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Encouraging rule followers

Updated: Mar 1, 2021

What practical actions can I take to encourage a culture of accepting and following conduct rules in my firm?

In our Bitesize, "Why do people break rules" we looked at some of the main factors that drive risk taking and rule breaking behaviour.

In this Bitesize we will explore some of the practical steps that you can take to shape behaviour and nudge people towards a culture of compliance.

There is no single answer and every firm’s situation will be unique so we have provided some proven techniques and approaches that you could consider incorporating into an overall culture change programme.

Techniques for creating a rule following culture

  • Leaders shape behaviour – leadership is probably the most important force setting the cultural norms of an organisation. It is essential that leaders are given the skills, tools and incentives to set the right example – investing in training leaders is money well spent.

  • Leaders can be found anywhere – your org chart is only one way of understanding leadership in your firm. It is equally important to uncover leaders within peer groups at any level, these people are powerful influencers who can shape behaviour around them.

  • Use stories not concepts – stories that involve people are naturally interesting to people. Find examples of good and bad conduct within your firm (or within the industry) and create stories with a strong narrative structure that will stick in people’s minds.

  • Make an example of someone – this may sound harsh but seeing somebody else’s downfall is a powerful deterrent for the rest of an organisation. You need to choose your example very carefully and wrap a structured communication plan around it. Much of this is about the fear of public shame which is a very powerful motivator.

  • Implement whistleblowing very well – FCA whistleblowing rules are an integral part of SMCR for larger institutions and form guidance for other regulated firms. Our advice would be to invest in the processes and training that will create an environment of psychological safety that will allow people to speak up when they witness poor conduct.

  • Track breaches in detail and study patterns – our experience is that firms don’t do enough to understand the root cause of breaches and to explore whether there are underlying patterns of behaviour. Breaches provide a powerful opportunity to learn that many firms are missing out on.

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