For years, we at True Office Learning have been compiling rich insights from our compliance training courses taken by millions of our clients’ employees. One thing we see over and over from the data is that clients are often surprised to see areas they thought were solid in terms of employee understanding end up being areas that employees actually struggle with.
For example, questions on our Appropriate Electronic Communications module were answered correctly 82 percent of the time—not the greatest number, but still encouraging that most people know how to correctly use their devices and keep information safe (but alarming when you think that 18 percent of a large company doesn’t understand this). Yet when asked a key question about passwords in which a hypothetical user is writing all her passwords down in a notebook on her desk (yikes!), just 45 percent of participants answered correctly (double yikes!).
Sometimes, an organization’s management doesn’t realize this disparity exists or where the knowledge gaps are, thus reinforcing the need to integrate compliance training into everyday business processes—what is known as “operationalizing” and is wonderfully described by our strategic partner Broadcat. Essentially, operationalizing compliance connects what’s learned during training with how employees continually apply their knowledge to their jobs. Making the right decision in a training scenario is great, making it in the framework of a real compliance situation is what we really must strive for. Operationalizing compliance bridges this gap.
Concepts and ideas are great, but practically, how do you operationalize compliance and get your employees to take training seriously and reduce risk? Here are four ways.
1. Emphasize training’s potential
Let’s face facts: For many employees, compliance training is met with grimaces, groans, rolled eyes, and a goal to complete the course as quickly and painlessly as possible. This attitude, though understandable given that some training feels boring or punitive, doesn’t set people up to internalize the concepts being presented because they have zero desire to do so. This is akin to a high schooler cramming for a final exam and then forgetting everything they learned over the summer. Reframing compliance from something an employee has to do to something that employees should do—a true opportunity rather than a requirement—can turn a perceived negative into a potential positive. In this way, employees build valuable skills instead of feeling subjected to a lecture, while a culture of compliance grows throughout the organization.
2. Make training interesting
Part of the negativity surrounding compliance training is that employees feel it isn’t relevant, isn’t challenging, or is too rote. To properly operationalize training, the instruction must resonate with users, uniquely relating to their interests, roles, and skills. Engage employees and activate their brains via the training. Include detailed yet relevant scenarios that incorporate real-world situations while provoking thought and building muscle memory. Introduce gamification that gives users a goal and makes them active participants in training rather than a passive audience.
Moreover, embrace adaptive training that adjusts to the user, thus increasing difficulty or reinforcing concepts the employee is struggling with during the course. This approach ensures the user remains engaged and mentally works for the skills he or she is mastering.
3. Make training ongoing
Another reason compliance training fails to take a strong hold is that even if a course is engaging, an employee might disengage once the course ends. Training doesn’t need to be a once-a-year occurrence—there are plenty of ways to do deliver knowledge, reinforcement, and reference directly to employees’ inboxes, as needed. Consider these ongoing compliance training strategies:
- Micro learning: Employees view brief compliance updates and refreshers and take short training modules to bolster their skills.
- Job aids: Workers receive compliance aids that help contextualize compliance issues in the moment when they are presented with those choices in their day. These can remain digital or be printed out for easy reference and study.
- Videos: Short, entertaining, even funny videos performed by real actors and highlighting a particular compliance rule or concern can be especially poignant and memorable—and can be viewed and shared repeatedly.
4. Learn from what you’ve learned
Great compliance training provides not only valuable knowledge and skills to your employees, but also data—reams and reams of data. However, companies settle on completion rates for training as their only metric, not realizing the huge, untapped data-gathering potential that compliance offers.
Diagnostic training data identifies which compliance areas the organization, departments, teams, and even individual employees are thriving or struggling in. More importantly, great data is predictive, pointing the way toward processes and policies in which noncompliance might be more likely to occur. Some of the trouble spots may need more correction than training, but the training data is ultimately delivering the insight, picking out the gaps, and driving preventative measures. In this way, you operationalize not only compliance training, but also your overall compliance program.