Compliance Training – Is There a Smarter Way to Do It?

With increasing regulation and complexity, compliance training is something that many companies must conduct. While the intention of regulators and compliance enforcers may be good, the practice needs improvement. The usual ways of doing the training don’t produce value beyond ticking a few boxes. Employees generally dislike it, and real learning is a rare occurrence – it’s just a matter of getting it over with in the least amount of time possible!

But does this work? Sure, as long as you get to your “completions” and “passes”, you can show that you’ve covered your own behind. But wouldn’t there be value in educating people in a proactive way, that perhaps could reduce risky behaviour in the first place? Or if that sounds alien, how about not having to force employees sit through the same material year after year? Let’s explore two small things we could do to make compliance training work just a little bit better.

Proving knowledge through mastery vs. a few correctly guessed questions

Arguably, the usual ways of conducting compliance training have very little actual learning value. The compliance training just acts as a tool to shift blame; you’ve “trained” the individual, so you can wash your hands off. Yet, the actual risks are of committing harmful acts are not necessarily materially reduced and do still realise. And as an organisation you’ll be on the hook – both financially and reputationally. Wouldn’t it make sense to be bit more proactive and try to reduce risky behaviours through learning in the first place?

Another problem is that the way compliance training is often assessed is quite limited. You’ll have your course, followed by a test that pulls its questions from a larger question bank. So even with a 100% score, there’s still a lot that they could potentially not know. Additionally, it’s perhaps worth realising that many learners just skip through the material and guess answers until getting a passing mark.

So, what if the learners actually learned the concepts and proved it through a mastery-based approach? In a mastery-based approach, you’re essentially testing everything, from multiple angles and at different points in time. Learners reach mastery when they can consistently answer correctly and confidently, without guessing or cheating, which can be detected by algorithms. At that point, you can also be fairly confident that they’ve learned what they had to.

In practice, such an approach doesn’t have to be a burdensome one either. By switching some of the focus from content to testing and instant feedback, you can keep the time investment required also in check. Furthermore, the learners can keep developing their mastery in short bursts over time, instead of having to spend a lot of time at once. Consequently, this also improves the learning results.

Enabling employees to test out of material

Even if you don’t buy the value of a more proactive approach just yet, you’ll probably agree that the time spent on compliance training is time away from productive work. Naturally, we’ll want to keep that time to a minimum.

As mentioned, we often tend to build compliance training in a way in which learners go through material and then test themselves. However, this kind of approach wastes a lot of time. It doesn’t really take into account learners’ existing knowledge, and forces them through mundane tasks. Consequently, the learners will look for ways to minimise their time investment, and start skipping through. Hence, it’s easy for updates and revisions go unnoticed, no one simply engages.

So, at the very least, it would probably make sense to do this the other way around. Why not test the learners before letting them into the material? If they score high enough, exempt them from the compliance training altogether – they already know the stuff. This saves their time – time which makes you money.

Final words

All in all, the usual ways of doing compliance training are not particularly smart. If we want to see real learning impact, we have to move away from the prevalent tick-the-box culture. Different mastery-based approaches or even downright getting practical by eliminating useless training could be steps towards the better. If you’d like to explore those steps further and find better ways of doing things, feel free to initiate a discussion with us. We rarely do anything related to compliance training for the sheer lack of imagination and ambition the field pertains, but we do entertain interesting ideas.

More Learning Ideas