8 key elements that will help develop an engaging compliance training programme

02 November 2018 by Paul McElvaney

Learner engagement is a key requirement for any training, but typically compliance training has left learners unimpressed and disengaged.  For an area as vital to business health as compliance this deficit is of critical importance.

The dangers of disengagement

Before we look at how to overcome this disengagement, let’s consider what’s at stake.  

Firstly, learners are frequently bored by traditional compliance training therefore they tend to switch off. This poses the risk that they will not understand how to act compliantly and cause financial and reputational damage to the organisation.

As compliance is often mandated by external regulations and agencies, employees feel it is something they’re forced to do and don’t understand why they should do it.  It becomes a chore and a burden, leaving them lacking motivation and understanding of the reasons behind the training.

This type of training can further compound this lack of interest. A tick-box approach that checks compliance only superficially creates the impression that this is something to be endured, overcome, and then disregarded.

Disengagement from compliance training carries the clear risk that employees will not understand its purpose and therefore not act compliantly. Developing an engaging compliance training programme is therefore not only something desirable, it’s an absolute necessity.  

Here are 8 key elements to make compliance training more engaging and meaningful to learners.In the past compliance training has been a classroom-based, one-off event.  It usually took the form of sitting through lecture-style training and then taking an end-of-course assessment.  Once over, employees were deemed compliant, but were otherwise unsupported until the next round of training. E-learning courses, although available at employees’ desks, have tended to replicate the format, even though they potentially can include elements that are beyond the scope of classroom training.

Consider how different that approach is to the way modern employees generally access information outside of the workplace.  With their mobile devices and 24/7, global connectivity they have access to a wealth of information presented in a visually engaging manner and supported by a network of users who can offer tips and advice.  We all use search engines, wiki sites, social media, and video libraries to help us learn and discover. Why wouldn’t we apply this hugely successful model of self-motivated learning to help us in workplace training?

Introduce multimedia elements

Modern Compliance training needs to make full use of multimedia elements. Flat, text-heavy, textbook-style learning can be invigorated by use of powerful images, animations, and real-life video. These can be captured from a variety of sources and even be created by employees themselves. It’s well established that the more senses you appeal to the more likely the message is going to stick.

But don’t just use visual and audio effects for show. Make sure they reflect the context in which the employees will use their training. Images that reflect the working environment offer a degree of veracity and credibility to the information that’s being transferred. If information is presented in context, learners are more likely to make an association and feel engaged.Making learning part of a game, a challenge or a quest can both make it more engaging and motivate employees to learn. Instead of being passive recipients of training (like being in a lecture hall), learners are encouraged to discover and apply learning for themselves. The sense of pitting oneself against a competitor stimulates the learner to progress through the learning. Use of games offers a way of rewarding learners for what they already now. Gamification also recognises the importance of online games as an activity that many learners engage in. It’s a familiar environment.

With gamification you also have the ability to set targets and set challenges.  This element of competition motivates learners and drives them to move through the training to the next level. Awarding badges recognises levels of achievement. These badges can also have a currency outside the training programme and be accepted as part of employees’ regular performance reviews and career progression.

Use scenarios and stories

To be truly effective, training needs to be believable and relevant.  People learn best when they see the meaning in what they’re learning.  The construction of scenarios and the telling of stories can be a powerful way of delivering that meaning.

Remember that compliance training is not an abstract or academic pursuit, but an essential part of good performance and best practice, as well as a legal requirement. You want your employees to implement what they’ve learned in their day-to-day work. By providing scenarios and stories that are realistic, relevant, and mimic the situations in which employees are likely to find themselves in helps them learn how to act when confronted by a real-life dilemma.  

Stories and scenarios offer interpretations that give real meaning to the rules and regulations of compliance by showing how they’re applied in practice.A key strategy to making compliance training more relevant is to introduce elements of personalisation. Scenarios and stories can help by providing examples of how to act in circumstances that are tied to job roles. Targeting information at people who do specific jobs increases relevance and helps learners understand how regulations apply to their work.

Another way of personalising training is to provide individual learning paths and targets to employees. Rather than direct training at a whole cohort of employees, as in a classroom setting, allow learners to navigate their own way through the training. Provide recognition for prior learning and targets met.

Personalisation gives learners a sense of control and motivation, similar to what they experience when they’re finding out information for themselves.

Increase access

Too often training is locked up in the classroom or LMS. But modern learners are used to finding out what they want when they need it at just the click of a button or swipe of a finger. Making compliance training more accessible means that it’s not just a one-off event that happens every year or six months, but instead becomes an incremental and continuous process.

It makes sense to make your training available on mobile devices across platforms. This allows employees to check information on the job, where they need it: at the desk, on the road, out of the office.  

Rather than pushing (too much) information at employees, you’re allowing them to pull it when they need it. Accessing information on the job increases the sense of relevance and understanding, cementing the critical importance of being compliant.To make best use of mobile, always-on access, you need to ensure that your compliance training is appropriate. Adopting a microlearning approach can help. Chunk your learning so that it is manageable and can be accessed easily. Small snippets of information are more digestible and aid retention.

Cognitive science has shown that repetition and spaced practice make learning more likely to be recalled. Quick assessments or check-ups that can be completed in a few minutes help reinforce learning.  

Instead of thinking of compliance training as a course, consider it as a library of resources or assets that can be re-used and re-purposed to get the most from your content. Takeaway information at the start and end of a piece of content help bring home the key messages.

Small nuggets of information can more easily be made available of mobile devices too, accessible at any time. Their short duration means they can be reviewed during a break without an employee giving up working time to sit training.

Nudge learners

While more engaging material and a more open, accessible learning environment can empower people to take control of their learning and make them more motivated, small nudges help keep them on track. Alerts and notifications remind learners of what they need to do to stay compliant. These can be tied to targets that they’re required to meet at regular intervals.

Regular assessments and tasks help focus employees’ attention both on what they need to know and what they already know, what’s sticking and what isn’t. These can also make use of stories and scenarios.Introducing these key elements into your compliance training programme marks a dramatic change in tone and approach from traditional training. You’re recognising the expectations of the modern learner and the role of fun and the emotional impact in effective training. Rather than treating compliance training as an isolated event, these elements bring it closer to where it’s required: on the job, in the workflow.  

Making  compliance training more engaging and meaningful increases its impact. Learners better understand its relevance and are therefore more likely to apply it in their jobs.

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Paul McElvaney
Chief Executive Officer
Paul is Learning Pool’s founder and CEO. Since 2006, he has grown the business from a modest team of 5, to the success story it is today, with 7 sites and almost 200 employees. Paul’s ambitions centre on providing world-class customer care to our 750+ global clients, driving continuous innovation through Learning Pool’s product set and nurturing the talent within his team.
Paul was awarded ‘Director of the Year’, from the Institute of Directors in 2016.
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