I Love Compliance Training!

The message to the client from the government audit was clear: Train your employees in your discrimination complaint handling procedures.

The message from the client to our training department was equally clear: Post an overview of the procedure on the LMS for our employees to read, nothing fancy. Then we can document we’ve met the government requirements.

So what did our “training” solution look like? It was 30 slides that:

  • Described policies and procedures
  • Explained where to obtain additional information and instructions
  • Defined which departments do which tasks
  • Asked “knowledge check” questions based on the information presented in the slides (Note: An unlimited number of possible attempts meant there was no need to actually read the information.)
  • Included “interactivity” (i.e., clicking either a tab to reveal information or the forward arrow to advance)

And the results? My stakeholder was happy because when the user exited the module, the training was marked complete and the audit requirements were satisfied. The employees were probably bored to death and who knows if there were any changes to behavior. We didn’t design for it and we certainly didn’t check for it. As for me—I was embarrassed and regretted another missed chance to create great training.

And yet, I can still say: I love compliance training! Why? Because it provides opportunities to positively affect individuals (the purpose of compliance training is usually to protect someone or create a fair and respectful work environment) and to improve my personal skills and reputation, my team’s brand, and my organization as a whole.

Here are some ideas of how to take advantage of these mandated opportunities.

Improve your personal skills

Compliance training assignments typically come with few resources and a mandate to just get it done. In addition, stakeholders are seldom engaged with the content or have a vision for how it will improve organization performance.  This is a chance to flex your creativity and instructional design know-how to engage your participants and produce results that even the most taciturn, disengaged executives will notice.

If given the same assignment I described today, there are four ways I’d use this opportunity to hone my own skills and reputation:

1.   I’d push hard for performance-related objectives.

Compliance training is often a recitation of prescribed text. You can inject relevancy and engagement if you connect this required information to the organization’s business goals and the audience’s performance goals. This also sets the stage for measuring results and supporting behavior changes (more on that later).

For those sponsors without previous training exposure who don’t understand why we ask for business goals, I “make some up” for their review. This is often enough to help them see what we are looking for and get their buy-in. And sometimes I even get their feedback to refine them!

Here’s an example of how I’d tie the organization’s goals to the training goals for this particular assignment:

Business/Organization Goals
- Zero discrimination complaints from job applicants

Training Goals
- Identify discriminatory statements and questions
- Write and ask non-discriminatory interview questions

Application Goals
- Use interview guides consistently
- Do not ask discriminatory questions
- Do not make discriminatory statements

2.   I'd stay true to good design.

Just because the client is handing you a prepared script, don’t sacrifice the basics of good instructional design.

  • Hook participants with relevant, real stories that illustrate why completing this training and complying with its instructions will benefit them (What’s in it for me?). For me, safety training has always been close to my heart, because my father lost an eye in an industrial accident. Talking about his difficulty playing catch really caught the attention of some of the participants on the shop floor.
  • Plan participant engagement with the material. Get them thinking, feeling, and doing.
    • Use real, difficult scenarios from your business. Obvious examples don’t change behaviors; real-life examples will make them think.
    • Put them in situations where they must choose from realistic options, then provide true-to-life results and feedback.
  • Mix up and blend delivery methods, such as:
    • Upside-down classrooms
    • eLearning with vILT/ILT, team meetings, practice drills
    • Compliance fairs with competitions
    • Teach backs 
  • Vary annual content. It’s tough to maintain interest when annual training is required. Use new examples, involve experienced employees in training design and delivery, and lobby for testing out whenever legally possible.

3.    I’d support behavior change.

Supporting behavior change at the point of application usually requires collaboration with and cooperation by other departments and business units. You won’t be able to push this for all training initiatives, but it will be worth the results when you can.

  • Not all initiatives require a full-on change management approach, but some do. When needed:
    • Ensure pre- and post-event communication is in place.
    • Provide application and performance support to employees and front-line supervisors.
  • Provide performance support information and tools.
  • Review and revise ancillary systems and workflows that are currently impeding the desired behaviors.
  • Provide supervisor coaching guidance and tools; teach them how to support the behavior changes you need.

4.    I’d track and publicize results.

Reaction, application, and result data are all important for compliance training. You want people to like your training, not only to ensure the stage is set for learning and application, but also because it reflects on you, your team, and your organization. Application data helps you see whether the new behaviors are being used in the correct manner and at the appropriate time. If you identify problems early in the initiative, you’ll have time to make adjustments, especially in the supporting measures. You’ll also have information that can help frame your final results.
Tracking behavior application and final results also requires collaboration and cooperation with other departments and business units. Gain their commitment to tracking and reporting this information early in your design phase. You’ll need their input as to what is trackable and what methods should be used for tracking.

Once you get the results, publicize them! Share them with:

  • Your project sponsor
  • The project stakeholders
  • Your up-line management and executive team
  • Your audience
  • Your team 

If you’re unable to obtain hard number results, obtain testimonials of how the training enabled improved performance.
Improve my team’s brand.
Training departments aren’t revenue-generating. At best, they may be considered an important expense whose value is presumed but intangible. It’s up to you to define the value of your training team, and to make their brand synonymous with bottom-line results. 

Obtaining and publicizing all levels of training results will enable you to demonstrate how training enables on-the-job behavior change that has identifiable and relevant organizational effects. Even Level 1 data is important to your brand. When participants like the training experience and find the content engaging, you not only make it easier for them to learn, but you also gain their goodwill. Encourage them to share their positive experiences with their co-workers and managers. And, of course, publicizing  application and results level data can elevate your personal and department brands in the eyes of organization leaders, managers, and front-line employees.

Improve my organization.
Compliance training also creates an opening to review your company’s related processes, procedures, and systems. Even if not provided formal time for analysis, take some time to ask a few questions to determine if the current processes and procedures will support the desired behaviors that training is promoting. In asking these questions, you may also be able to identify changes that could support compliance with your initiative, eliminate redundancies or delays, or improve communication and other leadership skills.

You may never love compliance training, but compliance training always brings opportunity. I challenge you to take advantage it.

Are you struggling to offer compliance training that engages as it informs? For a free consultation, call us at 585-244-1331.