How to create a culture of learning in the workplace with online compliance training

07 November 2018 by Paul McElvaney

Employers and employees recognise compliance training as necessary, but often regard the actual training as a burden and a drain on productivity. This negative attitude is exacerbated by the frequently poor quality of the training which leads to disengagement by learners.

It’s a challenge everyone acknowledges: how to make compliance training more effective and engaging.  But there’s a further step too: how do you make compliance part of your organisation’s learning culture?

Culture, what culture?

You can argue that every organisation coheres around some set of values.  But while there may be a passive recognition that some common practices exist, it’s quite another matter to create an active culture that makes applying learning part of an employees’ day-to-day behaviour and creates an atmosphere of self-reliance, accountability and shared responsibility.

Creating a learning culture is of a different order to just having training delivered by your L&D department.  It means building an environment where knowledge and best practice are shared between individuals and teams as a matter of course rather than just in the classroom or in motivational sessions.  

This is particularly true for compliance which is often seen as mandatory, but discrete extra-curricular training.  Compliance is often the last place that L&D looks to develop and it becomes just a box-ticking exercise, like accepting new terms and conditions for a website or a phone app.

Start from the top

It’s often argued that workplace culture begins at the top.  Leadership is seen as vital to establishing the tone and values that the organisation requires.  Top managers should set the example and their behaviour should percolate down through the rest of the organisation.

There’s something to be said for this top-down approach.  It carries the force of authority and it can instil core values.  But creating a culture isn’t just about issuing instructions or campaigning on certain issues, no matter how vital they are.

Even if a culture can be imposed, it’s only sustainable if all those within it work to keep it alive and incorporate it in their work.  This is particularly true of a learning culture where information sharing, communication and collaboration are vital assets.

The use of modern technology has democratised learning and highlighted individual gaps and allowed not only for personalisation of learning, but also for personal control of one’s own learning.

Learning from new experience

There is already a danger of a disconnect between the way people learn at work and the way they access information outside of the workplace.  With mobile connectivity and 24/7 access to sources of information, people can decide when and where to access information.  Resources such as search engines, wikis, video-sharing sites, and help and discussion forums give learners the means not only to find out facts but also follow practical demonstrations and participate in learning, on a global scale.  

How do you square this experience and the expectations it creates with the compliance training session run in a classroom?  The answer, increasingly, is that you can’t.  It makes sense then to take account of what modern learners expect and bring the undoubted benefits on the online experience to your own employees in the work and training environment.

Turning on the disengaged

It’s a truism that training in general is a forgettable experience.  But the risks of forgetting are far higher (to individuals and organisations alike) in an area like compliance where constant vigilance and continuous best practice are key requirements.  How do you reconcile supply compliance training as an episodic event with the continuous demand of being compliant?

An all-embracing and self-sustaining learning culture can provide an environment in which disengaged learners can be re-engaged and passive training can morph into active learning.

Rules of engagement

The modern learner is used to wall-to-wall access and instant response.  This sense of accessibility has been missing from traditional training where access is strictly limited and the stream of (one-way) information tightly controlled.  

Yet no-one advocates creating a learning culture that abandons traditional training and turns people over to the mercies and vicissitudes of Google and YouTube.  We don’t need access to all information all the time whatever the source.  In fact, standards and standardisation are paramount in compliance training. What we can do, though, is mirror the ease of access to information, embolden the notions of self-direction and learner control and use techniques in online learning to make training material and compliance regulation more engaging and in line with what learners now expect.  

Means of engagement

So, how do you create a culture where people work and actively learn together?  One key element is the use of online or elearning.  Potentially elearning can be available as and when a learner needs information. Rather than wait for L&D to organise a compliance training session that takes learners away from their desks, you can make short elearning modules available across devices so that learners can take control of their own learning when and how they want to.

Elearning brings with it the ability to manage the flow of information a learner receives.  Rather than present it all in one training session, with elearning you can break it down and deliver it in chunks so that the learner has more time to process and retain the information.  Also, smaller chunks of learning mean that employees can easily refresh their knowledge of aspects of compliance training.

Elearning’s ability to combine multimedia elements (audio, graphics, animation, video and so on) allows it to engage learners attention.  That mix of media helps reinforce information in a way that traditional training sessions have failed to do.

Also, ready-made Compliance Training Catalogues are available and can be customised to suit your organisation’s needs and reflect its learning culture.  One great advantage of these catalogues is that they reflect industry standards and provide best-in-class information, so you’re not reinventing the wheel.  

Learning strategies

It’s not just about the visual appeal of online learning.  If you introduce certain learning strategies you can make compliance training more powerful and engaging.

The use of stories and scenarios that reflect how compliance affects employees in their jobs makes training more relevant and therefore credible.  Story-telling explains and demonstrates the purpose behind the training and how it is to be applied in the context of your organisation and employees’ work.  

Making training relevant is a form of personalisation.  But you can go further to making sure that employees understand that training forms part of their learning and development plan and tied to an evaluation of their performance.  

Introducing gaming to online learning can also motivate learners.  Present the information they need to acquire tasks to complete as part of a challenge, recognising what learners already know as they move through levels.  Their progress can be charted by leaderboards showing points gained. These points can then be turned into badges that record personal achievement and can be incorporated into more general performance reviews.  Games emphasise the need to use and share knowledge.

Microlearning presents training not as a large, amorphous mass of information but as easily digestible resources that are continuously available to learners. Instead of overwhelming them with too much information, you allow them to select it when needed, passing responsibility and control over to learners which further involves them in sustaining the learning culture.  

Why online?

Online learning supports these learning strategies.  With digital content you can make training available across devices, make it mobile 24/7 and save time and costs. Digital resources can also be easily updated to reflect any changes in compliance legislation or practice.

By sharing information with your employees this way on a digital platform, you’re also opening up possibilities for them to share information amongst themselves.  They can create and record their own content and share it. This collaborative approach reflects the social learning that employees experience outside the workplace.  

In a further step you could introduce an element of AI in the form of a chatbot to guide and mentor employees outside the traditional training environment of classrooms and learning management systems.  This brings compliance training into the workflow and makes the Learning Culture part of your organisation’s general work and performance culture.

The benefits of a Learning Culture

The benefits of good compliance training may seem obvious: reducing risks and accidents.  But the advantages of creating an active compliance learning culture apply also to key areas of business.  A compliance culture makes your organisation a better place to work. This means you reduce employee turnover and make you more likely to attract talent.  A better, healthy working environment will lead to increases in performance, productivity, and profit.

Using compliance training to create a learning culture is not only good for employees, it’s also good for business. 

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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