What do Hamburgers and Compliance Have in Common?

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Reflect, for one moment, on just how much you know about McDonald’s.  (It doesn’t matter whether you love McDonald’s or would never be caught dead in one; this works either way.)  You know the names of many of their foods.  You know that an Egg McMuffin is eggs on an English muffin with cheese and Canadian bacon, and if you made a sandwich at home that looked like that you might have to resist the urge to call it an Egg McMuffin.  You probably even know that the Shamrock Shake only comes around at certain times of the year, and you will remember the Hamburglar and Ronald McDonald for the rest of your life.

AND YET:  You have never read a single policy related to Big Macs.  You have never received annual training on eating Chicken McNuggets.  You have never signed a Certification that says that you know who Grimace is and that you agree that he is a big, affable purple guy.

So why is this? It is because McDonald’s knows that if you put low-bandwidth, non-intrusive messages in front of people through as many channels as you can on an ongoing basis, they will think what you want them to think, believe what you want them to believe, and behave the way you want them to behave.

You and I have been absorbing these McDonald’s messages for a long time, and we’ve never put up the kind of resistance that the average corporate employee puts up when assigned compliance training; such employees consistently report suffering from increased training fatigue.  We’ve been seeing billboards, hearing radio spots, watching TV commercials, coming across ads in magazines and, in general, we’ve been behaving exactly the way McDonald’s wants us to behave.

In Compliance we have established policies, training, certifications, etc. to serve as evidence that an employee has been given enough information so that if he or she is involved in misconduct no one can say it was the company’s fault.  But that doesn’t mean that such aspects of your compliance program are actually the best tools for communicating your compliance message; the McDonald’s example illustrates that there are much more powerful ways of communicating in a manner that will impact what people (in this case your employees) will think and believe and how they will behave.

So what do hamburgers and compliance have in common?  Quite possibly nothing, unless you have committed to a compliance communication program that puts low-bandwidth, non-intrusive messages in front of people through as many channels as you can on an ongoing basis.  If you have, then your employees will start becoming as familiar with your bribery policy, conflicts of interest disclosure process and fair competition requirements as they are with the McDonald’s Happy Meal.  And who doesn’t love that?

Joel A Rogers is the CEO & President, and Co-founder of Compliance Wave LLC.