How to Build a Strong Security & Compliance Culture
“Return on investment.”
Trendy corporate buzzwords like these sneak into nearly every industry and conversation. But without context or explanation, they don’t actually communicate anything of value. Take the example of building a security and compliance culture in your organization. Workplace success thought leaders are quick to discuss the importance of a company culture that includes solid security knowledge but often don’t define what the term means, why it matters, or how security and team leaders can achieve it.
Your security and compliance culture reflects your workforce’s attitudes and beliefs around corporate compliance and security practices. Security policies, corporate communications, and onboarding all contribute to how effectively your team complies with and enforces your security culture. And while it can take time to build, it doesn’t have to be onerous. You can achieve and maintain a security-first culture by creating and communicating simple, easy-to-follow policies—delivered in a way that sets team members up for success. In contrast, less effective, more risk-unaware organizational cultures might be characterized by complex, jargon-filled guidelines, tick-the-box exercises, or a “follow these or else” enforcement attitude.
Leaders in the security, compliance, and risk management spaces strive to foster a vital security and compliance culture. However, the trial-and-error process of embedding these mindsets and practices into a large organization can be slow and daunting, especially without the support of your executive team. Thankfully, you’re not alone. In this article, we’ll cover some key attributes of a security-first culture and four actionable ways to empower you to promote and maintain better security compliance on your internal team.
Key Attributes of a Security-First Corporate Culture
You can’t build a strong security and compliance culture without understanding what a successful one looks like or defining the values you want your own culture to have. Your company’s industry or product will reveal specific Objective Key Results (OKRs) that you should include. They might consist of benchmarked incident management improvements or specified internal audit activities to minimize security breaches or non-compliance. However, many companies with a healthy security and compliance culture also have some key attributes in common.
An engaged workforce
An engaged workforce is far more likely to participate in and contribute to activities willingly to better your company, security included. Gallup found that disengaged employees cost companies $7 trillion annually in lost productivity. Employees are also more likely to support the values of a culture that makes it easy—and even fun!—to participate in organizationally beneficial activities, like security. So, what does this look like? Model your internal company culture with examples other teams that do it well (and have the engagement to prove it). In your examples, look for well-attended team events, high employee satisfaction and feedback rates, and low internal incident numbers. Invest in employee feedback programs and celebrate big wins.
A security-first company doesn’t just enforce and value security and compliance for its internal team. Good security policies extend to customers, too. Companies that show pride in their security and security partners on their websites or social media can be an excellent place to start. Many companies also publish case studies or whitepapers with statistics and stories that prove their security success and sometimes show the steps taken to achieve it.
Once you identify the companies that better serve their customers through a security-first mindset, look for specific actions they take to accomplish that and consider how a similar approach might work for your team. Prioritizing quarterly audits, monthly check-ins, and other security-related safeguards are great examples of serving customers well. These activities can be enhanced by keeping security and compliance processes, libraries, and databases in a central security and compliance software solution, like Resolver.
Ineffective or complicated security measures rarely produce a high ROI or a happy team. Imagine if you had to enter a password in three different places to access your Slack (or another favorite communication tool) on a personal device! Keeping workplace security easy to follow naturally creates a stronger security and compliance culture—without forcing your team to jump through hoops to comply.
As you develop internal security measures, ask critical questions to ensure they’re appropriate for your team’s security plan while also suiting other business lines. “Does this security measure make employees’ jobs easier?” and “Does this require too many steps to be effective?” are good places to start. Aim for a low barrier to compliance for optimal efficacy.
Prioritized awareness and training around security-related topics
Many companies claim to value security and compliance training and awareness, but few continue to prioritize that effort after an employee’s initial onboarding. Companies with a security-first mindset are more likely to focus on expanding employees’ security awareness and skills and conducting annual training reviews with updated information. Your existing employees invest their experience, time, and energy into creating and maintaining your organizational culture and products customers love; they deserve the same (if not more!) investment as your new team members.
Workforce security and corporate culture best practices are not one-and-done efforts. The measures and practices you had ten years ago are likely ineffective or outdated today. Continuous employee-wide security training on new or existing tools or software helps staff confidently contribute to maintaining safety and guarding your organization against unwanted events.
4 Ways to Build a Security-first Culture
Knowing the attributes you want your ideal culture of compliance to follow is only part of the improvement process. Next, move towards action, and implement changes to start seeing the positive cultural shifts you desire. While it’s tempting to consider a complete overhaul and start rebuilding your security and compliance from the ground up, making a few small changes can have a significant impact. Here are four simple ways to start implementing your security culture goals.
1. Encourage security ownership
Corporate security and compliance culture isn’t solely the responsibility of your security department. Instead, sustaining a healthy security culture requires buy-in from every team member. Incorporate safeguards for your security-first mindset at every level of your organization: Your team bases their actions on your example, so model what you expect. Updating your mission statement, compliance program, values, remote work policy, and even employee best practices are excellent opportunities to emphasize your security-first mindset and encourage ownership, accountability, and responsibility through better security behaviors.
2. Open up change management processes
A healthy security culture is capable of growing and changing with your team. Your security culture will likely become stagnant and ineffective without input from your workforce and a way to adapt to the changes in their work style. A straightforward way to be amenable to shifts in culture is to open up your change management process. For example, consider letting employees submit ideas and suggestions for optimizing their work instead of relying solely on audits or outside expertise to inform your approach. Quarterly surveys, office hours, and online submission forms are great ways to create a collaborative space for improvement.
3. Use security metrics to gauge improvements
You can’t improve a culture without knowing what needs to be tweaked and assessing the impacts of any suggested change. Run regular internal audits and risk assessments to understand the current state of your security and compliance culture and where it needs adjustments. Start by examining the number of quarterly or annual employee-related security incidents, the percentage of employees with security training, and the topics covered. Discuss trends and benchmarks, which are easier to analyze and create action plans from with a software solution like Resolver that helps pull reports and visualizations at the push of a button.
4. Develop internal security and compliance ambassadors
You could implement the best, most informed efforts to encourage, evolve, and measure your security and compliance efforts and still not achieve your goals. Why? No change is helpful unless employees can easily understand, believe in, and comply with security protocols in their day-to-day jobs. Try rolling out security changes on a smaller scale instead of companywide to start. This way, you can get feedback from the team or department that tries it first and fix any problems that might arise in the process. A beta test plan may also naturally develop company ambassadors for your program to help other teams understand the significance and impact of changes.
Maintain Better Security and Compliance With Resolver
Even with the right examples to follow and a strong methodology in place, it’s much easier to maintain a healthy security and compliance culture with compliance management software. Compliance software aids security and compliance teams by monitoring and your internal systems and controls to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and your chosen risk management framework.
Resolver frees your teams from time-consuming compliance tasks with efficient, easy-to-use processes and dashboards, centralized data and reports, and seamless integration. Less time chasing information means more time to pursue high-value activities and strategies that deliver real business value. Request a free demo of our compliance software to see it in action, or sign-up for an upcoming product showcase to see Resolver in action.