From XU Magazine, 
Issue 20

Culture’s the DJ, Compliance the Dance Floor

Campbell Fisher is widely regarded as one of Australia’s premier legal minds when it comes to workplace law. He digs into 25 years of industrial relations experience to unearth some pertinent advice for businesses...

Compliance. Values. Employee experience. Being an employer of choice. Culture. In every business these things are continually performing a slow, alluring dance that attracts and retains the best talent. Well, except for compliance – compliance is the dance floor upon which it all takes place.

Compliance isn't sexy. There's an enormous amount of compliance pressure out there, yet every H.R. professional is talking about employee experience and being an employer of choice. None of them want to have a dialogue around compliance.

Of course, people want to be employers of choice as well. But in Australia we've got such things as Royal Commissions into aged care, franchise Senate committees, and industries that use migrant labour being targeted by migrant task forces, so compliance seems more important than ever. But it's still not sexy.

So, let's look at it in a different way.

It’s about values

Becoming an employer of choice and providing a sensational employee experience starts by getting compliance right - all the time.

Don't look at compliance as just ticking a bunch of legal boxes. See compliance as a reflection of the values of your organisation: how you feel about and respect your employees and society. Compliance is something that often goes unnoticed by your customers, unless you get it wrong, become headline news and damage your business and brand.

But your employees notice.

What many organisations don't see, but what employees know, is that the values of an organisation and the leaders within it are critical to the attraction and retention of top people. Values feed into the employee experience and whether they consider you an employer of choice. I always say to people: "Find your organisational values. Find what your organisation stands for and live those values, internally and publicly".

If there's one set of values you can have as an organisation, one that'll make the most difference in today's climate of accountability, social media and one-star Google reviews, it's openness, honesty and transparency.

Honesty is one of the most fundamental things in everything everybody does - in society, in personal relationships and business relationships. In high-performance culture, I've never met anybody who's a high performer who's got any nervousness about transparency, because normally high performers want transparency as it shows the great contribution they make. It's in weaker cultures that people fear transparency or try to avoid transparency, because if you've got some negativity in the culture - if people think they'll get into trouble for doing something, saying something, raising something, putting forward an idea, challenging something - then those are always the cultures without transparency or honesty.

It’s about what’s fair

Think about compliance as also being about what's fair.

I've always been interested in the interplay between efficiency and productivity and fairness. It's why I went into industrial relations, because it was all about the discussion of what is a fair arrangement in the context of a business. I spent the whole of my legal career in that area: where you're trying to help businesses employ people well, help them maximize the contribution people can make. I was helping organizations get it right and we [FCB Group] spent a long time trying to help businesses come out of adversarial models into collaborative models.

I then got to see what happened to some of these organisations, when people started to enjoy coming to work, started to respect the organization they worked for and the people that they worked with. The benefits in recruitment, retention and productivity alone were enormous.

But compliance isn't easy for small or medium-sized businesses. While big clients with really big problems are happy to pay for expensive lawyers to solve those kinds of problems, small or medium sized companies just can't afford to get the same kind of support.

I remember, in 2006, I'm working at a firm stuffed with these same, expensive lawyers (I'm one of them), and Iím being approached by SMEs every day with all sorts of compliance issues. I started asking myself, how do we help these people? How do we make sure they get the same support as our bigger clients? Technology was the solution, of course (isn't it always?) You could say enableHR was founded out of frustration at our firm's inability to deliver the value I wanted us to - a way of solving very similar challenges for clients but doing it in fundamentally different ways.

Build your foundation

However you view compliance, remember that getting the fundamentals of compliance right isn't just about ticking some legal boxes and not being the next brand-damaging headline. It's about building a foundation on which to safely build your organisation's culture - part of that frontline, basic management of behaviour and performance and conduct that helps you win employer of choice awards. If that isn't sexy, what is?

Why leave it there?

To find out more

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