Move beyond tired tropes to deliver style and substance from compliance training

In a world where the capability of technology is moving faster than ever believed possible, digital learning plays a central role in an organisation’s learning and development toolkit.

Yet even whilst surrounded by innovation, why is it that compliance training so often falls back on tired tropes in an attempt to achieve those all-important completions? To deliver results, compliance must be much more than another yawn-inducing ‘click-next’ exercise for your people… But how?

A necessary evil…

Anti-bribery & Corruption, Data Security and GDPR, Code of Conduct, Cyber Security, Diversity & Inclusion… the list goes on. Almost every sector and organisation come up with their own set of annual compliance training so it’s safe to say that many of us feel like we’ve seen it all. I’ve certainly seen my fair share of digital learning, whether it was during my teenage years working in retail, or in the first few years of my career post university. Now, elearning is what I do – and I love it – but it’s always been obvious to me that a lot of people don’t feel the same way. When I explain to family or friends what I do, the overwhelming response is usually: ‘Oh, so you’re the reason I have to do those boring compliance courses every year?’ or ‘I love those! Means I get to check my Instagram whilst pretending to take the course’.

Man overwhelmed with compliance training in the workplace

This almost instinctive response to elearning tells me that many organisations simply aren’t getting compliance training right. It seems that the interventions they deliver still tend to be patronising, dull and seen as something people just have to do to get them out the way.

…Or an engagement opportunity?

This negativity is part consequence and part cause of the wider phenomena of ‘quiet quitting’, with employee engagement declining across industries. Reports show that only 21% of global employees are genuinely engaged at work. This means only a fraction of employees are emotionally invested in giving their time, skills and energy to their role, their team, and the wider organisation.

Laptop screen with GDPR compliance training on the screen

This raises wider conversations but also paints a bleak background to learning and development, where learner investment is arguably the most important factor in achieving effective learning outcomes. Compliance is often the kind of elearning most familiar to employees, as it forms a mandated part of an organisation’s annual training. But currently it seems to be often exacerbating the issue. The current attitude towards elearning is that for many it is laborious, time-consuming and offers little to no incentive for engagement. A survey of professionals in U.S. finance and insurance organisations with over 1,000 employees found that 15% of respondents clicked through without even reading or listening to the material! But perhaps more significantly, 49% just skim-read without listening in detail and 70% of respondents used that most damning of words to describe it – ‘boring’.

But does it have to be that way? Perhaps compliance training, mandated for everyone as it is, provides an opportunity to be a part solution to the rise of ‘quiet quitting’, not a cause.

The real objective

This lack of engagement can have a huge impact, as employees make decisions every day that can affect the wider organisation – putting both individuals and the business at risk. Yes, this training is often required by law, but it extends beyond that. The real goal is to change behaviours and assist employees in making the best decisions. Instead of getting learners to mindlessly click through courses for the sake of ticking off an annual obligation, the training needs to actively motivate learners, in order to shake them out of habitual behaviours and challenge them to make better decisions.

When developed effectively, compliance training can be an engaging, motivating and genuinely exciting experience. Not only boosting engagement with learning, but helping build knowledge, strengthening the skills required to mitigate high-risk situations, and developing greater personal and organisational investment.

Substance and style, not style over substance

To do this, it’s vital we ensure our compliance courses strike a balance between innovative digital approaches, learner investment and ensuring that information is delivered accurately and effectively. We understand that effective and impactful compliance training needs to be more than just basic knowledge transfer, where context and application are crucial in generating real behaviour change. But on the flip side, it’s far more than emphasising style over substance – every feature must be carefully articulated with the ‘purpose’ at the heart.

So, how can we actively avoid ‘boring’ compliance training? Well, as mentioned earlier, compliance fatigue is commonplace. Therefore, it’s crucial that the learning experience is different to the ‘norm’, and directly appeals to user’s intrinsic motivations to create real behaviour change. Instead of having huge blocks of text on repeated templates that make users immediately want to jump to the ‘continue’ button – or even the little ‘X’ in the top right corner of the window – we need to make our learners stop, think and become mentally and better still, emotionally, invested.

Woman viewing laptop with compliance training on screen

Just one such self-reflection technique is the ‘test-then-tell’ approach. Here the learner actively engages and assesses their existing knowledge and capability before being provided with feedback or guidance as to what they need to know. This piques the learner’s interest before delivering any content by demonstrating what they don’t know, and what the training will teach them – therefore immediately making apparent to the learner exactly what’s in it for them and why they need this training. As well as helping boost confidence in areas where their prior knowledge might be more advanced than they thought!

Context is king

Context and application are vital to getting the learner invested into the training. That means making learning relatable with emotive narratives to illustrate realistic stories about the company and the learner’s day-to-day role. This helps them engage with the learning and understand how compliance regulations directly impact them. Putting the learner into an interactive environment based on real working experience enables them to play out the consequences of their current behaviour in a safe space where they learn from their mistakes, whilst also developing their critical thinking skills.

When combined, these techniques – and much more besides – lead to the creation of an active learning experience rather than passive information transfer. Compliance training doesn’t have to be ‘boring’ – as our accolade of ‘excellence in the design of learning content’ proves!

Pivoting our approach

If we want our learners to be invested in the training they complete, we need to steer clear of ineffectual, regurgitative, ‘seen-it-all-before’ digital learning. Compliance training is mandatory for many good reasons as it needs to be embedded into employees’ everyday work and be a foundation of behavioural expectations. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be an enjoyable and productive experience. By pivoting our approach, we can develop motivating and engaging compliance courses that engender real behaviour change for employees and the wider organisation. Perhaps then the emphatic sigh I receive upon mentioning ‘elearning’ to family or friends might just transform into a squeal of excitement and intrigue…

Not sure where to start with creating effective and engaging compliance training that delivers results? Get in contact with one of the team today!