Show Don't Tell: Tips To Make Compliance Training Come Alive


Back when I taught first-year composition, one of the most common pieces of feedback I gave my students was, "Show me, don't tell me." In other words, it wasn't enough for them to simply state their argument; they had to make me believe it.

Unsurprisingly, "show, don't tell," is also very applicable to compliance course-writing. In fact, it's one of my team's key mantras. "Show, don't tell" can be the difference between engaging course content and content that reads like a policy or legalese. It can be the difference between training that makes an impact and training that doesn't.

With that in mind, here are 3 ways to show rather than tell when crafting compliance training.

1. Tell a story

Stories resonate with people in a way that facts alone don't. Think about it; it's very common to ask someone, "What's your favorite movie?" or "What's your favorite book?" It's less common to ask someone, "What's your favorite historical date?" People relate to stories.

This doesn't mean your entire training needs to be structured as a story. It can be, but there are other ways to incorporate stories into compliance training.

Want to impart the consequences of corruption and bribery to your population? Instead of a bulleted list, how about sanitized real-world news headlines of consequences faced by employees or organizations that acted improperly? Or instead of listing the effects that workplace harassment can have on a person who's being harassed, try using first person and have a character share the ways in which workplace harassment has negatively impacted them.

2. let employees discover information on their own

Learners are more likely to be engaged and retain information if they're active participants in their learning experience. This is one of many reasons we leverage scenario-based learning, where most of the learning happens through real-world simulations that give learners an opportunity to try out decision-making in a safe environment.

For example, it's one thing to tell employees not to click a suspicious link in an email because it may be a phishing attempt; it's a very different thing to simulate the learner receiving a phishing email and ask them to navigate the situation.

3. make it about the learner

This a great way to personalize the learning experience and allow the learner to understand how the given topic area relates to them and their world. Doing so ensures that the takeaways really stick with someone after the training is over.

For example, instead of telling someone that it's improper to make hiring decisions based on familial or personal relationships, why not ask them how they would feel if they or someone they're close with was passed over for a job they deserved because the person hiring offered the job to a less qualified family member or friend?

Or in an unconscious bias course, instead of making a generic statement like, "We all have biases," and leaving it at that, why not walk learners through a visualization exercise that allows them to recognize and confront their own individual biases?

These personalized learning moments work well not just in courses, but also as stand-alone learning events, such as reinforcement content (e.g., short videos).

Show 'em how it's done

Showing rather than telling is an effective way to bring your courses and policies to life. My team is always looking for new ways to "show, not tell."

Do you have any tried-and-true methods that I missed? Share them in the comments; I'd love to hear them!


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