Have To > Should Do > Looking Forward To It, Part One: Compliance

what is regulatory compliance?


  • a :  the act or process of complying to a desire, demand (unpleasant), proposal, or regimen (unpleasant) or to coercion (unpleasant)
  • b :  conformity (unpleasant) in fulfilling official requirements (unpleasant)

Compliance.  Just the word is unpleasant, and if you look at the definition (above) you will see a plethora of unpleasant words that come together to create its meaning.  If you have any question whether or not this is a true statement, try surveying your staff about the compliance activities they are responsible for and see how they respond.   To be fair, if you get a group of compliance geeks (of which I identify) together and they start geeking out, you would never guess talking compliance isn’t sexy.  Talk compliance in the workplace and it feels a bit like being in a bar at 2:30 AM in the morning when they turn on the lights and watching as all of the cockroaches furiously scurry to escape the light.


There are many things in the workplace that don’t exude joy including, but not limited to: empty coffee pots, expense reports, the morning after holiday parties and trainings that are designed to keep the company out of hot water.  Trainings fall squarely into the under-appreciated category of “have to.”  Our lives are littered with have to’s and very seldom do we look at them and say: “I am exceedingly happy to do this thing that I am not looking forward to doing at all.”  Instead we put on our labor hats and push through.  This, I believe is one of the key problems with compliance, and the problem is routed firmly in the words:  “have to.”


The words “have to” is where most companies start in their compliance programs, and it creates the distinct problem of being the proverbial, one more thing, that is put on the plate of the employees.  Don’t get me wrong, from a maturity standpoint, compliance is crucial for a corporate culture in the same way crawling is the first step to walking then to running.


One approach could be the fire hose, and while this approach has merits (namely a quick return on required activities), it is also a daunting experience for the employees and can create resentment.  A measured approach might be more tactful with a steady increase of activities as employees get acquainted with these new responsibilities.  Either way, compliance is something you can’t sleep on and you have to start somewhere; so my first suggestion would be listing out your goals and then creating a reasonable action plan against it.


With an action plan in place, addressing your most pressing needs first and ramping up activities at a steady pace should create not only a compliant culture, but also the expectation within the organization that compliance is indeed important and at the core of how we do business.  It is important for the maturity of your compliance program to shift the words “have to” (compliance) to “should do” (ethics).


Next stop, Part 2: ethics.