It’s time to re-think mandatory compliance training

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Compliance Training is an inseparable part of an employee’s work life in any organisation. According to Towards Maturity, the average employee spends 10.90 hours per year on compliance training. Almost 42% of all online training content used within organisations is compliance-related. That is quite a bit and goes on to reiterate the importance of compliance training. Most of this compliance training is mandatory which means employees are forced to complete this training (usually within a stipulated time period), whether they like it or not.

The question is, as much as compliance training is important, is it setting us up for failure?

I had written about this in my previous blog post. I had then also put up a LinkedIn post on the topic. The post and all the comments it received made for some interesting food for thought. So, I thought circumstance warranted another more comprehensive post that would also include the varied viewpoints on the issue along with some exciting solutions.

The post (in short)

A lot of compliance training is an organisation’s method of putting a tick across boxes. Yes, organisations do want to ensure that employees are aware of the various risks during their work, but the approach is perhaps the issue. It’s more of an exercise that is to be undertaken with little or no focus on any real learning for the employees. In reality, the idea of effective compliance training is to bring about a behaviour change along with imparting knowledge, but that is rarely the case. In fact, the Towards Maturity report mentions that while 99% of organisations want to manage the training more successfully and have a positive impact on staff attitudes and values, only 33% and 23% respectively are actually achieving this.

Also, with much of compliance training done via eLearning, it’s natural for the workforce to develop a negativity towards eLearning in general. It’s almost as if mandatory compliance eLearning is bringing a bad name for the whole eLearning industry and is pushing learners further back rather than encouraging them. Learners are robbed off of the motivation which is the key for any learning courtesy of mandatory compliance eLearning. The situation calls for a change and prompts L&D professionals and organisations to rethink compliance training.

What people said

This post garnered several responses from the fraternity with participants offering a host of opinions, views and even solutions.

Naveen Kattemane, rightly mentioned that such eLearning has very less recall or retention. The idea of compelling someone to take training is bound to generate a negative connotation, which is why it is important to do away with ‘mandatory’ compliance training because anything forced in learning will evoke less recall. Bhavani Nandakumar, mentioned that the term ‘mandatory’ ends up alienating learners from the content because they do not learn unless they want to. In fact, more often than not, employees get cramped with timelines to complete these trainings in between work, which just results in simply clicking the ‘next’ button and copying answers from colleagues.

A valid point that was brought in was that of time and budget constraints. Clearly, companies do not have unlimited budgets to spend on compliance training. It is also possible that companies want to try out new and innovative ways to make compliance training effective for learners, but with restricted budgets and lesser time on hand, this is a tough choice.

On a lighter note, Damon Fealy, even referred to online compliance eLearning as the fast food of the industry. He noted that it is cheap, mass produced and consumed only to fill a base requirement. According to him (and rightly so) such training usually does not leave people any wiser, all it does is leaves a business (technically) compliant.

Lachy Gray, spoke about ‘push-back’ attitude among learners because learners are turned off from such eLearning and end up switching off from it even if it is relevant and presented in a more engaging manner. The problem seems to be bigger especially in cases when the compliance training is part of the Onboarding process. It feels like learners are lost even before they have actually started!

The solutions

The post also elicited some interesting solutions that companies could try out while ensuring that compliance training is done, but not at the cost of alienating learners. Andy Moorman, asked if we were just censuring the symptoms rather than examining the cause. If the legislation mandates something, companies will have to include the requirement in their learning content. He mentioned the need for challenging legislators and governing bodies and asking them for ways on how they expect the requirements to be met.

There were also comments on the need for well-designed, engaging training through more bite-size compliance learning. Lachy Gray also raised the point about the importance of ‘humanising’ compliance training and focussing on making an actual impact by building the right behaviours beyond just learning. Compliance training,since it is often related to legislation, can involve a lot legal jargons which may make the training monotonous. It is important to put a human lens over the legislationwhilecreatinglearning content. This may require a larger time investment but the results could be a far better experience for the learner.

Gray again had another valid suggestion that L&D professionals should invest time with clients in understanding what they would like their learners to do post the training and not just during the training. Giorgia Prestento, exhorted companies to be brave and choose the more innovative behavioural change approach by having well-designed mandatory eLearning that is engaging and challenging. Such a course, although mandatory, can result in a high take-up and a genuine change in behaviour.  The rider here is that the courses have to be scheduled in a sensible and realistic manner as part of a balanced programme if there are many subject areas to be covered.

In conclusion, it is very much possible to find creative ways to make compliance eLearning fun. It is up to organisations and L&D professionals to find ways and means to do so, while ensuring the ‘mandatory’ element is not an obstacle. Compliance training has to be more entertaining and rewarding. Otherwise, as one participant pointed out, it will be just another course the learner has to pass through.

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