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Six of the Best Books on Governance, Risk Management & Compliance

Posted by

Vivek Dodd

on 10 Dec 2019

Six of the Best Books on GRC

We didn't become compliance learning experts overnight. We stand on the shoulders of some great minds in the Governance, Risk Management and Compliance (GRC) community.

Our Pick of the Best Books on GRC

We've curated a list of six of the best GRC books you should read in 2020. Chosen not only because of their expert advice but also readability and practicability. They inspired us and will inspire you.

Given the importance of compliance in the modern workplace, managers in all departments, not just those in compliance or HR, can benefit from reading these titles.

1. Governance, Risk Management and Compliance: It Can’t Happen to Us, Avoiding Corporate Disaster While Driving Success


Author: Richard Steinberg    |   Reviews: Amazon | Good Reads
Intended primarily for CEOs and board members, this book also serves as a ‘how-to’ manual for any security manager.

Steinberg takes the stance that managing risk should not be about focusing on what has happened, or about the problems that need to be dealt with. Instead, the potential issues that can arise and how to be proactive in risk management, reminding the reader that the actions of senior management play a far more crucial role in driving company culture.

He outlines how senior executives can incorporate the necessary organisation, processes and technology to accomplish their goals. And how successful CEOs and directors shape, lead and oversee their organisations to achieve these goals.

Richard Steinberg - adviser to major boards and CEOs, and author of many other publications about Corporate Governance - helps you to understand the critical infrastructure of the driving force of every organisation. Reading this book, you’ll learn the factors that must go right in order to prevent major pitfalls and how to seize the right opportunities for continued business success.

The book examines how and why major companies have failed, while others have prospered. Steinberg highlights the critical success factors for processes in compliance, ethics and risk management, as well as exploring the role of the board. How it can oversee this corporate strategy, CEO compensation, succession planning, crisis management, performance measurement, board composition and even shareholder communications.

In addition to business practicalities, Steinberg provides an imperative outlook on how these things can only be achieved through the alignment of culture, strategy, compliance programs and other benefits such as compensation.

The myth that governance, risk management and compliance are insignificant factors in the depths of an organisation is debunked. In actual fact, it is the success of these activities that play towards the overall wins in the marketplace, making examples of high-profile failings of large financial institutions, large oil companies and real estate to prove the point in case.

2. How to Pay a Bribe: Thinking Like a Criminal to Thwart Bribery Schemes


Author: Alexandra Addison Wrage    |   Reviews: Amazon | Good Reads
This book is designed to inspire and educate both seasoned compliance experts, as well as those who are brand new to the field. Each chapter of this guide offers advice and guidance while remaining an immensely engaging read.

Bribery is a way that some do business, and when that becomes the culture of a business, it can be very difficult to change. This book explores how some companies lend themselves to a lax attitude that allows obtuse and potentially improper business transactions to occur. 

In this book, Alexandra Addison Wrage and other anti-corruption experts guide the reader through various international bribery schemes across the USA, Europe, Africa and Asia. 

Wrage recounts imaginative schemes in which charitable contributions are used as a vessel to pass bribes to corrupt officials. She provides best practice recommendations for companies to avoid corruption when dealing with government officials and other international markets.

This collection of works by authors, journalists, prosecutors and bribery experts from around the globe revisits the secretive world of backroom dealings of bribery and corruption. Looking behind the newspaper headlines and government investigations, this is a collection of true-life stories of what tempts people down the crooked path of bribery.

It explores the lengths people will go to in order to secure business deals from offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands to the setting up of fake charities in Eastern Europe. 

Those working in high-risk jurisdictions who need to be trained can use the book to understand the ways in which they may be at risk of corruption. Compliance professionals can use it to become more effective in their role.

It identifies potential bribery traps for the unaware, highlighting the methods used by people to disguise for payments from colleagues and supervisors.


3. How to Be a Wildly Effective Compliance Officer


Author: Kristy Grant-Hart    |   Reviews: Amazon | Good Reads
This book teaches those working in compliance the secrets of influence, motivation and persuasion to become a highly in-demand business leader who is irreplaceable and influential.

Having an understanding of people and managing complex situations is imperative in practising successful compliance.

This book helps compliance practitioners to move away from a tick-box mentality, into becoming a dynamic business leader with personality and professionalism (something often seen as a missing from the profession). This chatty and informative guide reminds professionals of the importance of fostering natural and organic relationships within teams in order the generate success.

It aims to be a motivating and educational tool, not just for Compliance professionals, but also for those working in HR and operational risk. Managers who would like to learn to communicate with peers more effectively in a compliance-driven organisation could benefit from this book too. It explores the management and drivers of different personality types - how to be appealing to their individual needs and desires in order to gain ‘buy-in’ from businesses for new ideas.

As well as merging concepts of professionalism and personality, Grant-Hart reminds her readers that is is important to manage challenges such as handling criticism, overcoming dips in motivation, and what to do when feeling defeated- drawing on these experiences as opportunities for growth, looking into finding passion and enjoyment within the sector again.

Described as ‘easy to read, humorous and highly entertaining’, it bridges the gap between business and personality - providing the missing link between knowing what needs to be done, and getting it done, drawing on the author's wealth of experience, providing real-life practical tips for personal growth, as well as growing a successful career in compliance.

Grant-Hart's inspiring, innovative and honest approach allows her ideas to be easily adapted to improve compliance programs across the globe.

Not only does this book discuss the process of compliance management, but it also explores how a dynamic business leader can shape best practice. It sheds light on how an individual business leader can and should act to have any form of influence which can ensure successful compliance management.

To be ‘Wildly Effective’ - Don’t walk, Start Running - is the message that Grant-Hart wants compliance officers, leaders and students of both of these areas alike to take away.

Kirsty Grant-Hart on LinkedIn
Kristy also writes the popular ComplianceKristy.com blog and is active on Twitter with the handle @KristyGrantHart.

4. 101 Costly HR Mistakes: & how to fix them before it’s too late!


Author: Vanessa G Nelson    |   Reviews: Amazon | Good Reads
HR professionals can use this book to potentially help their organisation save hundreds or thousands in legal fees. It provides reminders of best practices for those in people and risk management roles.

Workplace lawsuits are on the rise, and Employment litigation has increased by 2000% since 1995. After consulting with thousands of employers, Nelson observed a pattern of costly HR mistakes that had led to costly lawsuits, high staff turnaround, compliance fines and profits falling profits as a result of damaged reputations.

She became passionate about protecting and improving teams. This book brings together a comprehensive list of issues - some critical, some minor - but all that have the potential to upset the culture of compliance you want to establish in your organisation.

Compliance fines can be extremely expensive and cause significant reputational damage, so it is crucial that you know for employers to know how to avoid these costly mistakes and protect their organisation from risk.

Understandably, most employers do not set out to violate these regulations, but even small missteps can escalate quickly into a very big mistake. 101 Costly HR Mistakes points out the top errors made by employers and how to avoid high-priced compliance fees and penalties.

Nelson talks about it being common practice for employers to use interview panels comprised of existing employees. Often there is little or no training for these employees regarding interviewing, and hence a lack of knowledge and understanding about the legality (or lack thereof) of the questions asked.

Employers may assign the task of interviewing potential candidates without considering what could happen as a result of them asking a costly, illegal question. These types of questions are those that ‘cross the line’ asking personal questions about the candidate’s protected characteristics, such as their age, gender, or sexuality and can be as simple as 'Where were you born' or 'What year did you graduate'.

To avoid potentially costly questions being asked, employees should be trained to only ask job-related questions. Nelson details many illegal questions she has heard asked and explains how they fail to comply with the law.

Not only covering many of the most important aspects of compliance in the HR world, but this book also examines Health and Safety regulation information that is available in a simplified way that makes complex material easy to understand. Designed to advise novice and experienced HR and compliance professionals, this book acts as a guide to fixing problems before they arise in a matter-of-fact anecdotal way. Follow her company on the Twitter handle: Expert HR Consultants

5. Best Practices Under the FCPA and Bribery Act


Author: Thomas R Fox    |   Reviews: Amazon | Good Reads
This book provides compliance practitioners with the building blocks for an effective compliance program sourced from the popular blogs of Thomas Fox.

A strong compliance program reduces the risk of fines, penalties and damage to reputation. But we also know that it does not eliminate that risk. Compliance takes strict rules that can be interpreted loosely and creates a structure designed to reduce the risk created by the biggest variable – people.

Risk management is an essential part of compliance, especially for the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) or the United Kingdom’s Bribery Act. With these acts, it’s possible to follow the letter of the law as pertaining a statute and still find yourself in violation.

Fox’s background as a former corporate counsel provides a unique insight into FCPA compliance. What makes the book stand out is the use of real-life examples that show the enforcement theories of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Understanding those theories is key to manage and minimise risk. It also frames a complex subject in an engaging and impactful manner.

A deliberate and effective choice was made to structure the book similarly to “A Resource Guide to the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,” which was published by the DOJ and the SEC.

Beyond the building blocks, the author provides an analysis of how to combine these essential building blocks to craft a compliance program that suits an organisation’s needs. The book also features several of his articles on the topic, including “Six Principles of Adequate Procedures Compliance Regime Under the UK Bribery Act.”

With no shortage of books available on the subject of compliance, many try to stand out by leveraging compliance standards to drive organisational culture. Some go as far as to use compliance as a driver for morale and a way to instil a sense of job satisfaction in an employee. There’s nothing wrong with that. It is an idea that is most valuable in areas where the laws and their interpretation is less opaque, the fines less severe.

But in this field, clarity backed by case studies are what makes for the most effective compliance program possible. That is what this book both offers and delivers.

You can also follow him on @tfoxlaw or listen to his podcasts.

6. The Business Guide to Effective Compliance and Ethics


Authors: Andrew Hayward & Anthony Osborn  |   Reviews: Amazon
This book lays out an approach to compliance intended to help organisations succeed and flourish by providing clear, thorough and practical guidance. It is not just guidance for employees, but also the company’s decision-makers.

Often compliance and ethics are seen as a very strict list of rules and requirements, making people afraid to step out of line, rather than encouraging their buy-in.  This book challenges this industry norm, painting it as the reason why compliance is a broken concept within the industry.

It is effective in that paves the path for clear documentation and defensible actions for companies who wish to stay insulated from any potential legal vulnerabilities created by employees. Focusing on the what and how without explaining the why creates an emotional disconnect and uninspired employees who will be more prone to burn out.

The book explains how to engage employees in a way that motivates them while continuing to reduce the risk of penalties and damage to reputation.

When creating rules and regulations, the human factor may be overlooked. But the human factor is the key to a strong compliance and ethics programme. It’s not just finding employees willing to toe the line, but connecting with them so that they champion company values.

Engaged employees are more likely to be proud and zealous in the upholding of company values to which they are aligned. In short, a positive approach brings better results than using fear.

Executed properly, a compliance and ethics program turns employees into stakeholders. This values-based culture of shared ownership can transform an organisation.

And it’s not just about sharing positive vibes. Compliance and ethics are an opportunity to provide clear expectations, making it easier for employees to understand how success is measured. Empowering decision-makers to have honest, non-confrontational feedback intended to help employees grow.

The power of clear expectations channelled toward positive growth makes feedback something to longed for rather than feared. This book lays the foundation for this approach.

Rules can help shape expectations, but it’s organisational culture that brings effectiveness. “The Business Guide to Effective Compliance and Ethics” understands the delicate balance that must be struck here and provides a clear path to help achieved it.

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