Struggling with compliance? Why ditching paper log books could be the answer

Struggling with compliance? Why ditching paper log books could be the answer​

I’ve worked with many retailers over the years and it’s fair to say that compliance is a perennial thorn in their side. Okay, it’s not exactly riveting but it’s a necessary evil that businesses need to get to grips with. And fast. Why? Because get it wrong and the consequences are more severe than you might think.

The challenges of compliance

There are copious actions that retailers need to perform and document – from recording visitor numbers and fire drills to checking the in-store toilets and monitoring food temperatures. These duties help to keep both staff and customers safe and uphold the brand’s reputation. Not only that, but the accompanying records are essential for demonstrating compliance with the relevant legislation.

For most people, just the thought of recording this volume of data is daunting. But when you consider that many retailers are still relying on paper log books to document these actions, the prospect of maintaining compliance becomes even more challenging.

Think about it; every time someone completes a required check or action, it has to be recorded manually in its relevant paper book (a very large one, at that). One major retailer we work with told us they have 160 different logbooks that need to be filled out regularly. Laborious? Yes. Time consuming? Definitely. Now multiply these tasks across thousands of stores around the country and you begin to see the scale of the problem.

And then there are the challenges posed by the retail environment itself. The reality of working on a busy shop floor often means compliance-related tasks aren’t completed or recorded on time. Sometimes they’re not carried out at all.

Even when procedures are followed and documented, paper-based records are far from ideal. Log books can be filled out incorrectly, easily falsified or even lost. In many cases, these files just aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. This leaves retailers with very little protection should they ever face scrutiny or investigation by the relevant authorities.

To put it bluntly, the whole thing adds up to a compliance officer’s worst nightmare.

When things go wrong…

What’s more, the consequences of failing to demonstrate compliance can be costly.

Earlier this year, a well-known retail giant was fined an eye-watering £7.5 million for selling out-of-date food at three of its stores between 2015 and 2017. Meanwhile, a second large retail business was forced to pay £55,000 for selling mouldy porkpies in its Fleet store in 2017. Environmental health officers found the branch had been storing the goods illegally at temperatures of up to 12.5C (54.5F).

And it doesn’t stop there. The Rivergate branch of a third competitor was publicly criticised over its lack of cleanliness and general health and safety record following several incidents. In one case, a customer was awarded £10,500 for injuries he sustained after slipping on a grape while shopping in store.

Time to switch to a digital solution?

But before you break out in a cold sweat, it’s worth remembering that there’s always a solution. The answer? Go digital.

Faced with the prospect of substantial fines or even prison, many businesses are now moving away from paper log books in favour of digital reporting software.

Unlike paper records, which can be easily backdated, digital log books are date and time-stamped when the user completes the check. Not only does this provide tangible proof that the necessary steps have been taken, but it encourages workers to complete the required action on time.

It also gives businesses more confidence that they’re complying with the relevant legislation. But perhaps most importantly, it demonstrates that a business is truly committed to keeping its customers safe.

A word of caution

Waving goodbye to paper log books has obvious advantages but that’s not to say the switch to a digital solution is always an easy one. Far from it.

Changing the attitude and behaviour of staff can be a big challenge for business leaders. Some employees are reluctant to change the practices they’ve followed for years while others are sceptical of new technology and its “big brother-like” capabilities. There’s also a danger that the rigidity of digital reporting software means staff simply abandon their compliance duties altogether. And no one wants that.

But while adoption can be challenging, many clients tell me that the benefits of moving to a digital management platform have made the journey worthwhile. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether the extra grey hairs and wrinkles are worth it.

Is your business struggling with compliance? Are you considering a cloud-based reporting system? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.