Compliance training: Is it a growth opportunity for your organization or an unavoidable, mandatory hassle?
Compliance training is a pain or, at least, an inconvenience. It’s something that must be done because HR, the government, your insurance carrier, or your consumer public demands it. In turn, organizations offer compliance training but fail to see all the benefits it can offer. Training checks a box—and little else.
Today’s compliance challenges demand something more than legacy training and “standard” approaches. Forward-looking, proactive training not only protects the organization by increasing employees’ compliance knowledge, but also strengthens the entire organization.
Compliance Training, Defined
Compliance training teaches employees standards, rules, and best practices the organization must follow in accordance with government regulations, industry recommendations, and their own policies. Sometimes, the training itself is mandated by a compliance standard—in other words, you’re breaking the rules if you aren’t teaching employees how not to break the rules.
Most compliance training is now digital—it’s the most efficient way to reach a large number of employees while not overwhelming compliance staffers who must stay focused on more pressing concerns. This eLearning usually follows either of these strategies:
- Linear training: The standard course follows the same path of scenarios and questions, from start to finish, for everyone who experiences it.
- Adaptive training: The course adjusts depending on how users are interacting with it. For example, a learner struggling with a certain compliance rule may be given additional scenarios to help them better understand the concept.
Linear learning gets the job done: Concepts are taught, and a compliance training requirement is satisfied. Adaptive training takes the extra step to ensure users fully absorb the knowledge they need to apply to their everyday roles. This proactive approach immerses employees in learning and inspires a sense of responsibility that they are important participants in the compliant organization.
On the other hand, proactive compliance training means something more than how you teach concepts—it’s teaching those concepts before a lack of awareness blows up into a problem. Too many organizations are reactive with their compliance approaches: They add relevant training topics only after an incident has occurred. Although this is better than not including important topics at all, a better approach is ensuring training is covering everything it needs to cover for the employee while keeping the eLearning interesting and impactful.
Surprising Benefits of Compliance Training
When viewed as an opportunity rather than merely a requirement, compliance training offers numerous benefits besides just avoiding noncompliance. Some of these perks include:
When employees must take time out of their day to find the solution to a problem they didn’t learn about during compliance training, productivity inevitably suffers. When a compliance disaster occurs because of a lack of knowledge, those negative effects are amplified. Good training saves time and money in the long run.
When an organization makes the news because employees are being harassed or the government is sanctioning it for bad business practices, coming into work every day isn’t quite as ... rewarding. Outstanding compliance training doesn’t necessarily improve morale, but it doesn’t erode morale, either. At the very least, quality training sends a message to employees that the organization cares about following the rules and protecting its workforce.
Well-run organizations that follow the law and don’t make headlines for the wrong reasons attract top talent. Companies with solid training programs (compliance and otherwise) also are appealing to today’s employees. Great compliance training achieves both these goals.
Good training produces consistency among employees in what they know and how they respond to a compliance situation. This results in fewer compliance incidents to be addressed, which simultaneously is more efficient for the company and instills confidence in employees who know how to handle anything that comes their way.
Offer a Wide Array of Compliance Training Courses
Different organizations will require different compliance courses. A company that is heavily governed by financial regulators will likely need to offer business conduct training; a B2B enterprise with few customers might not need significant data privacy training. Training generally falls into one of these three categories:
These courses deal mostly with business practices—how an organization financially operates internally, with vendors, and with customers. Training areas may include:
- Conflict of interest: Courses teach employees to recognize when decisions might not be impartial or may go against the company’s best interests.
- Anti-money laundering (AML): Employees may not realize that their business interactions with third parties constitute money laundering; AML training explains this complex topic.
- Anti-corruption: These courses train employees to avoid corrupt business practices, including bribery, kickbacks, and improper vendor management.
Many states now require businesses to implement harassment training for employees—and even if it’s not a mandate, personal conduct courses protect the welfare of your workers as well your organization. Examples of this kind of training include:
- Sexual harassment: This type of training remains important, even a few years removed from #MeToo.
- Workplace harassment: Not all harassment is sexual—anyone can feel trapped in a hostile work environment, and employees may feel pressure not to report bad behavior for fear of retaliation.
- Diversity and inclusion: Diversity training has evolved over the years for good reason—what once might have been perceived as harmless attitudes and stereotypes are now recognized as being intolerant. D&I courses help teach employees where the line is drawn.
The requirement to protect data comes from many sources: government regulators, industry standards, and consumer expectations. Some of this training is vital for all people at a company—and not just IT:
- Data privacy: These courses explore how to keep data safe and secure, whether it’s customer information or company resources.
- Intellectual property: Employees may not fully understand what constitutes IP and how to protect it, which is why such training is crucial.
- Appropriate electronic commercial: This training not only involves what you can say or not say via an email or text, but also includes best practices for communicating digitally and not exposing the organization to outside threats.
- Confidential information: Are your employees being careful not to reveal sensitive info—such as employee data—to others? Confidential information training covers this concern.
How to Strengthen Your Compliance Training
Compliance training doesn’t need to be an afterthought. Whether organizations are starting from scratch or looking to adjust their current programs, training provides a means to meet requirements and empower employees to protect the company and each other. Three strategies stand out as you strengthen your training:
Role-Based Training and Relevant Scenarios
As already stated, not every employee will require every compliance training course. However, that’s exactly what some organizations attempt: to throw all the training at everybody and hope the important parts stick for each individual. The unfortunate outcome of this strategy is that employees, bombarded with so much information, take away nothing from the training.
A better approach prioritizes role-based training so that employees get the information most crucial to their responsibilities. This training can vary even within the same course. A manager’s anti-harassment training, for example, should differ from the learning that rank-and-file employees receive.
Moreover, the scenarios contained within training courses should be relevant to the individual user—that is, they should present situations someone might reasonably encounter on the job. In this way, employees envision themselves dealing with a problem and coming up with a solution. Challenging workers to consider such scenarios during training strengthens the learning and increases the odds they’ll apply that experience in real life.
Evaluate and Update
A quality compliance training program can’t be static—it must be regularly assessed and updated as needed. Furthermore, as compliance and the world change, so must training. Consider the COVID-19 crisis: With more people working from home, a whole new set of data and privacy concerns came into play. Training needs to adapt so that your employees’ compliance knowledge adapts as well.
Part of this evaluation step should include examining the hard data that the best compliance training solutions produce. Metrics can identify which scenarios users are struggling with, which departments and divisions aren’t performing as well, and who needs more help. From there, training modules can be updated, and additional resources such as job aids and microlearning can be delivered to the individuals and teams that require more learning.
Partner with an Expert
Some organizations settle for check-the-box compliance training because they aren’t quite sure how to revamp it themselves or just don’t have the resources to do so. Partnering with a compliance training expert overcomes these challenges and can lead to a more efficient, more successful program. Quality solutions not only keep their training modules current and relevant but also give you the means to make your own adjustments to the learning.
The best training providers also offer a variety of resources so that learning doesn’t end just because an employee finishes the course. The ultimate goal of compliance should be behavioral change; employees should learn to innately do the right thing. An expert partner leads you to that goal, thus reducing your organization’s risk and helping transform the culture of the company.