From a compliance mindset to a mandate mindset
#78 From a compliance mindset to a mandate mindset
Claude Balthazard, Ph.D., C.Psych., CHRL
For many, especially in business, regulation is a four-letter word. It is synonymous with administrative burden and extra costs. Regulation is what gets in the way of doing what one really wants to do. From this perspective, regulation is at best a necessary evil; and at worst an unnecessary evil. And yet, the Human Resources profession chose to ask the Ontario Legislature to establish and empower a professional regulatory body that would govern and regulate its members, firms, and students.
The gist of this article is that (1) there is a difference between a compliance mindset and a mandate mindset and that this difference is important for professional regulation, (2) that this difference applies at the Association level and at the individual practitioner level, and (3) and that, in both cases, success requires the adoption of a mandate mindset rather than a compliance mindset.
The two mindsets
The word compliance is often used in the context of externally imposed rules. The word itself seems to bring to mind the idea of being forced to do things or being forced to do things in certain ways. But compliance is not so much about the rules but a mindset or attitude towards those rules. A compliance mindset looks at matters from a meet/does not meet basis. Checklists are set out and boxes are ticked. However, a compliance mindset also tends to encourage the stopping of any effort once the minimum is met. Sometimes, a compliance mindset can lead to a work-to-rule attitude. At its worst, a compliance mindset leads to resistance and even sabotage.
“As professionals, we have voluntarily taken on a personal and collective mandate to practice our profession in in a manner that is consistent with the public interest.”
A mandate mindset stands in contrast to a compliance mindset. A mandate mindset is driven from purpose. Fulfilling a purpose is not a matter of ticking boxes—it is an open-ended commitment to a purpose, cause, or objective. A mandate mindset is not about grudgingly meeting requirements but forwarding a cause. There are still rules, but these are experienced very differently.
There is a difference between compliance, which is the behaviour of complying with a rule, and compliance mindset, which is the attitude one brings to complying with rules. Compliance is good, a compliance mindset is not, at least not in matters of professional regulation.
At the Association level, one can look at our enabling legislation from a compliance mindset or a mandate mindset. For instance, asking the question ‘what does the Act require HRPA to do?’ possibly belies a compliance mindset. The mindset here is that the Act imposes on HRPA all sorts of burdens in the form of duties and requirements. Now the Act does require HRPA to do a number of things, but what it really does is give HRPA a mission and a mandate. This requires a mindset shift. Ticking boxes is not the right
mindset for the situation, what is required is a mandate mindset.
Legislature is to promote and protect the public interest by governing and regulating the practice of its members, firms, and students. From a mandate mindset the question is “have we done all we can to fulfill the mandate that has been given to us by the Ontario Legislature?” As William Lahey, law professor at Dalhousie University put it:
“More broadly, the responsibility of SROs [self-regulating organizations] goes beyond their responsibility to diligently discharge discreet regulatory functions. Their responsibility is to proactively do what they can (subject to the limits of their legal authority) to ensure their profession is serving the public interest.”
The difference between a compliance mindset and a mandate mindset also applies at the level of the individual practitioner. HRPA, in fulfilling its mandate as a professional regulatory body, will impose various requirements on its members, firms, and students. Some members may chose to see these obligations and requirements simply as burden’s to be complied with (or not). But that would be unfortunate.
As professionals, we have voluntarily taken on a personal and collective mandate to practice our profession in in a manner that is consistent with the public interest (see Lahey’s quotation above). This is also an open-ended mandate. It is a purpose, not a checklist.
The table below summarizes the differences between a compliance mindset and a mandate mindset. The table works at both the Association and the individual practitioner levels.
Indeed, one of the core aspects of self-regulation, at both the level of the professional regulatory body and at the level of the individual practitioner, is that it is more likely to foster a mandate mindset because it is self-imposed.