Five Approaches to Getting Your Employees Excited About Compliance

Many construction companies started their compliance programs because of governmental regulations. They continue to spend thousands of dollars each year investing in annual trainings and meetings, display posters, and training materials in order to check the required boxes, but how much are employees retaining and using on a regular basis?

Leaders struggle with the cost and time required for compliance, and employees often say there are too many rules and that compliance talk is boring. Even though compliance connects to almost every aspect in business — from workplace safety to legal, HR, and IT — it’s often left to one person to manage and monitor.

This article discusses an integrated approach to not only getting employees excited about compliance, but also developing a culture in which everyone is doing the right thing — even when no one is looking.

1. Start at the Beginning: Compliance in the Hiring Process

Embedding compliance in your company culture starts during employee recruiting.

Job Descriptions

Your company’s job description is a good vehicle for introducing the organization’s culture. Your prospective candidate is a captive audience who wants to know as much as possible about the company to prepare for an interview.

Every job should have a compliance connection, so include a sentence or two about the company’s focus on promoting ethical behavior and compliance as well as any compliance standards that the role will require. In the list of skills needed, include a statement such as “willing to learn and follow the organization’s compliance standards.”

Interview Process

As you review the job description during the interview process, emphasize the compliance pieces, explain how they connect to the role, and include a question or two about when the candidate used compliance in a previous position.

It’s helpful to add prompts so as not to put the employee on the spot and see how they have historically played an important role in ensuring workplace compliance. It could be as simple as telling a story about what they learned while handling a power tool on a job or as complicated as developing a company-wide compliance program.


When onboarding new employees, allocate time to review the employee manual and emphasize that the document exists for their protection and safety.

Include a brief meeting between the appropriate compliance person and the new employees during their first few days. This establishes a direct connection between employees and compliance.

Create a cheat sheet of terms and agencies to which the company is accountable. Explain to the employee how it relates to their job and let them know what they are specifically accountable for in their role (payroll, safety trainings, etc.). Also, include compliance training in the onboarding process (harassment, safety, cybersecurity, etc.).

Use onboarding to help establish standards and relationships across company functions. The more a new hire knows and understands from the beginning, the more they will feel connected to the culture and establish a sense of belonging.

2. Reinforcement: Performance Management & Developing “Ownership Thinking”

Meaningful performance management should be a key component in company culture. Employees want and need to know how they are doing relative to their manager’s expectations and company objectives.

Setting goals should be a collaborative process between a leader and their direct reports. Not all goals are created equal, and many are set without the ability to actually measure results.

As shown in Exhibit 1, good performance management includes goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based (SMART).Teaching employees to set SMART goals is an important part of good leadership, and compliance-related goals should be a part of every employee’s performance management plan.

Sitting down with employees on a monthly or quarterly basis to discuss how they are doing relative to their goals keeps compliance front and center. It also provides a springboard for having meaningful conversations with employees.

When setting goals, allow employees to come up with their own. Managers can provide desired outcomes, and employees can help figure out how to set their goals to achieve those results.

  • Some examples of compliance-related goals include:
  • Reviewing and updating policies and procedures for their position or department
  • Participating in and/or leading safety committee meetings
  • Reading articles, joining peer groups, and sharing new ideas with the team
  • Taking compliance-related courses or trainings

Communicate how the goal will be measured as well as due dates that both you and the employee agree on. Goal setting isn’t black and white — if an employee doesn’t meet their goal, make sure to discuss the reasons why; it’s possible that the goal wasn’t attainable, despite thinking so in the setting stage. Remember to celebrate the positive changes, even if they were smaller than originally expected.

Ownership Thinking

SMART goals can also be set at the organizational level to help employees think like a business owner. Moving employees to think proactively rather than reactively changes their perspective and gives them the autonomy to ask questions, look for process improvements, and have more meaningful conversations with each other about how everyone works together.

Another way to create buy-in is for company leadership to ask for input during problem-solving brainstorming sessions. Companies that engage employees in thinking outside the box are nimble, create a sense of ownership, and help employees be more willing to go above and beyond for the remember that everyone learns differently, so adapting to your employees and communicating your message in different formats is crucial to ensure it reaches everyone.

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