9 Vital Steps to Foster a Strong Compliance Culture

At its core, a compliance culture is about cultivating a specific mindset to avoid the severe consequences of non-compliance, including fines and legal action, reduced revenue, and diminished customer trust. It’s not just about ticking boxes or following rules.

Because the potential risks associated with non-compliance are significant, building a compliance culture should be a top priority for any organization. To help you, we’ve compiled actionable tips to help you create an effective compliance culture in your organization. 

9 Steps to an Effective Compliance Culture

1. Understand Your Compliance Requirements

Completely understanding your requirements will help you create an effective compliance culture. In the context of cybersecurity, you need to focus on the following types of compliance: 

  • Industry-specific regulations (HIPAA, PCI DSS, CMMC, etc.)  
  • General data protection and privacy laws (CCPA, GDPR, VCDPA, etc.)  
  • National and international cybersecurity standards (NIST, ISO 27001, etc.) 
     

The trouble is that nearly 60 percent of business leaders need help to keep up with the rapidly evolving compliance landscape. That’s why having a dedicated compliance team can go a long way in helping ensure that your organization remains up to date on its legal and regulatory requirements. 

Outsourcing compliance can be a cost-effective and practical solution when you lack the resources to build and maintain an in-house compliance team. This approach allows you to leverage external expertise and technology – ensuring you meet regulatory requirements without the significant investment needed for internal staffing and infrastructure.

2. Secure Top-Level Commitment

Statistically, executives are more likely to disregard cybersecurity policies than regular employees. Building a compliance culture in an environment where even the C-Suite isn’t complying with security is nearly impossible.  

That’s why, securing top-level commitment at the start of your organization’s compliance journey is vital (and why the FTC requires senior officers to provide annual compliance certifications).

3. Put in Place Effective Controls

Cybersecurity controls are the various measures organizations put in place to detect and prevent security incidents. Examples include: 

  • Antivirus software
  • Firewalls
  • Intrusion prevention systems
  • Email and web filtering solutions
  • Advanced encryption
  • And more

Every organization has different needs and faces slightly different threats. So, it’s essential to avoid one-size-fits-all cybersecurity solutions. These types of solutions are unlikely to deliver the level of protection necessary to stop modern cybercriminals. Instead, they may provide a very dangerous illusion of protection.

4. Compliance Starts from the Top Down

A strong compliance culture should always start with senior leaders setting the tone for the entire organization. To lead by example, senior leaders should:

  • Regularly communicate the company’s compliance policies in clear, understandable terms.
  • Demonstrate their understanding of and adherence to policies, showing that the rules apply across the board. 
  • Encourage open communication, where employees feel comfortable discussing compliance concerns and seeking guidance.

Leaders set the stage for the rest of the organization to follow suit by being the first and most enthusiastic adopters of compliance practices.

5. Educate Your Employees

Technology alone will never be able to ensure regulatory compliance unless all employees understand how their actions can lead to costly data breaches. That’s why regular security awareness training should always be an essential part of every compliance initiative.

Providing employees relevant information about a variety of security topics helps to reduce the risk of breaches and incidents. Small organizations with limited resources can outsource security training to a specialized provider – such as KnowBe4 – to maintain focus on core business activities.

6. Incentivize Cybersecurity Compliance

Compliance shouldn’t be an annoyance. To keep employees motivated when it comes to adhering to cybersecurity policies and best practices, it’s important to provide them with suitable compliance incentives.

Example

Compliance can be tied to compensation and incorporated into annual performance reviews. For such compensation to reflect reality, it’s important to have channels and policies for reporting non-compliance in place.

7. Address Violations

Compliance violations should be immediately addressed and reflect the severity and frequency. This ensures that the consequences feel proportionate and fair. 

Example

Minor violations, especially those that have occurred for the first time, typically warrant only a formal warning or additional compliance training. In contrast, severe or repeated violations should result in more serious consequences. 

8. Harness the Power of Modern Technology

It takes a lot of work to document, track, and report compliance-related activities within an organization. When utilized effectively, modern technology can significantly reduce the burden of these tasks.   

Many organizations are unaware that a whole ecosystem of compliance technology solutions is readily available to them.  

These compliance solutions will: 

  • Centralize and streamline the process of managing, monitoring, and reporting on compliance activities.  
  • Automate repetitive tasks, such as routing documents for review or obtaining approvals.  
  • Deliver customized, engaging, and up-to-date compliance training to employees.  
  • Provide insights into employees’ compliance performance and reveal potential areas for improvement. 

By exploring and adopting these compliance technology solutions, your organization can strengthen its compliance culture and improve overall operational efficiency. 

9. Incorporate Compliance into the Onboarding Journey

Integrating compliance into the onboarding process is crucial for building a compliance culture. Unfortunately, many organizations don’t give their employees the information they need. 

32 percent of employees can’t find relevant information when they missed a compliance obligation.” – Gartner, 2021 

From day one, employees need introductions to the organization’s compliance expectations. This process includes providing them with clear guidelines and any other resources they may need to understand their roles and responsibilities in maintaining a compliant workplace. 

Training sessions should cover specific regulations and policies as well as the role of compliance in the overall success and integrity of the organization. It’s a good idea to assign a mentor or compliance officer to guide new hires through the initial stages of their employment, answering any questions they may have. 

Compliance Is a Journey, Not a Destination 

Building a robust compliance culture is an ongoing process, not a one-time project. Regulations change, new risks emerge, and organizations evolve. It’s necessary to continually monitor, assess, and adapt to these changes to maintain a strong compliance culture. 

Compliance Assistance Checklist

At Teal, we understand how time-consuming and challenging this journey can be. We offer responsive and secure managed compliance services to SMBs nationally, with local headquarters based in: 

If you’re interested in learning about our premier IT consulting, contact a Teal business technology advisor today.

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