Why Red And Green Compliance Programs Don’t Work

If your brand is sending any group of independent contractors to monitor the compliance rate of your employees, there is an inherent risk of a negative interaction taking place. Brands that stock and sell products like alcohol, tobacco or mature video games have a responsibility to their community to ensure that they are training employees to adhere to federal and local regulations. However, not all compliance audit programs are equal, and the strategy that your brand adopts can have a significant impact not only on your brand’s ability to remain compliant, but also on the overall culture of your organization.

One common method applied in compliance programs is a red or green card program, in which the secret shopper will ask for the regulated product and hand a red or green card to the employee after the interaction has taken place that signifies whether or not the employee passed the test. This program design can be problematic because it can result in deeply uncomfortable situations for both the shoppers and employees involved in the interaction. Placing the responsibility of punishment on the shopper will make it harder to find individuals willing to complete these assignments, as well as leaving a bad taste in your employees’ mouth if they receive or witness someone receiving a red card. While there should be a system in place to reprimand employees that fail to comply, it should come down from organizational leadership, not a random individual contracted to test your brand.

Instead of designing the program to instantaneously embarrass and denigrate your employees at the point-of-sale, implement a program that teaches and informs these employees in a more private setting. Even red and green card auditors will have to submit a questionnaire about their experience, making it completely unnecessary to require this confrontational reveal. Either way, there is going to be information sent to brand leadership and retaining anonymity for these secret shoppers will keep this punishment internal, as well as ensure more data integrity within the program. Employees should still be made aware of mistakes that have taken place, but it does not have to be done in such a public setting.

The best compliance programs are implemented before major problems occur, not in response to them. Keeping a consistent log of your employee performance in this area will help you improve your existing training programs and expose which branches are underperforming and which are meeting organizational expectations. There is validity to the claim that this public punishment will encourage employees to be more fearful of receiving this retribution themselves, but it is up to organizational leadership if this is the kind of culture that should be established. If your employees are constantly fearful that they are being tested, they will quickly begin to operate out of fear, rather than truly being engaged with your organizational mission.

A compliance audit program that does not have a red or green card system can help you capture the same information and make the same changes to your daily operations, without causing shoppers to take the responsibility of reprimanding your employees. You should inform employees that they are being monitored by secret shoppers to ensure they are ID-ing customers appropriately but retain a more positive culture by resisting this concept of public shame. In doing so, you will encourage more shoppers to sign up to complete these assignments and retain a happier and more engaged staff.


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