Implementing a contract compliance program protects an organization against unintentional compliance breaches, which can carry serious penalties. Often, putting together an effective program involves hiring one or more contract compliance managers. Finding the right person to serve in this capacity is a top priority to address compliance effectively. Before determining the most important characteristics of an effective contract compliance manager, it makes sense to review the responsibilities of the role. Some aspects of the job will naturally vary from organization to organization, but compliance management typically involves the following:
- Contribute to the drafting, negotiation, and execution of contracts and other legal agreements
- Act as a point of contact for customers, clients, partners, and internal employees
- Maintain records of contracts and other legal agreements, with particular focus on monitoring continual compliance adherence
- Identify problem spots when it comes to fulfilling compliance standards, and help develop recommendations to improve organizational procedures
- Work with various internal departments and organizational leadership to develop new procedures and staff training plans as needed to implement new compliance regulations
- Provide guidance as needed to other operational staff to increase compliance-related competencies throughout the organization
With these core responsibilities in mind, here are traits company leadership should prioritize when seeking contract compliance managers.
An organization may be subject to compliance standards imposed by various agencies. Local, state, and federal regulations may apply, and there may be additional standards specific to the industry. Even something like maintaining document records may fall under different regulations based on whether private information is stored in hard copy format or digital records.
A significant part of the compliance manager’s job is understanding the nuances behind different compliance regulations to prevent the company from accidentally failing to meet requirements. Even unintentional breaches can carry significant fines, so “I didn’t know” is a useless excuse.
The compliance manager may make recommendations during contract preparation to help projects operate successfully. This entails solid understanding of compliance rules, legal contract language, and operational areas where the organization may be more vulnerable to breaching compliance.
Compliance managers need to perform regular contract reviews to ensure projects are adhering to all necessary regulations. They also need to keep abreast of upcoming changes in compliance requirements on a state, federal, and industry level. Compliance managers play a key role in transitioning the organization to comply with any new standards, meaning they need to learn new material quickly and provide input on how to update equipment and procedures, train staff, and more.
Fail to conduct a recurring review or other compliance task, and the compliance manager leaves the organization vulnerable to project delays or failure, as well as any associated penalties that arise from a compliance breach. Even a slip that seems relatively minor, like backdating a task to fall within the standard review window, can negatively impact an audit. A contract compliance manager who displays a proactive, attentive attitude toward both daily tasks and future compliance planning is much more likely to be an asset to the organization.
Large businesses often maintain a high volume of contracts, and they work on complex contractual agreements that may include many delicate components. Even details that seem minor can have a domino-like impact to affect the project as a whole. A few proverbial boxes left unticked can become a serious problem during an audit. Imagine if a contract compliance manager were incorrect about the date when sweeping new compliance regulations took effect, leaving the company inadvertently out of compliance for weeks!
Staying meticulously organized about timelines and filing makes it possible for a compliance manager to perform his or her job. Fortunately, this is an area where the right technological tools can make a significant difference. Implementing consistent file-naming and storing procedures and setting up auto-reminders for critical deadlines cuts down significantly on the risk of human error. Still, this is a personality trait you definitely want to see in the person directing compliance review.
Strong organizational skills won’t do much good without the right work ethic to support them. A truly conscientious worker integrates multiple skills into their approach to work performance. A diligent approach to completing the tasks at hand, a sense of accountability and pride in assignments, and detail-oriented attention comprise a conscientious work style. All of these traits put together can exceed the sum of their parts when it comes to succeeding in the complex area of contract compliance management.
Contracts often include multiple parties. In fact, it can be relatively rare for a contract to exist primarily between one company and one client representative. Often, various departments and committees will lead different aspects of the project outlined in the contract agreement. This may be especially true for companies working on government contracts and projects with long-term timelines.The contract compliance manager needs to be able to communicate clearly. He or she doesn’t need to be especially charismatic, but presenting information in a way that’s quick and easy for other busy professionals to understand is an essential aspect of the job. Ideally, the right fit for this role would be able to act as a facilitator to make it easier for everyone connected to the contract to follow the compliance standards.