I spent a few days at the Utilities & Energy Compliance & Ethics Conference in Houston, TX, last week- a terrific SCCE event. I was struck by the struggle that many compliance professionals face in ensuring risks are effectively mitigated, while not making the necessary activities of compliance a total downer for the organization. It reminded me a lot of parenting: keep the kids out of harm’s way but do so in a manner that gives them freedom to choose the right path. If you act like a dictator, they will likely do the wrong thing in spite of knowing better.
At the conference, many shared their thoughts on how to engage employees. Summed up in my words, how to better speak to the heart not the head, which spawned two take-away’s for me.
Start With Why
If employees align with the reasons behind a policy and can relate your rationale to their personal value system, they are much more likely to do the right thing. It is also best to explain why a control or policy exists in personal terms: to be fair, to prevent injury, to follow the law. Start with the Why. From there, the details of How and What will easily follow suit.
[If this topic interests you, I encourage you to check out www.startwithwhy.com where author Simon Sinek unpacks this powerful concept.]
Here’s what it means to me in this context. To employees, be they individual contributors or managers, compliance activities are often viewed as a distraction from their daily tasks.
For starters, all silos in the organization that make compliance demands (Compliance, HR, Security, Operations) need to consolidate their asks (complete this form, review this training, attest to this policy, etc.) so employee interruptions are minimized. There’s nothing worse than getting the same questions asked thrice. In short, respect the employee’s time.
Presenters at the conference encouraged us to wrap our requests into authentic explanations that articulate why a program or activity is necessary. We know firsthand that “Because I said so” rarely has the desired outcome. When we respect the intelligence and tendency of the vast majority of employees to do the sensible thing, policy retention and acceptance will be higher.
One speaker drove home the point that roughly 18% of your workforce are “angels” and will do the right thing regardless of what you do. 2% of your workforce are deviants and will do the wrong thing…regardless of what you do. So, put all your energy into influencing the 80% who are impressionable. Just a little bit of respect goes a long way with this crowd.
More people will focus on the upside of compliance when they feel Compliance is making the effort to better explain their initiatives, aligning these programs with corporate and employee values, and being considerate of the time required to comply.