What are the cultural barriers to compliance?

December 14, 2023
3 minutes

As a compliance or security lead, you know how big of a challenge it can be to introduce new security measures and have employees abide by them. People are resistant to change and anything they might consider a burden to their workflow — so they’re far more likely to skirt security measures in the face of convenience. 

This need for speed is just one of the cultural barriers that can limit a team’s success when they’re trying to build a SOC 2 compliance program, for instance. But it’s not the only one. 

In this article, we’re sharing some of the core cultural obstacles that can get in your way, and sharing helpful tips for how to battle them and build a culture of compliance at your organization.

Cultural barriers that can negatively affect compliance

Your workforce likely holds a lot of key beliefs, and some of these relate to compliance, either directly or indirectly. 

For example, employees at your organization may think that compliance is just a one-and-done project where you tick a bunch of boxes. The reality is that compliance is an ongoing, continuous process, and the sooner your colleagues understand that, the sooner they’re going to incorporate compliance into their daily operations.

Another core belief might be that compliance is just a necessary evil, one that can slow down simple tasks like logging into an application or sharing a document. What they may not understand is how security and compliance ties into the rest of the business. By remaining compliant, organizations can minimize risks, keep their reputation intact, and avoid unnecessary (and expensive) costs.

Some of your colleagues may think that security mandates and compliance don’t apply to them because they have an administrative role or aren’t responsible for “big ticket” items like product code or finances. This is far from true — an organization is only ever compliant with security standards and regulations if everyone at the organization is compliant. A sophisticated bad actor could get access to a system through this individual’s account, regardless of their permission, and find a way to access more sensitive data.

Another problematic belief — and this one shows up at a lot of different businesses — is the prioritization of speed, productivity, and revenue. Sure, these are all important metrics for an organization, but if they come at the cost of security and compliance, it can lead to severely negative impacts like a data breach or DDoS attack. Instead, we need to look at compliance as an enabler to speed, productivity, and revenue. Yes, it may take an upfront investment and some changes in behavior to get right, but it's worth it down the line.

How do you get everyone on the same page? 

So, how do you mitigate the impact of these cultural barriers? Simple. You change the culture. 

A successful, barrier-free path to compliance will require making compliance a core component of your organization’s culture. In practice, this will include:  

  • Getting your leadership on board. Draw the connections between security and compliance benefits and each executive’s business objectives. If they can see how fostering compliance can help them reach their own goals, they will be much more likely to support you in your efforts.
  • Linking compliance initiatives to the organization’s values. Employees in your organization are already aligned with the business values. Connecting the dots between your compliance work and the values will help employees understand why compliance is important — and make them more likely to remain compliant.
  • Making it a two-way conversation. Give executives and other employees the opportunity to provide feedback, ask questions, and share their anecdotal insights as you run your compliance programs.
  • Keeping it fun. Change can be challenging for a lot of people. Consider gamifying the introduction of new measures or having quiz events to test different teams on their compliance knowledge. This can go a long way with encouraging adoption. 
  • Adopting the right tools. Find software solutions that are easy to use and can be easily integrated into your existing tech stack. This will both reduce friction around your compliance efforts and make adoption faster.

Taking these various steps can help reduce the common obstacles that appear when rolling out a compliance program. By getting people on your side, and on the same page with regards to the importance of security measures, you will be far more likely to succeed. 

It’s time to change compliance mindsets

More and more, executives are starting to recognize that security and compliance are strategic elements that introduce resiliency, reliability, and trust into their business model. Now, it’s up to compliance leaders to leverage this insight and help shift compliance mindsets across the rest of the organization. This will not only help build a culture of compliance, it will also reduce risks in the short and long term.

At Pima, we’ve made it easier than ever for SaaS vendors to maintain compliance in their sales process and beyond. Learn more about our product on the homepage.

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