What is the best way of improving compliance across your business?
Across almost all sectors in business, whether it be the financial sector, energy services, or pharmaceuticals, we are all seeing the impact of growing regulations and sanctions.
In order for companies to ensure they are complying with these regulations, they must adopt a level of compliance management, which will inevitably form the basis of a firms' reputation management. Think about it - by staying compliant with regulatory standards, the reputation of your company is bound to soar!
So, where do you start?
It comes as no surprise that disciplinary action and fines should be a last resort, the end of the line when all other measures have failed. But, there are many other things you can enforce in your business before being forced to reach that point of last resort.
Follow these top tips to boost compliance in your firm:
- Know your remit and your compliance 'universe' - Be clear about what you have to comply with (eg - financial, legal, IT, information security, environment, regulatory, product, stewardship, etc), what things are non-negotiable, and what your exact role is.
- Make sure your team are on your level - There may be different levels of compliance within a company or even within a department. Some people comply right away, whereas others will only comply when faced with the threat of legal action. Know where your team or department sits on the compliance spectrum and plan interventions accordingly to ensure future compliance.
- Build relationships - The 'perfect' compliance model is where everyone works together and no one person is held responsible for compliance. This can only be done if there are effective relationships between departments and across the supply chain, with clearly-defined responsibilities from a central command.
- Make use of technology - Instead of having a patchwork of different systems to manage compliance, get technology to do the legwork for you. It can bring everything together in one place, help to streamline processes, prevent duplication and simplify compliance.
- Know your business - How well do you really understand your business - its processes, supply chain, production, marketing or the 'end product'? You can't 'do' compliance if you don't 'get' the business. What's more, if you are responsible for compliance in parts of the business you don't understand or have no experience of, then reach out and create ownership with those who can help and might have the answer.
- Speak their language - Take a fresh look at all your compliance documentation (eg - processes, procedures, manuals and handbooks). Does it speak the same language as those who are reading it? Or was it written by the legal team who don't understand its practical use? Does it really make sense to those who need to know? Compliance demands clarity so be sure to keep it simple!
- Use industry standards - Is compliance decentralised to local offices or regions where you work? If so, how confident are you that global standards are being met? Use industry standards to ensure that all processes and systems are developed and implemented correctly to recognised standards that are consistent.
- Learn from past mistakes - Don't stick to the same regimes or rules, especially if they clearly aren't working. Fix them, by tweaking or rewriting the rules if you need to.
- Stay focused with regular monitoring and review - Gaps and new vulnerabilities can emerge as firms grow, expand, and merge with others. TalkTalk's huge data breach in 2015 was largely down to it failing to plug weaknesses in Tiscali's webpages after its merger, giving hackers an easy route in. By putting compliance centre-stage and keeping it 'top of mind', you can identify any gaps which increase the compliance risk.
- Make improvements - Adapt a continuous improvement cycle and be proactive to meet the 'compliance challenge'. By being vigilant and taking action, you can address new risks before it's too late.