Beyond GDPR: The Importance of Creating a Compliance Culture

Beyond GDPR: The Importance of Creating a Compliance Culture

The GDPR has shaken up businesses in all industries with new legislation and new compliance demands, and many businesses are still working out how to comply with the new requirements.

However, companies should see the new law as less of a box-ticking exercise and more as a long-term business opportunity, one with the potential to create a long-term compliance culture. By doing so, business leaders stand to gain. It’s an opportunity to build trust with clients and demonstrate their organization’s commitment to providing a world-class service whilst respecting and protecting personal data. Creating such a culture requires effort, though, and certain measures must be put in place. Here are the most important things to remember when implementing a compliance culture for GDPR and beyond:

1. Set the tone from the top

For a company culture to fundamentally change, those at the top need to lead by example. Simply allowing the CEO/MD to deal with the adaptation of practices to meet data processing and deletion rules will not embed a lasting compliance-friendly approach among employees. Senior managers and team leaders who demonstrate both their awareness and support of new policies and training will achieve far better improvements in the way that employees deal with the upcoming increase in individuals requesting to know how their data is being handled.

Senior personnel can promote best practice by sending emails, letters or by attending events where they can contribute to industry-wide discussions on the topic of compliance. By actively taking part in the implementation of GDPR training programs, for example, business leaders will encourage their staff to see these changes as long-term commitments rather than short-term solutions.

2. Break it down into smaller tasks

Many businesses are understandably unsure as to how to tackle the seemingly huge task of meeting GDPR requirements, and with that the creation and maintenance of a compliance culture.

As of May 25, individuals now have more freedom over how private businesses handle their data, which is likely to give rise to more people invoking their right to be forgotten and the right to transparency. If businesses fail to comply with these demands, they risk being fined by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) by up to €20 million or 4% of their annual turnover.

With GDPR in particular, businesses should break the challenge of creating a company-wide compliance training program down into small, manageable tasks. For instance, employees dealing with personal data should first be made aware of the new rights granted to data subjects so that they are fully aware of their responsibilities as data processors when dealing with requests.

Staff members should also be made aware of the potential risks involved if compliance does not meet the standards, which could be fines or, even worse, large data breaches that put personal data at risk.

Finally, they should be made aware of best practices in terms of marketing lists, storing information and sharing private data across the business, as well as be regularly tested on these practices to ensure that they have taken the training on board.

3. Make training sessions interactive

Any training program worth its salt will aim to create a lasting impact on the employees of a business. When the stakes are as high as they are with cybersecurity and data protection, senior managers should be looking to educate their team members in a way that fully engages them.

This will often not be the easiest path to take. Many businesses will be tempted to give their workforce a simple information booklet and leave them to teach themselves, as this might appear to be the most cost-effective solution in the short-term. However, creating a compliance culture is the most cost-effective solution long-term because it builds trust with customers and gives the business a competitive advantage.

As such, a training program should be made interactive by organizing Q&A meetings, video case studies and team practice sessions. This would allow greater information retention and ultimately a longer-lasting culture shift.

Author: Darren Hockley is MD of eLearning provider DeltaNet International, which offers a wide range of courses for businesses including training on compliance and GDPR.

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