Friday, April 19, 2024

BEC: Does your culture encourage compliance?


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The slew of legislation, established customs and conventions governing the management of people can prove overwhelming for a company to enforce. This dilemma is often more complex, where companies are reliant on supervisors and managers with no human resources (HR) or industrial relations (IR) background to execute personnel management tasks.

The essential question here would be whether your culture encourages compliance. Have you invested in training to equip these persons with the knowledge and skills that lend to at least satisfactory management?

Do they have an understanding of the repercussions for the company, should they not follow procedure in a particular instance?

The size, organisational structure and level of autonomy within one’s company should generally guide the type of culture facilitated. By extension, it will guide how the nuances of this culture are communicated to employees.

Will a memorandum outlining the course of action for disciplinary hearings suffice? Or is it necessary to invest in tranches of training outlining all stages of the disciplinary process?

There can only be a definitive answer, if the requisite parties take the time to assess the current culture promulgated. It may be that training is provided but supervisors or managers are not held accountable when breaches occur. A consideration may then be to ensure internal practices for progressive discipline are followed.

Tackling the issues from a strategic standpoint it may be best to invoke the three Ps: policies, practice and persistence. They not only have the potential to cover just about every communication channel but if implemented can assist in enshrining a culture of compliance.


Providing guidance on specific issues via a targeted code of conduct, disciplinary code or employee handbook is the ideal place to begin.

These documents should be well crafted and their importance, just as well communicated. A common problem is that new hires neglect to read some provisions which are directly applicable to the execution of their duties.

What therefore occurs is that employees are warped into the practices of the work environment, ethical or non-ethical with very little knowledge of the rules which should dictate their actions.

Using targeted guidance notes, to highlight relevant policies for the varying categories of workers can combat this issue. Further, line supervisors or managers should be equipped and tasked with reiterating applicable policies. Embarking on a well thought out, proactive campaign of policy reminders sets the framework for an informed culture.


Nothing will set the tone of your culture more than the day-to-day practices of your employees. Yes, they know the policy, but is it easier to execute their task by breaching it?

This is where standards set and adhered to by leaders will matter most. Leaders need to be able to identify and remove the cultural barriers that prevent their employees from behaving ethically at all times, according to David Gebler, author of  The 3 Power Values. To encourage employees to follow expected standards of behaviour, leaders must themselves commit to the message that being ethical is more important than winning every time.


Creating or changing a company’s culture takes a lot more time than my aforementioned points may express however, the results are multifold.

A culture which reflects strong resistance to non-compliance within any sphere of the organisation is better protected from the risks of misconduct. The change may not be reflected overnight, but companies should always remain steadfast on the road to positive cultural change.

Compliance, of course, has a much wider scope than H/R and IR, and promoting a culture which is ethically sound should be part of any company’s strategic plan.

It is therefore important that leaders play an integral role in setting the tone of an organisation’s culture.

Keep your communication channels open in order to facilitate bottom-up interactions and remember that every employee contributes to the culture created.


Brittany Brathwaite is a Labour management adviser.


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