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Why does compliance matter?
Compliance is the air that we breathe in the VET world. It is such an integral part of our day to day operations and yet sometimes it seems that it gets in the way of business effectiveness. Perhaps one of the reasons is that effective compliance management requires more than a shift in the organisation’s policies and procedures. It also relies on a shift in culture away from a “have to” mentality towards a culture that embraces compliance as “good for business”.
The shift we need to make in our organisations is a bit like making a lifestyle change that actually sticks. Think about the last time you went on a diet or decided to get fit. At first it seems like a whole lot of rules and must dos. But over time as we stick to the program, our attitudes can change and we begin to want to eat well or may even enjoy our gym time. The same type of shift can happen in relation to compliance. Staff can move from a position of maintaining compliance because it is the right thing to do to the realization that it is actually good for business.
5 reasons why compliance is Good for Business
But why is compliance good for business? Let’s consider the following 5 reasons.
- Compliance enhances your reputation as a quality provider – Ensuring your business is compliant is really about quality which is crucial to maintaining student satisfaction and industry support. A strong reputation for quality can differentiate you from other similar providers and increase your competitiveness in a saturated VET market. Complying with the Standards for RTOs helps to ensure that graduates are job ready which in turn enhances the reputation of the VET provider. An RTO that consistently demonstrates commitment to quality outcomes in their programs and operations will also be subject to less regulatory intervention.
- Compliance facilitates a shift toward best practice in business operations – Maintaining compliance and leading an organisation in a highly regulated environment like the VET sector requires a holistic approach to business operations. A good compliance system will inherently require a focus on the whole business and is built on the premise of continuous improvement. If implemented consistently this can lead to improvements in all areas of operations. Best practice operations require 4 key elements: 1) Effective leaders who provide an unambiguous commitment to compliance; 2) training and preparation of all staff to enable them to play their part in the continuous improvement system; 3) systematic monitoring and review of all parts of the business; and 4) proactive identification and implementation of improvements.
- Compliance helps the business attract and retain staff – A quality approach to your operations builds a culture of quality and security. Your will become known as an employer of choice which reduces turnover.
- Compliance increases profitability – Besides the obvious cost savings of spending less time on fixing compliance issues, compliance can increase your profitability because it leads to innovation and best practice. A recent ABS study found that innovation active businesses are more productive, more profitable and have a greater range of services on offer.
- Compliance can lead to higher student enrolments – Ultimately a business with a good reputation, offering a greater range of services, with good quality staff will lead to greater interest from students.
Highlights from the 8 Standards
ASQA’s shift toward student centred auditing is helpful in supporting this good for business attitude. Two of the key indicators of business success are student outcomes and the student experience. The regulatory focus on the student experience could therefore be used by an RTO to facilitate a shift in attitudes toward compliance. However, a focus on the whole set of Standards is critical for compliance, so let’s look at the 8 standards and consider what a good for business approach looks like for each one.
Standard One: The RTO’s training and assessment strategies and practices are responsive to industry and learner needs and meet the requirements of training packages and VET accredited courses.
Essentially this means the RTO must design courses that support learners, reflect the needs of industry and result in learners who are well equipped to apply their skills and knowledge in the workplace or pursue relevant further study.
A good for business approach to this standard recognises that the core business of the RTO is to produce job ready graduates. Therefore this Standard provides a framework for enabling quality engagement with learners, trainers and industry to ensure that together the systems of the RTO will in fact produce job ready graduates.
Standard Two: The Operations of the RTO are quality assured.
The RTO must make sure that all training and assessment practices and all operations meet the requirements of the Standards. This is the catch all standard. If an RTO is noncompliant in any area of the Standards, then this Standard will also be noncompliant. This Standard requires the RTO to implement a systematic and comprehensive approach to compliance.
A good for business approach to this standard will leverage the importance of compliance as discussed above and facilitate a culture of quality, best practice and continuous improvement as the norm.
Standard Three: The RTO issues, maintains and accepts AQF certification documentation in accordance with these Standards and provides access to learner records
To comply with this Standard an RTO must ensure that all certification is valid. Fraudulent qualifications are a risk across the VET sector, so the obligation here is for the RTO to take steps to ensure that potential fraudulent activity is minimised.
A good for business approach to this standard recognises that the reputation of the organisation is at stake and that it is extremely important to implement measures that will protect your reputation. It is detrimental for an RTO to be represented by students claiming to have a qualification from your RTO when they have not demonstrated competence.
Standard Four: Accurate and accessible information about an RTO, its services and performance is available to inform prospective and current learners and clients
This Standard is fundamentally about the accuracy of your marketing materials. Information that a prospective student will need to make an informed decision about the suitability of the course must be provided in a transparent, accurate and accessible manner. This applies to all marketing material, whether it is delivered via your website, traditional media, social media or through a third party.
A good for business approach to this standard recognises that marketing shapes the attitudes that potential students, staff and other stakeholders will hold about your business. It builds reputation, fosters trust, sets expectations and is the foundation for any future relationship that your stakeholders will have with your RTO. In the pursuit of competitive advantage compliant marketing approaches will ensure that marketing practices produce results whilst also adhering to the requirements of the Standard to be honest, clear and unambiguous.
Standard Five: Each learner is properly informed and protected.
This Standard is related to Standard 4 in that it specifies that information must be provided to students prior to commencing the course. Similarly, to Standard 4, this standard requires you to provide comprehensive information about the course and all information that the student needs to determine if the course is right for them.
A good for business approach to this standard recognises that students are a key stakeholder and that ensuring the course is right for them is a critical strategy of success. Therefore building a process that enables the student time to explore course information and to understand their rights and obligations is critical to overall business success.
Standard Six: Complaints and appeals are recorded, acknowledged and dealt with fairly, efficiently and effectively.
Unfortunately, and inevitably from time to time, issues arise where people are not happy with their experience. You must therefore, have a clear and transparent policy about how you will manage complaints about your RTO, your staff, third parties and other learners and also a policy about how you will manage assessment appeals.
A good for business approach to this standard ensures that policies and procedures follow the principles of natural justice and provide a clear process that does not disadvantage any parties. Ideally you will also develop a culture that enables people to deal with issues as they arise before they escalate into larger issues. RTOs that recognise that complaints and appeals provide information about opportunities for continuous improvement and respond proactively to bring about positive change are well on the way to building a culture of continuous improvement and quality rather than a “have to” attitude towards compliance.
Standard Seven: The RTO has effective governance and administration arrangements in place
This standard is fundamentally about the practices that sustain the organisation and ensure its ongoing success and viability. RTOs must ensure that systems are in place to ensure that the organisation complies with the Standards at all times.
A good for business approach to this standard recognises the importance of implementing systems and structures that protect the organisation and the individuals within it, that clearly document responsibilities and expectations, provide appropriate authority and use systems of monitoring and accountability to ensure business success and long-term viability.
Standard Eight: The RTO cooperates with the VET Regulator and is legally compliant at all times.
Finally, this last standard, is about maintaining the integrity of the whole system. It requires the RTO to communicate with the Regulator and ensure it is operating in a manner that is always compliant with all legal obligations.
Now this perhaps seems like an unrealistic standard for any organisation to achieve. However, a good for business approach to this standard takes seriously the obligation to operate in a compliant manner at all times and ensures that there is a system of ongoing systematic review and improvement in place that routinely monitors all aspects of operations and acts on and implements all issues that arise. In essence, it sums up what an organisation that recognises that compliance is good for business actually looks like.
Compliance matters. Not just because the regulator will come in and check from time to time. But because it will lead to a profitable business with a culture that enables students and staff to thrive and achieve great things.
If you would like to talk to us further about how you can cultivate this type of approach to compliance in your RTO comment below or contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
We’d love to hear your stories.
 Selected Characteristics of Australian Business: 2012-13 ABS Cat. No. 8167.0, released on 18 September 2014