How Do You Improve Corporate Compliance? Turn Up the Tone in the Middle
“Tone at the top.” It refers to what leaders say or don’t say, what they do or don’t do, that directly influences employee confidence, trust and behavior.
But studies show those with the most influence on the rank and file are those who interact closely with employees on a daily basis: immediate supervisors and their managers. That’s why it’s important to turn middle management into corporate compliance advocates. But to do so, you have to break through three middle manager barriers.
“I’m too busy”
The immediate barrier to corporate compliance management
It isn’t that middle managers are opposed to meeting compliance objectives.
Middle managers are caught in the crossfire of directives coming down from on high, translating those strategies into action plans, and then making things happen on the ground. It isn’t that middle managers are opposed to meeting compliance objectives, it’s more likely that these initiatives just aren’t making their way above the “real job” of day-to-day operational duties and responsibilities.
To break through this barrier, it is important to share with middle managers about where the organization is going, how corporate compliance and ethics align with these strategic priorities, and sharing the plan to reach compliance goals. With this broader grasp of the issues, middle managers will be more inclined and better equipped to influence the people on their teams, departments and projects.
And then there’s the generational barrier
Today’s workforce now spans at least three generations. Baby Boomers have been the ones in charge at most companies and have led Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1976) employees in the day-to-day activities. As Boomers exit the workforce, Gen-Xers are moving into middle management roles. It’s a leadership transition with stark differences in values, learning styles and attitudes.
Boomers grew up in a culture of command and control. They cultivated mentors, showed dedication and loyalty to the company by working hard and long, and paid their dues as they climbed the company ladder.
Gen-Xers, on the other hand, are independent and don’t want someone watching too closely to check on their progress. They strive to maintain a better work-life balance than the Boomers. Technology plays a big part in this strategy as it is seen as essential to finding quick answers and automating mundane tasks. They also value teamwork, particularly through online venues.
The differences between generational attitudes are worth serious consideration. Gen-X middle managers need to be coached and inspired, and require more explicit direction on how to lead change and rally others around the vision, especially if they are to become effective advocates for compliance and ethics programs.
The differences between generational attitudes are worth serious consideration.
The non-automated barrier
In order to broaden the network of corporate compliance advocates within the ranks of middle management, compliance managers need an “ACE”: Accountability, Clarity and Ease. And automation can help make it happen.
There is truth in the adage that says, ‘that which gets measured gets done.’ Work that requires updates and progress reviews gets completed. Work that is assigned, but never followed upon, usually gets ignored. Compliance programs are no different.
Managers are busy people, keen on working as efficiently as possible. There is little tolerance for ambiguity with this crowd. Drop the “legalese” and be as direct as possible on purpose, process and expectations of a compliance initiative. This will help managers understand what is expected. Clarity is a powerful strategy.
Make compliance as easy as possible for those in the field. Over-complicating matters is a surefire way to set up resistance. A centralized, accessible online approach to organizing and disseminating compliance information makes life easier for all involved.
Ethics and compliance programs are as essential to the operation of a company as sales, accounting, quality assurance and revenue. By codifying compliance processes and content, and instilling accountability, clarity and ease in accessing and disseminating information, compliance managers can leave behind those static, three-ring binders of policies and procedures collecting dust on office shelves into dynamic, interactive content driving defined workflows.
Next time we’ll dig in deeper to what ACE is all about, and how to use workforce compliance automation to make it happen.