Have you ever considered the role that corporate compliance standards play in attracting new talent, as well as retaining current employees? At first glance, this may seem like an odd question. Compliance programs are hardly the first thing employees look for when exploring a new job opportunity. After all, isn’t compliance just about following the law, a requirement for the employer’s benefit?

While it is required by law, it is not the only reason why organizations, particularly the more progressive ones, invest in compliance programs.  Today more than ever, both prospective and current employees evaluate a company based on whether or not organizational values and beliefs align with their personal ethics. A company’s policy and stance on issues including diversity, sexual orientation, free speech, and gender equality are of increasing importance for job seekers in today’s workforce.

In fact, a recent survey from Deloitte found that the majority of millennials agree that it is important for businesses to behave in an ethical manner and 76 percent believe that business has the power to make a difference. Separately, research from Deloitte and the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative found that 83 percent of millennials are actively engaged when they believe their organization fosters an inclusive culture—13% higher than millennials who work for organization that does not foster an inclusive culture.

The conclusion drawn from these significant data points is abundantly clear: Employees today truly value doing what is right beyond simply doing what the law requires. They value and take pride in working for a company that respects them, their coworkers and the community. Moreover, companies that are transparent about compliance policies allow employees to excel at their jobs, without worrying about discrimination or harassment, and these individuals can be confident that opportunities will be based solely on performance, not gender, race, or religion.

Employees today truly value doing what is right beyond simply doing what the law requires. They value and take pride in working for a company that respects them, their coworkers and the community.

Alternatively, companies that lack a clearly defined, inclusive, and respectful culture risk not only failing to attract top talent, but also losing current employees. Today’s skill shortages and the war for talent makes this a most unappealing prospect for arguably any company, regardless of size, location, or industry. Because of this, it is absolutely essential that companies create, implement, and maintain a comprehensive compliance program that outlines and enforces what behavior is and is not tolerated and expected from all employees.

Here are five proof points that indicate a culture of compliance:

Defined corporate policy: A company dedicated to compliance will have a clear code of conduct, as well as policies in place that ensure all employees are treated and valued equally. A code of conduct, signed by all employees, outlines legal, ethical, and compliance risk areas and guides employees to make smart, sound decisions.  Moreover, standalone anti-discrimination and harassment policies, along with diversity and inclusion programs, reinforce that a company has zero-tolerance for bias or discrimination based on gender, sexuality, religion, etc.

Trusted leadership: Company culture is driven from the top down—leaders lead by example.  A leader’s positive attitude, sound values and subsequent actions do not go unnoticed by employees and drive the overall culture of the company.

Compliance education: Compliance training programs educate employees about the plausible scenarios and risks within their industry. An effective compliance program teaches employees the reasons behind the policies, provides preventative risk strategies, and showcases the corrective actions that will be taken if a violation occurs.

Open communication: Employees should always be encouraged to communicate concerns, voice apprehensions, or report violations without fear of retaliation. A company that supports an employee’s right to speak up builds mutual trust and reinforces a company’s commitment to compliance.

Tools to measure ethical behavior: Business practices have integrated compliance principles throughout and are in place to enable a positive ethical culture to thrive. Analytics and measurement tools help to objectively assess compliance efforts and holds a company accountable.  Data from customer complaints, internal “whistleblower” reports, social media, and sanctions by regulatory authorities to determine their rating can all be used as evaluation tools. 

An objective assessment of organizational policies and procedures will identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas that need improvement, and it is the foundation for building a culture of compliance. As ethics and values become an increasingly important factor for all employees, companies who are truly invested in creating an ethical culture will likely flourish.

Still unsure how your company ranks? Check out this compliance assessment.


John Arendes is Vice President and GM – Global Compliance Solutions at Skillsoft, a provider of online training and talent solutions.