How Can Your Company Offer Effective Compliance Training?
Employees often zone out during mandatory compliance training. How can you create a more effective course?
There are few phrases more likely to send a shudder of dread down an employee’s spine than the words “mandatory compliance training.” Compliance training, while important, also runs against some of the principles that are at the core of adult learning: intrinsic motivation and self-directed study.
And yet, many industries rely on compliance training for various purposes, such as protecting sensitive information from security breaches, ensuring proper financial practices, and preventing public health crises. With so much at stake, how can organizations design online compliance training courses that will accomplish their learning objectives?
It’s not an easy problem to solve, but with careful planning, good instructional design, and strong incentives, it can be done. Here’s where to start.
1. Make it meaningful.
One common flaw in a lot of compliance training is that it is presented simply as a top-down, mandatory piece of busy work rather than something that has meaningful, real-world implications. Employees have fewer incentives to pay attention if they think what they’re learning doesn’t really matter. However, by tying it to real-world outcomes, you can inspire workers not just to complete the training, but to put what they’ve learned into practice.
Case studies can help bring lessons home to learners, especially if they are directly relevant to the situations employees face in their day-to-day work experiences. For instance, a discussion of a recent security breach could be a lesson in the importance of proper password protocols, or an outbreak of food-borne illness could illustrate the importance of certain food safety practices.
2. Create engaging scenarios for learners.
Part of what can make compliance training so disengaging for learners is that the format is often cut and dried, focusing on memorizing jargon terminology or precise numbers without any supporting context.
However, if you can take that information and turn it into a scenario, learners have a chance to gain practical knowledge and exercise their own judgment in a context that feels closer to their own experiences.
For instance, by using a branching scenarios method, learners can walk through multiple stages of a problem, learning how their decisions might lead to positive or negative outcomes. This not only helps the knowledge stick in their minds, it also provides training for how they might respond in a live environment.
3. Set a different tone.
Compliance courses often suffer from a pedagogical style that is too formal and legalistic. This is natural when the content of the course is highly technical, but it can also be disorienting and even counterproductive. While it’s all too easy to resort to codified language, especially if the subject matter involves a lot of jargon, there are often ways to break this language down into less cumbersome phrases.
That said, it’s equally important to avoid a tone that sounds condescending or overly lighthearted. Dumbed down language is just as likely to alienate adult learners as technical language. Instead, aim for friendly and relatable copy.
Choosing a warm color palate, engaging graphics, and natural photography also helps set a more welcoming tone. Avoid over-using stock images, or color schemes that are mostly shades of blueish gray.
4. Include training on how to address non-compliance.
Many compliance courses cover various procedural do’s and don’ts, but they fall short of helping employees respond to someone else’s non-compliance. This situations can often be socially awkward, and employees may not know how to disengage from the situation and respond appropriately.
Practical advice might cover how an employee should respond to a gossipy colleague over-sharing sensitive financial information, for instance. Compliance failures can be both intentional and accidental, so it’s helpful for employees to receive guidance in these situations so that they can respond productively.
5. Follow up with micro lessons.
Learning new information usually has some kind of half life. Without use, much of what your employees learn in their compliance training will fade away. And this can be problematic if the training centered around emergency scenarios that may not arise all that frequently.
One way to counter this tendency is to send out timed micro lessons for employees to help them keep their learning sharp. These can be short scenarios that take only a few minutes to complete, or they can be micro courses using updated information. By engaging learners through timed micro content, you help them retain knowledge which will make recertification easier down the line.
Effective compliance training has to go beyond ticking the boxes.
At the end of the day, for compliance training to be effective, it has to have full buy-in from the organization as well as the learners. If you aren’t invested in designing a meaningful, relatable course, your learners won’t commit to it, either.
So think creatively. Focus beyond the mandatory items you have to cover for compliance, and consider how well your course prepares learners for the situations the compliance training is meant to handle. By delivering a rich course experience for your learners, you can achieve the actual goal of a safe and secure organization, and not just the superficial goal of mandatory compliance.
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