Compliance training

4th Mar 2014

Gather together any group of learning professionals, turn the subject to compliance training and you can almost guarantee a room full of moans, groans and pained faces. Whether we like it or not, compliance training is something that all of us are likely to work with to some degree. Its use may be forced on us, but we can decide the attitude we take to it and that will affect the way we treat it, which in turn is likely to impact on its benefit to our learners and the organisation.

I can only think of two ways to treat compliance training (if you have an alternative approach then let me know):

  • Treat it as a necessary evil and focus on just what has to be done
  • Treat it like any other piece of learning and try to make it genuinely useful

In my career I’ve adopted both approaches, based on the subject matter and the needs of the organisation. As a pragmatist, I think both are valid approaches, but it makes everyone’s life easier if you acknowledge up front whether your goal is to tick a box or change behaviour.

In the first case you acknowledge that you are doing the least you have to do to meet requirements. This may be because the organisation has to meet requirements set (usually) by an external authority. Or it may be the need to mitigate against the risk of prosecution or other penalty by being able to demonstrate that staff have been trained to a certain standard.

For example, some years ago I was asked to provide training for a retailer that was introducing an in store credit card. In practical terms the only thing that their staff needed to know was that they should never give advice to customers, and any queries should be responded to by directing the customer to read the explanatory leaflets provided. Did that really require training? Probably not, but using elearning (and an LMS to track it) meant that should the organisation face accusations that it had given improper advice, they could demonstrate that they had taken reasonable steps to ensure that staff were aware that they shouldn’t give advice.

On the other hand, although the initial driver may be compliance, you could decide to develop something which is genuinely likely to change behaviour, although it will still need to meet the basic requirements of compliance and risk mitigation. There are many reasons why you might go down this route, but they will vary in every organisation.

In most cases I would hope that the purpose of health and safety training should be a genuine desire to reduce the risk of injury or death to staff. In that case avoiding prosecution is a reasonable, but secondary goal.

But what about the case of having to train a financial advisor on new regulations? Should your goal to be to prove that they know the rules and encourage them to sell as much of your product as possible? Or should the intention be to ensure that customers are properly advised and never misled? This is a moral question that can only be answered in light of the culture of the organisation in question.

Irrespective of the motivation for providing the training, at its heart compliance training always has some requirement to measure and demonstrate satisfactory completion. An LMS can:

  • Record activity completion and/or scores
  • Automate notifications that training needs to be renewed
  • Reduce the administration time spent on proving compliance
About the author
Barry Samson

Barry Sampson is a consultant focusing on the use of technology to improve workplace performance. In 2009 he co-founded Onlignment, a consultancy specialising in organisational communication and learning. Previously he worked in a range of delivery and management roles in HR and Learning & Development before becoming Learning Technology Manager at B&Q where he led a number of award-winning elearning and blended learning programmes.

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