As 2022 starts, so does a new year of compliance training deliveries. Now is the time for organizations to consider how to make the time and expense invested in learning and time off the job be as productive and useful as possible. My prediction, though, is that all too many will stick with the status quo, deploying learning characterized by mounds of information and directives, documenting attendance and leaving it at that.
These sorts of rollouts may help limit claims and even wipe out punitive damages. Too often, though, they won’t stop offenses from occurring, or from being addressed and corrected before substantial legal, operational, and reputational harm result. And they’ll miss the point of their initiatives. Helping leaders and team members to change their behavior and act to surface problems should be the goal of compliance training.
As a first step, compliance learning should be purposely designed to help build cultures linked to organizational workplace values such as integrity, honesty and inclusion, and to an environment that welcomes both ideas and concerns. This is not the same as delivering accurate information. Such learning has to be actionable rather than a live, virtual or e-learning delivery that drones on, is readily forgotten and has no application to what happens at work – wherever work occurs. Overall, participants must understand that compliance is everyone’s responsibility and yields operational results that affect them as directly as sales, innovation, quality, and safety do.
Here are several suggestions for improving compliance training so that messages are understood and applied as part of normal work responsibilities.
Compliance Messages Must Engage — Delivering information and assuming people will believe it’s important because the instructor or organization says it is, is not enough. Whatever subjects are addressed must capture the attention of the learner and deliver simple, usable action-based tools that non lawyers can understand, appreciate, and apply day after day. In addition to presenting dynamic, engaging content, what’s being taught must be important to the learners. If it means something to the organization and presenters but nothing to those receiving the learning, whatever is presented, no matter how engaging, will not stick.
The key question to ask about the learning content is why a non-lawyer or a noncompliance professional e.g., an executive, a salesperson, a program developer, a craftsperson or a truck or vehicle driver will want to pay attention to and apply the learning. How can the learning be made worth listening to by participants, so they decide “I’m really going to apply this all the time”?
Application of What’s Learned Is the Key Objective — One rule to remember about compliance learning is — it’s not what participants know it’s what they do that’s most important. Stated another way, unless knowledge is applied when needed, it has no operational value.
Learning Unrepeated is Learning Defeated — Leaders and team members should talk about key principles regularly, not once a year; and leaders should do so as part of their objectives and performance criteria. These issues cannot be left to a core training; however, all too often, they are. Instead, they should also be purposefully and briefly reinforced in the context of workaday discussions woven into ongoing and routine team sessions. This is regularly done with sales, safety, quality, customer relations and other critical operational matters. If organizations discuss those regularly in plain terms, then why not include compliance issues with the same frequency? The point is that for most, what’s discussed routinely is viewed as important; what’s mentioned once a year is not.
You Measure What You Treasure — Organizations measure sales, client and customer trends, safety results and other metrics. It is vital they also develop and assess the impact of their compliance learning initiatives and make certain they are brought back to the job and measured there as well in terms of actionable results. This needs to be part of the delivery plan and not an afterthought.
And Last But Not Least In Summary — What makes learning stick are not the learning exercises alone, e.g., formal learning as has been typically delivered. They should provide a critical foundation – but they should be part of a broader commitment to a culture of compliance which is based on daily behaviors – so they become normal habits. What’s needed is an organizational commitment based on leader behaviors and communications which are acted upon regularly, not just once a year, so that what is taught “in compliance training” is seen as part of a continuing imperative directly tied into system wide and individual results.