A lot of what we do many organizations would define as compliance: education on prevention of harassment, discrimination, conflict and violence. Conducting and consulting on workplace investigations also fits under the compliance umbrella in many companies. Yet I rarely use the word when I talk about what we do. Quite simply, if you walk in and tell people you are from the compliance department it is perceived just as threatening as the dentist telling you that you are going to need a root canal.
"Focus on the positive benefits,
rather than the
threats of non-compliance."
Instead, what I recommend to my clients is that they try to rebrand compliance so that it is not perceived as a four letter word. How do you do that? Try these three things:
1. Work with senior leadership on the whole question of values and how values relate to this topic. Ask them to outline what kind of a workplace they want to create and how they can engender more productivity and have a good working environment for everyone. Of course, you also need to facilitate a conversation about how to make these values part of the life of the company so that they are not just slogans on the wall. We've all seen how effective that is.
2. Make the business case. Again, starting with senior leadership, but also when you work with other managers, ask them to list both the hard and soft costs of handling complaints, lawsuits, EEOC audits and the like. Many times they think of attorneys' fees and judgments with complaints and law suits, but they also need to consider the damage to their reputation, morale and productivity. Ask them how they would quantify these costs and losses and how that would impact their budget and their bottom line.
If you really want to get their attention about judgment and settlement costs, here are some big numbers to consider:
- Wet Seal settled a national racial discrimination and harassment class action for $7.5 million;
- Burger King's largest franchisee paid $2.5 million to resolve a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit;
- New Jersey Transit paid $5.8 million to settle race discrimination and harassment claims by African-American and Latino officers;
- Best Buy paid $10 million for race, gender, and national origin discrimination; and
- Del Monte Fresh Produce paid $1.2 million to resolve a case alleging national origin and race discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.
3. When you conduct training on these subjects, make sure it is the best. Make it highly interactive and engaging. Make sure there are videos, case studies, pop quizzes and role plays, even if it is a webinar. Make sure that your leaders and management actually practice things such as receiving complaints and intervening when they see unacceptable behavior.
Compliance doesn't need to be a dirty word but I usually avoid using it altogether by focusing on the positive benefits, opposed to the threats of non-compliance.