August 20, 2013

New regulatory requirements are causing companies across all industries and geographies to step up their compliance initiatives, increasing the importance of the annual compliance audit cycle.

Robert Pijselman, BWise, a Nasdaq OMX Company
Robert Pijselman, BWise

While employees are conditioned to participate in this annual review, most seem to view compliance as a necessary but tedious task, unrelated to their regular duties. Many deem it a waste of their own time, and have a negative view of compliance requirements. For many, it seems there is no way to make compliance activities more palatable.

But certain integrated compliance solutions can streamline the process and actually make an arduous task more user-friendly and efficient. Even when implemented however, it still takes a lot of time and effort to get employees to buy in the process and stay positively engaged. This is often the case regardless of a company’s industry, rank or geography.

More Engagement, Better Results

One way to combat this apathy is a proper articulation of the value of employee participation. Explaining to an employee all the reasons why compliance is a critical piece of a company’s success leads to greater employee engagement in the compliance process, which ultimately benefits the individual and the company.

Just as important is receiving advance communication from senior management – this is another big factor in employee participation. When executives express the company’s core values upfront and state how employee participation in the annual survey benefits the company, the general employee population, and the individual, there tends to be greater employee participation and earlier response times.

For managers, it helps to treat your employees like customers. Talk to them about the benefits and possible results the assessment can yield for the company. Focus on compliance fundamentals and the nuances particular to the company’s industry. Be upbeat and positive about the process requirements and how you present the potential benefits of the assessment. This will set the tone at the top which should trickle down through the ranks.

It is also essential for senior management to understand the challenges and fears employees may associate with the exercise. For example, some employees may fear their assessment responses will be used to judge job performance. Address these concerns by showing how compliance helps them do their job, and explain why their participation is vital to the company having better control over governance, risk management and compliance.

It is also helpful to use multiple communication channels to explain how employees can help deliver value to common corporate goals. Consider how employees communicate with each other and use social media, blog posts or text messaging to send information and reminders. Specifically, explain why full participation is important. Be clear: Use phrases like, “We are putting this in because….” Be straightforward, and your employees will appreciate a consistent message, which is motivating and reassuring.

Using Results Effectively

Learning opportunities don’t end after completing the assessment process. There are many great opportunities to advance the company’s Governance, Risk Management and Compliance (GRC) programs once the results are collected and analyzed.

Share the results. Quite frankly, this validates the purpose of the annual compliance assessment. This is an opportunity to deliver guidance and information in the context of business processes and decisions and improve employee transparency.

Senior managers can use scenario analysis to discuss options for handling different situations and solutions. Management can also use the results to present benchmark data such as peer comparisons, common events/losses, or mitigation techniques. These can be useful teaching tools toward staff development.

Bonus Outcome

My experience has shown that the biggest advantage to greater employee engagement in the compliance process is the improved awareness and transparency to previously identified and even unidentified risk situations.

When employees believe in and are committed to compliance, they tend to share more details about potential risks, enabling better risk management. Collecting and analyzing feedback from those most familiar with each task is vital to risk mitigation. Executive management will find that devoting time and energy to engage employees in the compliance process is time well spent.

Since March 2004, Robert Pijselman has been responsible for the overall management of BWise, a Nasdaq OMX company. Previously, Mr. Pijselman was CEO of Triple P NV, an IT company in Vianen, The Netherlands. Triple P was a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ Exchange (SCM: TPPP). Mr. Pijselman has also managed and directed several other companies in the Telecom and IT fields. In addition, Mr. Pijselman spent more than eight years at Active Voice, that he founded, a market leader in voice processing systems. That company was successfully acquired by Cisco in 2001. He graduated from the Haarlem Business School in 1989.