“No one said it would be easy,” sang Sheryl Crow, “but no one said it’d be this hard.” Delivering compliance-based learning is a complex business – why? There is just so much to consider.
Article no. 4 of 10 - The Kineo view on: Compliance elearning
Compliance may be a hot topic right now, but the need to comply with legislation in the workplace has a long history, going back to the laws that were passed in the early 19th century to protect overworked children and prevent injury in the cotton mills of Manchester. We’ve gone on a long journey since then: new standards and priorities are constantly emerging in already heavily regulated industries.
In this article we’ll tackle age old issues in compliance, and consider the new opportunities, as well as other factors, such as cost, quality and (post) delivery.
Some issues with delivering compliance programmes have endured for a long time. Others are relatively new, or we have a different perspective on them. We’ve talked about a few in earlier articles:
- That sense of compliance being a top-down initiative; that “let’s hit you over the head with a stick” mentality still prevails
- The inconsistency in the way that various parts of the business work together on compliance and their different wants and needs
- A lack of understanding about what genuinely proves the effectiveness of the learning and how to measure it
- The impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on our patterns of work and the dangers this has presented for compliance
Another issue we often hear people worrying about is ‘how can we make our compliance programmes more engaging?’. Of course, we want our learners to engage with the learning and for it to have the desired impact, but we should be focused more on its effectiveness. In a bid to make the learning more engaging, we might decide to gamify our compliance programmes in the hope it will solve all our problems. But gamification can risk infantilising your learning if you’re using points and leader boards just to add a sense of competition that won't definitively prove or improve compliance. If an element of fun genuinely enhances the memorability of content by placing the learner in immersive, nuanced scenarios in which they need to make complex decisions – well, that’s a different story. But there is a difference between fun and frivolity.
Beware the latest ‘shiny objects’
Other hot topics can be distracting too, such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). We’re big advocates of both technologies and think they can be used to great effect in the compliance space – in the context of Diversity & Inclusion for example, imagine the impact of donning a headset and experiencing being laughed at or snubbed by your ‘colleagues’ in a meeting, or being on the receiving end of a sexist or derogatory remark? Safety critical industries can also reap the benefits by using VR to develop crucial technical skills, right down to the nuts and bolts of how to work a warning system, for example. Just-in-time nuggets of information could illuminate the issues and the right course of action as you go.
Yet for some organisations, AR and VR are too much of a logistical headache right now and the tech poses too many constraints to make them effective. There is also the cost. As a result of Covid-19, there is a trend for a bigger emphasis on cost savings and fewer, expensive innovation projects. As Donald H Taylor states in his L&D Global Sentiment Survey 2021:
“One thing is clear: the L&D profession have reacted against novelty.”
We can be pragmatic about how much we do now. Small changes can make a big difference and wholescale changes don’t need to be made over night. Nor should they be – because experimentation should be done first to check that it is worth the investment (we’ll come onto this later). It’s more about having a roadmap: you can have points of destination for all kinds of transformations; but they may not all be feasible today.
Good times, it seems, are ahead. There’s been an epiphany going on. Increasingly, people want to work for employers who are as committed to values and ethics (essentially what a lot of compliance is all about) as they are to making a profit.
Business leaders feel this too. A recent Ethics Study conducted by Principia, in partnership with Clifford Chance, the International Chamber of Commerce, INvolve, GlobeScan and the Institute of Business Ethics found that:
“97% of business leaders said they feel a personal responsibility to ensure that their company does the right thing and 92% believe that companies should follow their core values even if it requires them to sacrifice financial returns.”
It’s not just about doing the right thing. Ethics is now seen as key to operational sustainability and having a competitive advantage. Because if your people all commit to making a positive difference, this will boost staff motivation and lead to an increase in productivity and efficiency.
This is important and inspiring, because after Covid-19, we will be experiencing ripples of change for years to come. We’re in a “compliance cluster bomb”.
Times have changed
Compliance planning, and continuity planning, has been under the spotlight, not least for our governments. It has also greatly accelerated changes regarding issues such as working patterns that were long overdue. Yes, there are risks associated with remote and flexible working, in terms of things like health and safety, mental health and wellbeing, bullying and harassment. But they will almost certainly provide opportunities for people who, for various reasons, were not able to work 9-5 in an office before.
Recent events may also have forced us to make changes to our compliance training provision. Perhaps the frequency with which it was delivered, or the way it was delivered, changed, and we’re comfortable with this now. That alone may have a big impact on our learners, as well as the organisation, in terms of the time, money and effort invested.
Finally, we clearly see ongoing transformation, more trusted data and an increasing interest in sustainability and continuity on the horizon.
Cost and quality
What about cost? We know compliance training can be expensive. Large organisations can spend millions of pounds a year purely creating it – let alone the cost of 100,000 employees completing it. Then you need to factor in the time spent tracking and analysing regulatory change and publishing the findings, and the time and effort involved in audits. And what about the price of not doing it? Of not getting it right?
To state the obvious, costs shouldn’t be reduced at the expense of quality. Obviously, quality is subjective, but if you look at it from the learner’s point of view, quality is a piece of learning that is relevant, timely, easy to access, easy to work through, relatively quick to complete. Not meeting those expectations could mean the learning is remembered for all the wrong reasons.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money creating a quality product. But you do need to know what quality means for your learners and all your stakeholders and ultimately know, or at least experiment with, the kind of training that will support the needs of the business quickly and efficiently, whilst making the messages stick in the minds of your learners for all the right reasons.
By delivery, we mean the end-to-end learning journey experienced by your employees. And that’s from the initial message that goes out to advertise the learning right through to what happens after they’ve completed it. All elements within that journey need to be considered to have maximum impact and success.
Start by thinking about the initial communication piece. We’ve all received emails notifying us of mandatory training which are either terrifying – emphasising the threat to the business if it wasn’t completed or complied with – or completely banal, with no reference to what’s in it for me or why it matters. Employees must know the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ to engage in an issue and avoid making a breach.
Apply smart learning techniques
And then you have the learning itself, which isn’t always intuitive, meaningful, impactful, or an efficient use of time. There are things we can do there, especially using what we know about how we learn, for example through challenge and scenario-based environments in which we are tasked with making complex decisions (and ultimately errors), then given incentives to improve, and ideally, the chance to have another go. It’s about tapping into our emotions – perhaps one of the most powerful learning tools at our disposal.
But to do this, we need to really understand our audience (see our article on Methodologies for innovation). Relevancy is critical. We’ve got to tap into their emotions, and what matters to them. You can’t force your learners to pull your learning but if you push it in the right way for them first; then they will pull.
Carefully consider duration
And there’s attention span too, which is a little controversial, because whilst we generally say, ‘less is more’, we also know there’s a growing interest in ‘long reads’ too. This is where very engaging, high-impact stories about real people influenced by compliance issues can work well (anonymity allowing). But there is a point in a learning journey at which our attention starts to wane, and we need to be mindful of that. We tend to recommend a single learning experience (excluding supporting resources) lasts no longer than about 20 minutes, but multiple experiences can be spread out over time, to both stave off saturation and reinforce key points at intervals, as you might do in a marketing campaign.
We need to follow well-grounded techniques like the Pareto Principle and action mapping, and prioritise learning based on the skills needed, and the situations encountered, to determine the appropriate pathways for our audiences. They will thank you for it, and so will the business.
So, what about after the roll-out?
We’re big advocates of keeping the learning fresh in several ways:
- Sending out reminders with key ‘just-in-time’, bite-sized reminders
- Refreshing the learning on a regular basis
- Timing initiatives with current events, to make it even more relevant and meaningful for your learners, or having compliance themes each year, depending on what’s most urgent for the business
- Having discussions within teams about what resonates, and what doesn’t. How authentic does this all feel? What are the personal challenges? Are there counter viewpoints?
The key point is: Don’t set it and forget it. Keep it alive, current, and as much a part of the flow of work as possible.
So, we know some things are not right. We know we need to fix, or start to fix, the problems we encounter. We also know that there are opportunities to harness. But how? How do we build a culture of compliance?
Check out the next article in this series: A culture of compliance, to continue exploring The Kineo view on: Compliance elearning.
If you want to know more about how we create better learning experiences for compliance-based learning, drop us a line to book a free consultation with one of our learning experts.