Innovation in Compliance training

by | Dec 28, 2010 | Articles

The majority of organisations looking for improvements to the compliance process agree that that technology has helped bring about benefits but to what cost? 

Often compliance training is the first taste of e-learning for many employees and yet most of the time it can leave them cold.  In November, the ELearning Network held an event to discuss how we can start to innovate our approach to using technology for compliance training in such a way that it achieves results and inspires learners.

A key driver behind 73% of organisation’s use of learning technologies is to improve the delivery of compliance learning. @vivcole opened the session with a discussion on why we are seeing more compliance training today. Drivers included the fact that employers are faced with more regulation (and, as a result, litigation) so they like the protection it offers. It can reduce the cost of insurance policies and often clients demand to see policies linked to compliance as part of a procurement process.
As a result in 2010, we are seeing more mandated programmes for staff. In 2010, compliance training takes a variety of forms –  89% of businesses deliver health and safety training to staff, 80% deliver specific compliance programmes that related specifically to that industry, 76% deliver programmes related to corporate social responsibility eg equality, diversity. In all cases over 60% of this learning harnesses technology to support delivery with more compliance training being e-enabled than ever before. (From Accelerating Performance, the Towards Maturity 2010 Benchmark Survey ).

But the push behind compliance training has left a trail of issues that were discussed by the delegates who often felt that it was just a necessary evil delivered not because it was wanted but because it was compulsory. It was often pushed at those who didn’t need it( a great example of ground staff working at a financial organisations being made to go through a money laundering course, a critical element of tending the gardens there!). Often it is delivered after the horse has bolted and was perceived to be a tax on high performers to cover up for low performers.

@stephaniededhar flagged the key words most often relating to compliance training – Boring tedious, tick box, wordy, safety, essential! @cliveshepherd talked about the emotions that compliance training can evoke – offensiveness, resentment, stress!

Clearly we have some way to go if we are to rescue the reputation of learning technologies by tackling the subject areas where they are most commonly used.

Here are some hints and tips that we picked up along the way from the presenters to help you turn around the reputation of compliance training in your business:

Creating content that engages

@Stephaniededhar offered 3 top tips for creating content from a user perspective to make it engaging, relevant, effective, memorable, stimulating and targetted effectively (Link to slides).

  • Make them care – consider visual design (how can you help them sit up and take notice), tone of voice (avoid remote and pompous jargon – loved by business and hated by users), mix an match approaches (vary how you present content that users can respond to- video, voice mails etc)
  • Show them it matters – focus on the results of personal actions, put the anecdote before the theory, tailor experiences according to job roles
  • Help them live it – identify what people need to do and then what they need to know, use scenarios not tick boxes in asssessment, give them something to take away

See Stephanie’s 3 tips for compliance greatness in more detail here.

Shifting to competency

Compliance topics really do matter, but we need a behaviour change if the learning is actually going to make a difference back in the workplace. @Cliveshepherd offered 5 tips on how to shift from delivering compliance tick boxes to building competency:

  • Provide positioning – why are we doing this?
  • Present policies and proceedures – what do we need to do?
  • Provide worked examples to illustrate application
  • Allow for safe practice within the programme
  • Then (and only then) – test for knowledge

Most compliance training just present policies and proceedures & then test, it ignores good practices around building effective learning.

Creating a Culture of Compliance

Creating innovative content is only one part of the job, the culture of the organisations towards compliance training also has a significant effect on success. @vivcole discussed the ingredients of a successful culture for compliance learning as considered by compliance officers. @lauraoverton looked at the same issue from the perspective of the Towards Maturity Benchmark work with over 1200 organisations looking at cultural issues that influence successful adoption of learning technologies- there were a number of overlaps worth considering:


  • Align learning with important business metrics – legislative scores & breaches
  • Align learning with company values and brand ethos
  • Measure and report back on how programmes are influencing business metrics and values.
  • Leaders need to walk the walk and take part in learning to model that everyone is responsible for compliance
  • Provide ‘encouragement’ to complete – are there serious, visible consequences of non compliance?

Consider how compliance integrates with the job:

  • Include within mandatory induction programmes
  • Use diagnostic tools to align learning to job roles
  • Encourage regular refreshers
  • Consider assessments aligned to job role rather than tick boxes
  • The ability of staff to consult the compliance department should be free!
  • Consider how to use online content to provide ongoing performance support

Ensuring engagement:

  • Use consultation to illustrate how staff have involved in shaping the compliance process and related learning
  • Use real people & expert opinion within the programme to ground the learning in the reality of the job

A final word of warning

It was left to @donaldclark to close the day with a final word of warning – some subjects may not benefit from a mandated learning approach – just because we can doesn’t mean that we should. He highlighted some insights from some Harvard research highlighting how, in the case of diversity training, it may even make the problem worse (find out more here)

Additional resources

Examples of award winning case studies –

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