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The Secret Language of Compliance

March 15, 2018

Language.

Whether it’s musical, verbal, or mathematical, language is something shared by humans since 100 000 BC.

We use it to gossip, exchange goods, and perceive time, space, and ourselves. It can be blended and unpacked in an immeasurable amount of ways to express meaning through unlimited dimensions.

Psychologists have even theorised that language is embodied—when we hear a verb, our body models the actions coupled with its meaning. Some studies have shown that hearing the word “jump” can subconsciously activate the leg muscles.

AI researchers are beginning to think language is so embodied that AI may not be possible without a body—we act, therefore we think.

You may have heard about the 7-38-55 rule outlined by psychologist Albert Mehrabian. When we communicate, our listener is paying attention to:

  • 7% of our words
  • 38% of our tone
  • 55% of our body language

However, this is only the case when we are conveying a message about our likes and dislikes. So how do we communicate best when we aren't sending an emotional message?

How to Communicate… Compliantly

From monitoring training and student services to filing reports, a compliance manager’s tasks cover a wide range of responsibility. And when their role involves trying to keep trainers, staff, and stakeholders happy, communication becomes the dominant factor in ensuring that everyone feels valued.

According to ASQA, the main non-compliance issue at reporting time comes from assessment.  A compliance manager needs to work with their colleagues all year round to avoid wrath at reporting time.

Here are four tips to ensure your message comes across succinctly when you’re dealing with multiple departments:

1. Give Context

Ensure employees understand how their individual contributions fit into the bigger organisational picture. When they achieve success, relate that back to the company’s win.

Setting the context enables individuals to see their value, and prevents a silo effect between departments. Plus, it engages the employee in understanding why they should care.

Create a shared vision for the team, but pay attention to each employee’s individual context, culture, background, and experiences—ensuring they see their own role within each given context—and link it into the shared vision of a task. This shows the employee how their piece of the puzzle fits into the organisational masterpiece.

2. Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Unfortunately for managers, it's not enough to communicate a message once—you need to repeat the message and aims of a task multiple times, and in some cases across multiple formats (verbal and written), for the meaning to be absorbed and acted upon.

When communicating about a task you need to be completed, like editing an online assessment, you must be consistent with the aim of what you’re saying. This builds trust and credibility.

Hammering in the what and the why ensures a task’s success.

3. Create Opportunity

When talking with colleagues, there are ways to ensure your message is interpreted correctly. Ask them if they see any opportunities in their tasks, or how they plan on tackling any challenges. Engaging in open-ended questions enables you to catch any miscommunications immediately, and measure where you need to adjust your communication style in the future.

4. Non-Personal Measurement

Tracking internal KPIs and data can help managers view where critical pieces of communication may have gone missing and hindered a goal from being achieved.

It’s hard to argue with data. Incorporate a data culture in your RTO which shows where things need to improve in a non-personal way. Evaluate the results and have difficult conversations with staff who aren’t measuring up. Accountability adds to productivity, and when the foundations of trust are implemented, criticism is seen as a motivator for the future instead of a negative evaluation at the personal level.

Take the time to study the data. When things go wrong, your colleagues will feel empowered to make suggestions and troubleshoot issues—it’s a win-win.

The best managers get to know each employee at an individual level. They understand that everyone comes from a unique experience, and good managers accommodate these differences towards higher achievements and self-fulfilment.

These human skills may seem basic, but they’re essential in managing people. Creating clear goals helps employees feel connected to the bigger picture and the purpose behind their tasks. Managers benefit from this by getting more productive, profitable, and creative contributors. So don’t save the hard conversations for yearly reviews—continue to discuss success, responsibilities, and progress on a regular basis.