What is the Actual Role of a Compliance Officer?

Most people misunderstand what the role of a Compliance Officer actually is. More accurately, most people have no idea what a Compliance Officer actually is. Even in companies that have a Compliance Officer, they can be treated differently because of general confusion about their purpose. Let’s all educate ourselves together: what is a Compliance Officer, anyway?

Compliance involves training and empowering a business and its employees to operate while staying ethical, following the rules and the laws. It is based around the internal guidelines of the company as well as the governing laws of the state and country where the organization is located or doing any sort of business. Compliance does not attempt to be a punishment for businesses operating sketchily, but rather a proactive way to ensure your business runs as smoothly as possible and keeps itself clean in the eyes of the law and of the market.

A Compliance Officer is an employee within the company who is responsible for ensuring that the business follows its set of procedures and policies. They are sometimes the person who designed the compliance training program and taught it, although not necessarily. Plenty of companies elect an in-house Compliance Officer throughout the process. In order to be successful, the Compliance Officer must have a thorough understanding of both how compliance and the law works, of how the business itself operates and of how to manage a project.

Some companies have an entire compliance department, but even those who don’t have a team will often have a single Compliance Officer. There is always a joke (and in many occasions it’s real) within these companies that says nobody wants to sit at lunch with the Compliance Officer. Employees can be guarded around the Compliance Officer, believing they are constantly policing others, monitoring and observing their actions, and even reporting back to managers about anything said or done by them. Employees think they are being monitored 24/7 by the Compliance Officer.

This couldn’t be further from the truth! The Compliance Officers are regular employees just like everyone else. Their role is to ensure compliance and mitigate risk on a grand scale for the business. They are primarily addressing widespread problems. Their role is entirely different from Human Resources, from Auditors, from General Counsels, and they are not on the lookout to get anyone into trouble. They are looking for overarching legal and ethics issues within the company, not tattling on who is telling bad jokes in the break room. So everyone be a little nicer to your friendly neighborhood Compliance Officers and see them as allies that work hard to not let you, your business and your company be in trouble!

If you are interested in a corporate compliance program or training for your business, contact Prae Venire today to schedule a consultation! We are a consulting firm providing high-quality corporate compliance and risk mitigation solutions to meet specific client needs. It’s time to improve your company’s sustainability and growth!