Why most compliance e-learning doesn’t actually work

Why do companies offer compulsory compliance training to their employees? To meet the company regulations that are in place. When staff training is approached in this way, many individuals may have reservations before they even begin, because ultimately, they do not have a choice in how their learning material is delivered.

Let’s look at the bigger picture.

I’ll take a simple example. In hospitality, employers have a duty to inform their staff about food and hygiene. One way to enforce hygiene standards is to ensure your hands are clean at all times – this will likely bring back memories of the “did you wash your hands?” interrogation repeated every so often by our mums – something we all pushed our luck with by cleverly running the tap without touching the water or using any soap.

Now that we are all adults, however, we reluctantly admit that our mums were right all along and now we all religiously apply these precious pieces of advice and guidance in our everyday lives. But what about the employees in hotels and restaurants? For them, hygiene is not a matter of personal cleanliness, but something that is strictly required to meet UK and EU health and safety regulations. Without this strict governance, bacteria that thrives on the hands of all chefs and bartenders would be transferred to your food and drink, and most likely leave you feeling rather unwell, even seriously ill!

This point may seem irrelevant; however, the concept can be applied to e-learning. Compliance training exists so that employees and companies are trained to abide by the laws and regulations in place. Most compliance e-learning, or e-telling as we call it, will just overload the learner with drab subject information, and upon successful completion will record an employee’s outcome as “trained”. This however, does not attempt to really change the behavioural outcomes of the individual. If a company wants to deliver an e-learning course on a subject as serious as compliance, why not actually change the non-compliant behaviour?

Last year Saffron Interactive created a course for a major public transport provider which has now been shortlisted for an eLearning Age Award. The focus of the course was not straightforward compliance, but on improving the mental resilience of staff members. In this case, taking unexplained sick leave instead of addressing the problem and putting it to your Occupational Health Officer was seen as broadly non-compliant behaviour. Developed in cooperation with an occupational psychologist, this highly realistic and scenario-based piece of e-learning aimed to reduce paid absence resulting from stress and mental difficulties.

Our course wasn’t mandatory, or “compliance” based in the traditional sense, but because it changed behaviour and actually helped employees to do their jobs, the business impact was huge: over £7 million saved so far through changed behaviour on a large scale and a corresponding reduction in paid absences.

Organisational compliance training should therefore not be a matter of training individuals for the sake of being able to ‘tick a box’ to support any unfortunate legal cases. At Saffron we recognise that there is a grumbling child in all of us, and know that actually changing non-compliant behaviour is the only option for e-learning to have a real business impact.