are part of broader health goals, and not meaningless formalities.

A critical part of molding culture involves the operationalization of policies into effective procedures that simply flow with the organic makeup of a company. Compliance programs must be a mix of function and fun. By taking a strategic and creative approach, your compliance program may become the next hot topic at work, and if nothing else, maybe it will inspire some salsa dancing near the water cooler.