The Hidden Danger of “Near Compliance”

Author: Rene Garcia


Being able to vet potential contractors, vendors and suppliers helps organizations to identify and mitigate risk, and has a critical role in supply chain management. But what’s often overlooked are the hidden dangers these companies pose when their employees are “near compliance” but don’t quite meet compliance. So how can you manage for this, and what can be done to address the situation?

Near Compliance Defined and Why It Happens

Compliance is binary – you’re either in compliance or you’re not. If the safety standard is to mark chemical barrels with an orange sticker on top of the barrel, then placing the sticker on the side of the barrel is out of compliance. If the security standard is to wear your ID badge on the front of your clothing at all times, then keeping the ID badge in a wallet or purse is out of compliance. The employee, however, may feel that their efforts were close enough. Thus, the phenomenon of near compliance.

Normalization is a common cause of near compliance. Not every employee has the same standard for safety, so a standard is set by the culture of the worksite. As soon as someone operates outside of the safety standard and nothing adverse happens, that employee is likely to continue that behavior and influence others to do the same. In doing so, a new safety standard is set. It might be in parallel to the company’s safety standard, but it is not the company’s safety standard.

Another cause for near compliance is that the staff doesn’t understand the company standard, so the staff aims in the general direction of the company standard. Often times company policy is too convoluted or poorly communicated. This can lead to frustration and cause workers to ignore standards altogether. Once standards slip, then employees get hurt, equipment breaks down, and the supply chain is disrupted.

Reacting Properly to Near Compliance

A common reaction to discovering near compliance is “snap back”. When near compliance causes a disruption, leaders will naturally begin enforcing the company’s standards, but this new enforcement is artificial because the culture of near compliance hasn’t changed. As such, the organization can expect to return to out-of-compliance behavior in a matter of time.

Instead of short-term measures, companies plagued by near compliance should perform an assessment from leadership all the way down to determine who and what is affecting the culture. Through this assessment, the organization can discover where variations in policy understanding and enforcement are occurring. By the end of the assessment, the company should be able to answer the following:

  1. What is the commitment level of leadership to the company’s safety standards?
  2. How much risk is the company willing to expose itself to?
  3. What are the roadblocks to meeting compliance?

Once this foundation is set, then the company can begin building a culture of compliance and safety. Organizations that establish their brand as such make for the very best in supply chain partners.

Learn more about how Avetta can help manage Supply Chain Compliance

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