A compliance calendar is a critical tool for managing deadlines associated with regulatory requirements, reporting obligations, permit renewals and internal practices. This article reviews the benefits of a compliance calendar, discusses available tools and provides a bullet-proof method for developing your organization's compliance calendar.
Why Use a Compliance Calendar?
1. Institutionalized Information - An organization's compliance status should not depend on what is in someone head or a single individual. Compliance calendars put your regulatory obligations and associated deadlines in one, centralized location that is available to anyone in the organization.
"Our Compliance Calendar helps me sleep better. Now I know that if my compliance guy wins the lottery, I can hop into the compliance calendar and see what compliance obligations apply, what has been completed and what is coming due." - Larry, Small Company Owner
2. Improved Compliance - A compliance calendar makes it difficult to forget or overlook a task, especially when they send out automated reminders of upcoming due dates. Additionally, a centralized compliance calendar makes it so anyone in your organization can see what is coming due and verify required tasks have been completed.
3. Improved Efficiency - Compliance calendars can store information on how to complete specific tasks, learnings from the last time the task was completed, links to actual documents that need to be completed, etc. This makes it much more efficient when it comes time complete the task. It also makes it much simpler for someone else to pick up and complete a task. The end result being that you and your staff have more time to focus on other "stuff".
4. Proactive Compliance - As regulations shift and change, many organizations find themselves in the position of moving from event to event, putting out one fire only to discover a new one. Compliance calendars offer a way to plan ahead for your organization's compliance needs, giving you the opportunity to gather the data or allocate the resources needed to meet the obligation.
5. Improved transparency - Compliance calendars increase visibility across your organization and allow you to monitor the completion status of internal and external tasks. As such, managements stays informed and can help ensure needed resources are available for upcoming tasks.
Compliance Calendar Options
Spreadsheet - Spreadsheets like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets work well where the number of deadlines and people responsible for completing the deadlines is limited. However, when there are a lot of tasks or responsible people, organizing the data and maintaining integrity of the spreadsheet becomes difficult.
Email Calendars - Managing your tasks in an Outlook Calendar can work as well, but this approach does not provide a clear bird's eye view of your regulatory requirements and can result in tasks getting overlooked when combined with the birthday's, meetings and everything else that email-based calendars are commonly used to track.
Software - For larger companies or small companies in highly-regulated industries, software is the only way to go. With compliance calendar software, you are able to:
- Manage an infinite number of tasks
- Distribute ownership of tasks throughout your organization
- Send automated reminders when tasks are assigned and coming due
- Escalate notifications when tasks become overdue
- Easily communicate your organizations compliance status via dashboards and reports
How to Get Started Building Your Organizations Compliance Calendar
1. Select A Tool - Whether it be a spreadsheet, email calendar or software solution, something is better than nothing. That being said, populating the tool is going to take some time, so it will be in your best interest to select a tool that best fits your current (and future) needs.
2. Develop a List of Compliance Requirements - The goal here is to try to capture all of the "things" you and your team need to do on a recurring basis to be successful. Some useful approaches include:
- Reviewing permits
- Reviewing written policies and procedures
- Asking employees what they do and why (if its critical to your success or yours company's compliance, it should be included)
3. Populate Your Compliance Calendar - Now that you know what has to happen for your organization to stay in compliance, that information needs to be added to your compliance calendar so it becomes part of your institutional knowledge.
4. Implement Your Compliance Calendar - Now that you have your compliance calendar populated, its time to roll it out to your organization.
- Provide training on how to access the compliance calendar, how to complete a task, etc.
- Implement recurring reminders (If the system you selected is able to send out automatic emails, turn this functionality on. If not, setup a schedule when employees should check the compliance calendar to review upcoming tasks/deadlines.
5. Maintain Your Compliance Calendar - For continued effectiveness compliance calendars need to be reviewed and updated:
- At least annually
- When personnel changes occur (so responsible parties can be updated)
- When requirements change or new permits are issued
- When new processes or equipment are added