Since violations of regulations often result in legal action or fines, many organizations have responded to these laws by hiring regulatory compliance officers to manage the process. Smaller businesses may not have this option, but it's important for owners to fully comprehend the role that regulatory compliance plays in their organizations.
According to Russell Kommer, CEO of Microsoft support services firm eSoftware Associates, this is true even if a company is not in a traditionally regulated industry.
“Not understanding how regulatory compliance and its applications could cause either long- or short-term issues with the potential to derail your business," he says.
Michael Fellows, CEO of software development firm Broadway Lab, offers an example. “Acquiring customer trust should be every business's main focus," he says. “Regulations are there to protect the customer in many cases. A failure to comply can result in financial loss due to legal repercussions like fines, but also from customers choosing more trustworthy alternatives."
Creating Your Regulatory Compliance Strategy
Regulatory compliance strategies should include:
how your organization will address relevant standards from an operational perspective;
how you will establish or modify corresponding processes; and
how effective risk mitigation and overall compliance success will be measured
The days of spending months strategizing the best path forward are over for most businesses. Imagine proudly presenting a 100-page business plan to your stakeholders only to realize that half of your material was already outdated and your customers had moved on? Considering the current pace of change in today's marketplace, a lean business model has become more and more attractive.
Traditionally, being “lean" has meant doing more with less, but the concept has expanded.
Today, a lean business model is a strategy that streamlines processes to rapidly address customer requirements. It involves fast cycles of surveying customers about their needs, developing and prototyping new products and services accordingly and adapting to shifts in demand.
“To be lean, you need to make it a part of your company's DNA to prioritize ideas based on ROI as well as continuously test your assumptions and make adjustments based on the results," Lobo says.
“For example, when we started out, we used several marketing channels," he continues, "but eventually zeroed in on direct sales and in-house events based on our hypothesis of the potential ROI. Hosting large events has not only allowed us to generate new clients, it has also generated revenue via ticket sales and sponsors and helped us barter for business services with several vendors."
A lean business model often rewards experimentation and can be more cost-effective because they avoid lengthy implementations of unproven strategies and investments.
In a recent Prudential Financial and IAVA survey published on Military.com1, two-thirds of veterans said they faced a difficult transition to civilian life, partly because they speak a different language than the business leaders hiring them.
Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said that we aren’t doing a good enough job of training people leaving the military to look for work. “It’s less a matter of veterans overestimating their skills than it is miscalculating how their experience translates to nonmilitary jobs and how well business leaders comprehend what veterans can offer,” he commented.
Because of these disconnects, a veteran who managed a few dozen people in the military might only be considered for an entry-level, individual contributor role in a private-sector organization, and significant achievements might be overlooked because they occurred in a military rather than a business setting.
Preparing New Vets for Transition
A few years ago, as a workplace and career author and consultant, I worked with the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Defense to overhaul the military’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP)2. This mandatory five- to seven-day program educates departing troops on job skills, vet benefits, and personal finances. The course explains the expectations, behavioral styles, cultural norms, and “lingo” associated with civilian employment and helps veterans adjust to a less rigid routine with increased individual competition.
Perhaps most importantly, it guides veterans in effectively translating skills acquired in the military – which often include strategic thinking, scenario planning, critical thinking, problem-solving, coaching, self-discipline, time management, attention to detail, teamwork, interpersonal communication, and adaptability – to civilian jobs in which these exact attributes are needed.
As a workforce author, researcher, and consultant, I observed many organizations that were concerned about a labor shortage brought about by baby boomer retirement. This shortage, and the skills gaps that went along with it, was partially delayed in part by the financial crisis and subsequent recession, because many baby boomers lost savings and were working past traditional retirement age1.
Many baby boomers, born 1946-64, are now in their 70s, and the time has come for them to exit the workforce. According to a recent report by the Federal Reserve2, industrialized nations like the U.S. are facing a shortage of working-aged professionals, and employers need enough qualified employees to survive.
In my experience working with dozens of companies over the last decade, I’ve seen that corporate training and development can be an effective solution to this problem. As more senior roles are vacated, corporate training, particularly for succession planning, may be a good vehicle for mid-level professionals to master skills like team leadership, business acumen, strategic planning, conflict resolution, and decision-making.
All Employees, All Levels
One of the topics I write about most is increasing automation and machine participation3, and given this trend, I believe that even employees who will not become senior leaders must continuously upskill or reskill to maintain their value within the organization. The days of having one degree and one corresponding skillset may be numbered, because if that skillset is automated, what then? Corporate training provides one way to diversify what each individual employee can contribute and the variety of roles he or she can hold.
There are other benefits besides skill acquisition. I’ve written that despite technological advances, productivity in most organizations is lagging4. Corporate training is one method for adjusting your processes, targeting efficiency so employees can better perform tasks and focus their energies more specifically on company goals. I have personally seen that many organizations with solid corporate training initiatives keep their people longer because the employees appreciate the investment in their development. And, I’ve observed that organizations that do right by their people are perceived as having strong brands that customers want to support.
The technology skills gap is a well-known issue in American employment circles. Yet, research tends to focus on only one aspect of the problem – the shortage of hard tech skills like programming and information security management. But there is another, perhaps even more critical dimension to the technology skills gap1: the lack of applied tech skills in the workplace.
As we’ve talked about previously, when an individual has applied tech skills,2 they can integrate people, processes, data, and devices to effectively inform business strategy and plan for and react to unanticipated shifts in direction.
At the annual Association for Training and Development (ATD) conference3 in San Diego, I moderated an applied technology skills gap panel with John Aquilino, Manager, Skills Gap Training and Services, DeVryWORKS; Jessica DiCicco, VP, Learning & Development, Randstad; Jackie Linton, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, City of Philadelphia; Kristen Switzer, Sr. People Development Manager, Taylor Morrison; and Andre Walker, VP of Training & Development, Securitas Security Services.
Applied Technology Skills: Why Now?
I began by asking the panel why applied technology skills have become so critical in business. “Everyone in our company, whether they are in construction, purchasing, accounting, or customer service, touches a technology system. They need to understand these systems to do their jobs well,” said Switzer. “We are also offering training on a variety of technology platforms that require employees to come up to speed.”
Next, I asked John to comment on how his cross-industry employer partners are equipping their workforces with applied technology skills. “Access to training and development is not the issue,” he responded. “It’s much more about how those skills are curated and aligned to arrive at actionable outcomes.”
Panelists shared that their organizations are searching for and using solutions that help their employees develop “soft skills” related to technology adoption such as critical thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving. “Applying knowledge of Big Data, digital infrastructure, and integrated processes is essential to effective decision-making,” said Aquilino. “Companies are infusing learning experiences with technology, so employees can leverage the familiarity of working with machines in their daily roles.”
Starting a business usually involves significant personal, professional and financial risks. But while most business owners and entrepreneurs are hardly strangers to business risks, it's often hard to know what constitutes a risk that's likely to succeed.
Adam Mendler, CEO of technology venture company The Veloz Group, says that an acceptable risk is one that's well-justified and offers a higher expected value than alternatives.
“Before taking significant business risks, it's important to identify, research and evaluate all your options—which may range from radical action to doing nothing," he says.
According to Dan Spalter, co-founder of roommate matching service Circle for Roommates good business risks should be taken with the big picture intention of improving pre-determined KPIs.
“Before taking any substantial risk, your team should try to find less risky means of achieving the same goal," he says. "If a safer alternative does not exist, a business owner should brainstorm creative ways to reduce the potential loss."
Both Mendler and Spalter have taken valuable business risks to drive their organizations forward, including the following:
Going All In
"The biggest risk was taking the plunge, leaving a corporate career to start something from scratch," says Mendler. "The entrepreneurial journey has been invaluable, though, as I have learned, grown and developed in ways unlike any others in my professional or educational careers."
Competing With Established Companies
Many owners are in the business of disruption. This means, however, that you're competing with organizations with multi-million dollar budgets, and the ability to take and implement your concept.
It may seem like there's no way to win in this scenario, but by being agile and innovative—and by taking calculated business risks that other companies won't touch—you can be competitive.
Many business owners dream of taking a company overseas. You're capable of making such a potentially lucrative move—with the right global business strategy in place.
Tamara Nall, CEO of data consulting firm The Leading Niche originally incorporated in the U.S. But she decided to go global as a result of a relationship map that plotted the strength of her most influential relationships against the need for her company's services.
"Glaringly, the map pointed to international markets and West Africa specifically," says Nall.
Kelly Gibbons, co-founder of personal branding firm Main and Rose has a slightly different story. Her company, which helps socially-driven entrepreneurs and brands with communication services, received several inquiries from international clients every week.
"When the time came to expand, we decided to base our new office in a location that many consider the center of the world: the UAE," Gibbons says.
Consider Your Proposed Strategy From Top to Bottom
A global business strategy should include:
an overview of expansion plans,
a description of the market, including size and competition,
a description of planned overseas operations (including how products will be produced, distributed and marketed) and
a description of how the international business will be led, managed, staffed and positioned for growth.
It sounds deceptively easy. But, according to Nall, developing an effective global business strategy requires careful consideration of a variety of factors.
Before the internet, most innovation took place in small communities, with isolated breakthroughs eventually spreading throughout the world. Today, however, global business innovation is the norm.
Business owners pursuing growth may want to make a habit of looking around them—and not just at local competitors. How other companies around the world do business can affect your organization.
I spoke to two business owners to understand how they tap into global business innovation to power their companies.
Stepping Out of Your Communal Bubble
Fabrizio Moreira is the owner of The Moreira Organization, a nonprofit that develops world leaders. He has learned that everything a business owner touches involves a global team of talent—from manufacturing to storing data in the cloud.
“This global talent pool means you're competing with a lot of innovators who you ignore at your peril," Moreira says. “Many emerging markets are leapfrogging established markets because of need-based innovation and fewer existing infrastructure constraints," Bullen says. “Paying attention to what these markets are doing can help you identify opportunities in your own market as well as threats that may be down the line."
He seeks out intelligence on global business innovation by observing similar organizations operating in other countries, and finding ways to plug in and work with them.
Erik Bullen is CEO of MageMail and is actively involved in the start-up and innovation community, mentoring and advising for programs such as Techstars, MassChallenge and LaunchX. His ideation is regularly informed by other cultures, markets and industries.
“Many emerging markets are leapfrogging established markets because of need-based innovation and fewer existing infrastructure constraints," Bullen says. “Paying attention to what these markets are doing can help you identify opportunities in your own market as well as threats that may be down the line."
It’s not unusual to hear HR professionals at large, publicly-traded companies lament: “No one wants to work here. I wish this was a nonprofit.”
On the surface, this makes sense. After all, nonprofit organizations are often an easier sell for millennials, who say they want the opportunity to do meaningful work on issues that benefit society. But as they get older, millennials who want to pay down debt and start saving are increasingly looking to employers who pay handsomely. And if they do accept a lower salary for a job, they expect that nonprofit environment to provide the most rewarding experience they can imagine. As we all know, however, even the noblest nonprofits are still organizations, and no organization is perfect.
AccessLex Institute is a nonprofit that advocates for policies that make legal education work better for students and society alike and conducts research on the most critical issues facing legal education today. The mission is intriguing, especially given how many young professionals consider and eventually enroll in law school. And sure enough, AccessLex never had much of a problem attracting millennial candidates for its open positions. The organization’s challenge has involved getting them to stay once new hires realize that nonprofit employment can be stressful and frustrating at times -- just like any job.
Assimilate Talent Strategically And Early
Based on nearly 15 years of working with millennials, I can confidently say that the most important thing organizations must do to retain millennials is to assimilate them strategically and early. First impressions matter a great deal and new millennial hires aren't likely to give a company a second chance if they don't like what they experience initially.
To that end, AccessLex set out to increase its retention of new millennial employees by creating a high-tech, high-touch virtual onboarding system. The tool was built based on what they learned was new hires’ biggest hurdle -- feeling disconnected from the culture. The organization’s internal research revealed that young employees would accept a job, come in for a few weeks and keep interviewing. If a better opportunity presented itself, nothing stopped the new hire from taking it. “We knew if we could make them feel part of the organization right away and get them to hang out with us for a year, we could actually keep them for much longer,” said Tanya Papahristos, Director of Human Resources for AccessLex.
Starting in the last few years, culture has played a central role in a new focus on employee experience. Employee experience encapsulates what people encounter, observe or feel throughout their tenure at a given organization. The desire to create the most authentic, user-friendly experience has given rise to what is known as the consumerization of human resources. This is the process of creating a social and mobile interface for employees inside an organization, which serves as the entry-point for an immersive dive into the company’s culture and what employees experience every day.
Driven by a more dynamic HR and c-suite involvement than most of us are used to seeing, this setup portrays the organization as quickly evolving with the needs of its workforce, and able to communicate in real-time where the company is, where it’s going, and how the individual employee fits in. Each employee accesses the experience via their own devices, all content is digital and available on demand, recommendations are customized due to input from analytics, and social interaction is prized and promoted.
Today and in the future, the notion of employee experience is complex and requires forethought, planning, and coordination between HR and the c-suite. Journey Mapping is a tool that got its start in the customer world. It imagines the employee experience across the entire talent lifecycle, and as an employee progresses through the Journey Map, they might go through stages like the following. Alongside each stage, let’s propose some activities a collaborative HR/executive team can undertake to influence and shape the experience.
Apply and Evaluate Stage: How the candidate learned about the company; how they engaged with recruiters or hiring managers and learned sufficient information about the organization to make an educated decision.
Your experience must answer the candidate questions: What is this organization about and why would I want to work there? Is this the right organization and role for me? How can I be a part of what this company delivers its customers?
HR and Leader-Driven Activities:
Target job boards, employee referrals, and internal career sites/social media platforms to attract top talent
Convert top talent by telling a compelling story online and tuning candidates into company messages early
Leverage mobile and one-click apply apps to simplify your process
Create and deliver personalized messages for consistent touchpoints
During conversations, provide insight into brand and talent goals
Engage candidate in behavioral interviewing and assessments
Provide access to a variety of sources, including current employees and supervisors
Solicit and address feedback on the recruitment experience
Provide a customized e-offer letter
Upon acceptance, launch new hire onboarding experience
Join Stage: How the new hire was on boarded and assimilated into the organization.
Your experience must answer the employee questions: What can I expect here, and what’s expected of me? Where, how, and with whom should I work?
HR and Leader-Driven Activities:
Deliver personalized content and solicit feedback on job location(s), schedule, and role
Enable new hire to easily complete new hire paperwork
Introduce new hire to team, mentors, and leaders
Set job scope and performance expectations
Connect individual goals to overarching strategic goals
Survey new hire about experience and monitor performance
Learn Stage: Projects and training opportunities that facilitated integration into the organization.
Your experience must answer the employee question: What do I need to do right away to be productive and efficient at my job?
HR and Leader-Driven Activities:
Serve up relevant content via a mobile-responsive interface at the right time in the right dose
Recommend supplementary content to ensure continuous development
Set mutually-agreed upon, short-term performance goals and provide interactive touchpoints to reinforce them
Create an automated process to monitor completion and ensure compliance
Contribute and Grow Stage: How the organization fostered an environment of innovation and collaboration and provided opportunities for promotion and new responsibilities.
Your experience must answer the employee questions: How can I make a difference here? How should I give and receive feedback? How can I further develop the skills necessary to drive my career forward?
HR and Leader-Driven Activities:
Check in regularly to monitor progress, improve relationships, and recognize accomplishments
Leverage ongoing reviews to identify skills gaps and create learning plans
Adjust short-term goals to achieve long-term objectives
Foster a culture of giving, requesting, and receiving feedback continuously
Illuminate development paths, mentorship, and additional training opportunities
Empower employees to take charge of their development and skill acquisition
What else can you do to foster a positive experience at these different stages of the employee lifecycle?