A compliance officer is responsible for managing compliance within an organisation and ensuring that everyone within the business follows the relevant laws and regulations along with the company policies. An organisation has to comply with internal and external obligations to maximise its growth potential. While some policies may not be mandatory, the business should focus on creating a positive work environment where employees feel heard and compliance is reinforced. A business may choose to comply with additional frameworks like ISO 9001 to highlight its commitment to quality management.
Polonious is certified with ISO 9001 and ISO 27001 as we prioritise the quality of the service we provide and the security of our customers’ information. We ensure that the data entrusted to us is in safe hands and we comply with strict standards to prevent any potential leaks. Confidentiality is a big part of our work and during every step of an investigation, we want our customers to focus on their core responsibilities while we provide them with an efficient case management system.
The role of the compliance officer
A compliance officer needs to collaborate with employees to understand potential compliance risks that could affect the company. Some common compliance risks include:
-Flawed data management
-Workplace health and safety
Flawed data management
If your business works with sensitive information, it is crucial that the compliance officer is aware of the laws and regulations that surround data handling and storage. Sensitive data includes payment details, home addresses and medical records. The company has a duty to their customers and their employees to protect any data that is provided to them. A company with an ineffective data management system is vulnerable to cyber-attacks and privacy breaches. These can be damaging to the organisation’s growth and reputation as a non-compliant company is not seen as trustworthy.
Employees need to be aware of the laws, regulations, policies and standards they need to comply with. The compliance officer along with the HR team should ensure that all new employees are made aware of their responsibilities and understand all relevant rules they have to adhere to. Failing to train employees effectively could have severe consequences for the business. If employees are not educated on how to spot risks and avoid them or mitigate them it could lead to increased costs for the company. Recently, Interserve was fined 4.4 million pounds after an employee downloaded a phishing email that allowed hackers to steal the information of 113,000 employees. It left staff vulnerable to identify theft and financial fraud.
The investigation found that Interserve failed to comply with data protection laws. Their software was outdated and their employees lacked training. The lack of training reduced employee awareness of potential compliance risks and cyberattacks.
Undertraining employees could result in them not knowing how to follow a procedure or how to produce a product that follows quality standards. This could carry many disadvantages for the company as it jeopardises the success of the brand and customer loyalty.
Work health and safety
A compliance officer needs to ensure that the working environment adheres to the rules of the country the business operates in. If the company provides employees with an unsafe working environment, then staff are left vulnerable to injuries and accidents that may be fatal. The compliance officer has to work with managers and employees to create a hazard-free workplace so employers are not in danger. Non-compliance with these laws not only threatens the physical health of staff, but it also threatens their mental health as they are dealing with uncertainty and higher levels of stress.
Another non-compliant action is the refusal to follow laws and policies concerning work behaviour. Employees need to be trained to understand the consequences of harassing or bullying other staff members. It is not only a compliance risk but an ethical issue as well.
Regulatory uncertainty occurs when the business is not being updated on law modifications and changes to the external environment. It may be that managers do not fully understand a law that is being passed or how it applies to the company. The compliance officer is responsible for keeping up with new policies and making sure that everyone in the company understands what it means for the business.
If they are unsuccessful in informing employees, it could lead to misunderstandings between workers and between the business and its customers.
Attributes of a successful compliance officer
Being a compliance officer is not an easy job. It carries a lot of responsibility and a great idea of what vulnerabilities the business is exposed to. They need to conduct regular risk assessments and oversee internal compliance investigations. They have to assess if every department is compliant with external and internal requirements and assist in the training of employees.
So what makes someone a great compliance officer? Beyond understanding laws, a compliance officer must have the following:
-Good interpersonal skills
-Analytical skills and attention to detail
Good interpersonal skills
Compliance officers need to connect with people and know how to share information in a way that everyone understands and remembers. It is not enough to just say something. It is necessary that the delivery can be easily remembered by employees so next time they undertake an activity, they know what they can and cannot do. People may not recognise why they cannot take a specific action which is why great communication skills are crucial in explaining the issues involved in greater detail.
If they notice an error or a non-compliant action, they need to be careful with how they will approach the situation. The compliance officer needs to be considerate of the person’s feelings – maybe they did something wrong by accident – but at the same time they need to be strict and ensure that the same mistake does not happen again. It is a delicate matter to call someone out on an error so the compliance officer needs to be confident but empathetic.
An ethical compliance officer will be less likely to lie and will value honesty. Honesty is an integral part of compliance management as it reduces the possibility of compliance officers joining unlawful activities. Ethical individuals will report wrongdoings to the right person promptly and will come up with strategies to prevent similar behaviour from occurring again.
Businesses are more likely to rely on an individual who is ethical as they are more committed to keeping the company safe and enforcing laws and regulations. Managers will be more certain that non-compliant behaviour will not be covered up for personal reasons or biases.
Analytical skills and attention to detail
A compliance officer needs to look at numerous situations and risk assessments. Therefore, it is important that they possess analytical skills that will allow them to interpret what they see into clear and concise information. If a new policy has been created, they should know what changes need to be made and where to guarantee that the business remains compliant.
Attention to detail is also crucial in analyses as there are many patterns or problem areas that may signify a bigger issue may be the root cause. If small errors go unnoticed, it could leave the business vulnerable and compliance risk will increase.
After a compliance officer completes their analysis, they need to decide what the solution will be to the situation they are facing. Good problem-solving skills require an individual to be creative, analytical and innovative. This can lead to them looking at the problem from multiple angles and developing different ideas for the same problem.
Once a solution has been found, it can be monitored and if it is deemed ineffective, a good compliance officer can then find an alternative idea. It is not certain that everything will work the first time but during critical incidents, strong problem-solving skills are essential as there is little room for error.
A great compliance officer is hard to find. On top of all the skills already mentioned and the different situations they are responsible for, they need to be open to feedback and a strong leader. Not being afraid of constructive criticism can give the compliance officer many opportunities to improve and learn from their mistakes. Excellent knowledge of laws and regulations, policies and documentation are not enough to be successful. Soft skills are also an essential part of the role.
At Polonious we prioritise compliance for the safety of our customers and employees. Polonious is trusted by multiple businesses worldwide as we are committed to following the highest international standards and delivering a high-quality service. We are chosen for both internal and external investigations as we automate compliance management and save administration time. Polonious makes it easy to receive case updates and upload all relevant information including videos, images and documents to one place. Do you want to learn more about how we can help you with compliance management? Request a demo and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
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