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L&D: It’s Time to Rethink Compliance Training

What is the best part of your job? Is it what you make or produce, perhaps the clients or customers you deal with, perhaps the organisational element or working with great colleagues?  It’s likely to be a huge number of elements that make up the parts of your job you are both good at and love. But compliance training isn’t one of them.

What is the Point of Compliance Training?

According to Towards Maturity, the average employee spends 10.90 hours a year on compliance training. That’s nearly a day and a half by my maths. It’s scary that “most organisations actually want to increase the hours their employees are spending in training – by an average factor of 38%”.

That would mean 13.54 hours a year – nearly two days!

Now those two days a year, they are the ones you really have to drag yourself into work for. Those hours are, most likely, where you suffer 60 minutes of self-paced, click-next e-learning modules. It’s probably content you either already know, is too simplistic or just not relevant to you.

Organisations want to make sure that employees are aware of the various risks during their work and shift attitude and behaviour in areas such as data protection, health and safety, equality and diversity as well as the digital and cyber security areas. This is noble and right.

Is it working?

The trouble is that there’s evidence that the approaches aren’t working.

The same Towards Maturity report shows that whilst 99% of organisations want to manage risk more successfully and have a positive impact on staff attitudes and values, only 33% and 23% respectively are actually achieving this.

And only 16% are actually generating meaningful data that can be used to measure and improve programme effectiveness over time.

Why Doesn’t Compliance Training Work?

The Managing Ethics and Legal Compliance: What Works and What Hurts study found that “what hurts effectiveness most are an ethics/compliance program that employees believe exists only to protect top management from blame”.

It’s not surprising when we are spending hours at a time on courses not fit for purpose when we just want to get on with work that needs to be done.

Online magazine analysed the report, adding…

The authors of that study warned executives that “a ‘quick fix’ (distributing an off-the-shelf code written by someone outside the company, along with a canned one-hour training program) may do more harm than good if it suggests to employees that top managers are just trying to protect themselves if the company ends up in court.

Towards Maturity report that “in 2017 86% of organisations want to improve their compliance training” and that there is a lack of progress for distinct reasons:

  • 56% report user engagement as a barrier to success
  • 47% measuring effectiveness
  • 46% dull and boring content
  • 45% time required to develop and build content
  • 43% staff reluctant to repeat year on year

The top and bottom statistics I think are the most revealing and linked. Towards Maturity found that “only 77% of staff complete online compliance programmes” and it’s not surprising with the type of e-learning programmes that a lot of people have to sit through.

Then companies expect us to repeat that same thing next year that we hated this year, which actually didn’t make much impact on what we do.

As staff you know that poor compliance training isn’t going to massively impact your behaviour. A Harvard article highlighted that “three of the four most popular programs—diversity training, evaluations, and network programs—have no positive effects in the average workplace.”

It went on to highlight that:

Optional (not mandatory) training programs and those that focus on cultural awareness (not the threat of the law) can have positive effects. In firms where training is mandatory or emphasises the threat of lawsuits, training actually has negative effects on management diversity.

That article is from 2007 – some of the other research I’ve pointed to includes data from the 90s – and yet we are still discussing this issue and organisations are still getting off-the-shelf elearning or commissioning it internally.

Compliance Training: A Better Way?

Towards Maturity found that 81% of the workforce are involved in mandatory training each year and that of all the online training content used within organisations, 42% is compliance-related.

There has got to be a better way to make the impact in behaviour change that is needed.

Only 27% of organisations that are looking for evidence in the form of change in behaviour are actually succeeding – so there has to be a way of collecting the data that organisations need for their regulators and something more relevant to business impact.

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