Communication strategies for increasing employee engagement in compliance programs

Every compliance professional’s strategic annual plan will include seeking increased employee engagement in and attention to the organization’s compliance program. Communication strategies must be carefully devised with the goal in mind of making compliance vivid and interesting to employees. The compliance message can quickly become routine and dry: sign an attestation, request pre-approval, complete a checklist. This sort of messaging alienates employees rather than engaging them. They have only a small function in the compliance operations this way. Nothing is learned or shared, they are just doing a “tick the box” type exercise.

Instead, the true aspiration of the compliance messaging is that employees take interest, learn something new, ask questions, and feel connected to the story of the organization’s compliance program. This is accomplished via effective and appealing communication that speaks to all audiences and sets a new, compelling tone.

  • Key moment messaging: Compliance is highly relatable to current events and new stories. Therefore compliance communications should take full advantage of key moment messaging opportunities. Relate communication topics to outside events to make the objectives of the compliance program even more concrete. For example, if there is a major earthquake somewhere in the world and your office is located in Southern California, take that opportunity to engage with employees about disaster recovery and business continuity policies and procedures. Their interest will already be heightened and the necessity of the information will be at its most tangible.
  • Positive reinforcement: Start with a kudos, congratulations, or positive sentiment. Any action that needs to be taken or improvement that needs to be made based upon the communication will be much better received if the message gets off to a welcoming start. Set a productive tone by thanking employees for their participation in the last request or calling out good insights or high engagement. Then build off that encouragement to bring in the next steps needed and issue the call to action.
  • Branding: Branding and marketing are now important considerations across all business lines and functions. Compliance is not immune to this, as messages from so many sources fight among themselves for precious attention and airtime from employees. Therefore compliance professionals must carefully consider branding options that will maintain the substantive content of their communications yet be adequately branded to be appealing. Using humor or a catchy, fun theme to introduce the communication, before getting to the meat of the message, can provoke curiosity and prompt engagement. Don’t take it too far and make it a joke – but a little bit of amusement can go a long way.
  • Give visuals/shortcuts: On a similar note, think about making simple takeaways from the communication, however complex its overall message. One way to do this is to provide a visual, like an example of a new form that has to be filled as standard procedure, or a chart showing results on an initiative over previous periods and projected future results. If a visual is not applicable, try using acronyms or slogans that will work as mnemonics to help people remember your message and keep the meaning in mind.
  • Make it interactive: The best way to engage employees in compliance communications is to concretely incorporate them in it. Make the messages interactive for them. Ask an open-ended question and promote any responses received so that employees know the request for input is credible. Take a poll or offer a quiz. This way, employees can share in the mission and the effort by weighing in themselves, which allows them to personalize the message and be more likely to remember it.

To interest and appeal to all employees, compliance communications should not be generic or routine. Taking advantage of opportunities to make compliance relatable, and capitalizing on human interest or emotional connections that can be made, will help to make the mission of the compliance program much more interesting and effective.

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