How to Ensure Workplace Communication Stays Compliant

workplace communication compliance

November 22, 2019


5 minutes

Compliance-first tools rarely enable good communication, but instant messaging tools leave your business at risk. For the best of both worlds, teams need workstream collaboration tools.

We all know that effective communication is a top priority for most companies, especially operational teams that need to work around real-time information and context. But most workplaces don’t have the right tools to communicate successfully while remaining compliant. Whether this means using tools without a historic record or piecing together a combination of IMs, emails, and phone calls, this can pose a major risk for the business. 

Compliance refers to a company’s ability to adhere to legally established guidelines and regulations for a specific industry or region. Compliance laws can govern any number of business components, but are especially relevant — and fraught — when it comes to electronic communications and data. If companies violate these regulations (or don’t have the auditing capabilities to prove compliance), they can be subject to fines and measures that may damage finances, reputation, and even the ability to stay in business. With so much at stake, teams need a digital communication workspace that is built to ensure security and transparency. 


Poor Communication Is Too Risky

Disjointed, impromptu communication is a problem in many industries because it leads not only to worse operational outcomes, but also problematic compliance violations. For instance, organizations that utilize personal health information (PHI) must consider HIPAA regulations, while businesses with EU ties need to recognize GDPR rules. Compliance regulations around communication and data typically require measures around cybersecurity, archiving, least privilege access, and supervision. 

The consequences of disregarding these compliance regulations range from inconvenient to catastrophic. In fact, a 2017 study sponsored by Globalscape suggests that the average cost of non-compliance is $14.82 million, up 45% from 2011. That cost relates to business disruption, fees and penalties, and legal settlement costs. 

In this context, improper communication methods and technologies are clearly a major risk. A 2016 Smarsh survey warns that today’s compliance officers are especially concerned about new unvetted communications channels and the fact that electronic messaging platforms may be a cybersecurity threat. The sheer volume of digital communications can be a challenge, as can any failure to appropriately archive records. It may fall to HR and IT departments to work together and mitigate this situation — but they are often unequipped to offer tech solutions that actually change workplace practices. 


workplace communication compliance


Balancing Communication and Compliance

Despite the obvious need for compliance, too many organizations still lack the proper solutions. Even if an organization recognizes this need, current conditions might not make it easy for employees to follow best practices. Teams don’t have time to check that their conversations follow abstract rules — they need to get the job done. In most cases, that means employees are using whatever tools they have on hand, as long as they work. 

This piecemeal and often unregulated approach to workplace communication is common. Employees might rely on a mix of email, texts, and phone calls. Or they might use a tool built for quick and informal chatting, like Slack. Organizations likely understand that this approach isn’t optimal for communication, but they should also consider that it puts the business at risk for violations as well. Don’t assume that every chat tool is covered, either — for instance, Slack is not HIPAA compliant

It’s up to the company to provide and mandate the use of compliant tools for work-related communications. But many compliance-first tools tend to miss the usability mark. In an effort to protect data, they might actually create inconvenient data silos or fail to offer key discussion features like chatting and alerts. Not only is this less productive, this may eventually force employees to find workarounds that lack in compliant security features like encryption, deletion, and privacy. So what should companies do if compliance tools are inefficient and social enterprise tools put the business at risk? To ensure workplace compliance without sacrificing productivity, employees need tools that both streamline communication and make compliance easy. 


Compliance and Workstream Collaboration Tools Go Hand in Hand

What companies need is a tool that provides the historic record, accountability, and transparency that teams need to guarantee they are in compliance. The good news is that purpose-built workstream collaboration tools like Coolfire’s can offer all of these things — without compromising on workflow and communication. 

Coolfire provides a comprehensive solution, creating a true flow of communication that is actually built into the work process. Compliance best practices can actually inform how these tools are designed, allowing you to customize on a company-by-company basis. Many teams are already making the switch to workstream collaboration, thanks to benefits like: 

  • A centralized discussion centered around events or tasks
  • Built-in alerts that can inform both the conversation and operations
  • Multiple formats (video, audio, chat, annotations, and file-sharing) all housed within the same tool

With a workflow collaboration tool built with your industry regulations in mind, governance comes built-in. Communication becomes an asset, rather than a risk. And it all exists within a tool that delivers the mobility, integration, and real-time nature that existing compliance tools lack.


make workplace communication compliant


How to Build a Communication Solution

In practice, a built-for-compliance workstream collaboration tool offers teams a number of specific capabilities, including the following: 

  • Data protection: A purpose-built solution can ensure that messages, files, sessions, and other data remains secure. That may include encryption, deletion capabilities, privacy features, and other protective measures. A digital tool should also follow best practices to protect against cybersecurity hacks. 
  • Auditing and search: It’s important that both internal and external compliance officers can review communications data easily. A platform can be built in a way that enables thorough scanning and searching. 
  • Archiving and data retention: Too many communication tools are ephemeral. For transparency and accountability, discussion channels should be persistent, archived even after the task is completed, and saved for review for an appropriate length of time. 
  • Workflow channels: The right tool helps boost compliance by clarifying the difference between official and social channels for communication. With a unified, dedicated channel, employees will have full clarity on how to best correspond with their team.

Organizations who take advantage of Sessions in Coolfire will find they are designed with critical governance features in mind. Sessions are tied to workflow operations, can be designed according to your company’s best practices, and are retained as data sets once completed for total transparency. If you’re stuck with subpar communication strategies, it’s time to stop exposing your organization to risk. Look to the Coolfire for a governance-ready workstream collaboration solution.


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