People are fatigued.  From endless Zoom calls to children failing to remote learn, exhaustion is more rampant than ever.  All of this fatigue leads to stress.  People under stress have less patience and ability to focus.  That can easily extend to their feelings toward compliance, leading to compliance fatigue. “Compliance fatigue” refers to exhaustion with compliance-related topics.  In this time it’s easier than ever for people to feel that compliance is just one more thing that they have to deal with.

While the job of the compliance officer is to “keep calm and compliance on,” there may be more pushback than normal because of people’s heightened stress levels.  At times like this, we need a plan.  Here are five ways to overcome (or at least combat) compliance fatigue. 

No. 1: Mix it Up

The same-old, same-old gets to be just that – old.  When you’re trying to recapture your audience, try something new.  There are many creative companies in the compliance field ready to help.  The Broadcat has an entire suite of pre-created communications devices employing cartoon characters and quippy sayings.  Compliance Wave’s short burst cartoon training is famous for its eye-catching style, and Real Biz Shorts has a library of entertaining (mostly US-centric) videos that quickly capture attention. 

If you don’t have access to these tools, you can make a cartoon yourself using Doodly.com.  You can also use Canva.com or Designwizard.com to create materials like infographics.  You can download PowerPoint and Google Docs templates that include interesting graphics.  Whatever you do, bring humor and a catchy look to your communications or training to mix it up. 

No. 2: Re-work Your Schedule

Take a look at your annual training and communications plan.  Then ask HR, Security, Sustainability/CSR, IT, and anyone else who regularly deploys training and communications to send you their training and comms plan. Look carefully to see where the calendar is most open.  Fit your plan around all of the other functions so that the people you need to train aren’t worn out by having training from multiple functions. People don’t differentiate one training activity from another.  For compliance professionals, anti-bribery training is completely different than cyber training, but to the average employee, training is training.

It may be uncomfortable to move your schedule around.  If you typically celebrate Ethics & Compliance Week in November, it may feel weird to move it to June.  However, if June is the best place to put it based on the schedule, go ahead and move it.  Impact is more important than keeping things moving according to plan.

No. 3: Shorten it Up

Look critically at everything you’re putting out.  Can you shorten the email?  Reign in the management cascade?  Combine two training topics into one session?  Try to shorten everything you can while still delivering the message. 

It’s easy as subject matter experts to feel that we need to share every nuance of every law.  Consider anti-bribery policies and training.  The vast majority include a variation of the phrase, “Bribery is the offer, payment, promise to pay, or authorization of the payment of any money, or offer, gift, promise to give, or authorization of the giving of anything of value to a foreign official or individual.”  Do we really think people don’t know what bribery is?  Perhaps we need to expand their understanding to understand that it isn’t just money, but does that long definition do that effectively?  Think shorter.  Think simpler.  Think just a few words. People don’t want to wade through difficult concepts when they’re tired.  Make it easy.

No. 4: Reach Out Personally

People are craving human contact in a way they never have before.  Where you can, reach out personally.  Send a message, schedule a 15-minute Zoom, or send a note via Teams/What’s App/Slack.  For many of your coworkers, the feeling that someone cares about how they’re doing can be lifesaving (in some cases, literally).  Reaching out personally strengthens relationships, which over time, can lead to better engagement in the program and a greater likelihood that the people you’ve reached out to will act as ambassadors or evangelists for the program.

No. 5: Set a Big Goal Requiring Group Effort

One of the challenges of a compliance program is that it’s never “done.”  The ongoing nature of it can create stagnation.  People may start to believe there’s nothing else to learn, or that there is no new reason to engage.  At times like these, creating a big goal may energize people to be involved to help you and the company to reach it.

What kind of goals can be put forth?  Many companies seek to designated as one of the “World’s Most Ethical” as awarded by Ethisphere.  Others seek their ISO 37001 Anti-bribery Management Systems certification.  Still others strive to win awards, such as Compliance Week’s Excellent in Compliance Award for Compliance Program of the Year. 

One of the best things about setting a goal to win these designations/awards is that it requires firm support from many functions within the company.  That may engage people because there is a beginning, middle, and an end to the process.

Compliance fatigue is real, but it can be managed effectively with the right tools.  By mixing it up, reworking the schedule, shortening everything, reaching out personally, and setting a big goal, you’ll bring people back to the place where they’re ready to engage.