You are here

Staff training: can you make compliance training more engaging?

Published 13th June 2017 by Investors in People
Compliance training at work

Compliance training is essential in most organisations but has a reputation for being dull.

This does not have to be the case and in this article we’ll cover some of the ways you can liven up your compliance training to not only make it more engaging but to achieve greater results too.

Compliance training: why it is often a dry experience

  • Legislation/rule-based: legislative changes or safety requirements often underpin compliance training, and these can be both complex and technical, with a need for accuracy in reproducing the key facts and rules
  • Non-real world: compliance training is often abstracted from the real-world in order to be applicable to as many different employees as possible
  • Narrow definition of ‘right’: for insurance purposes or due to complexity of the material compliance training is often very well-defined with little room for deviation. This makes it hard to customise for different audiences.
  • Employee perceptions: unfortunately many employees see compliance training as a box-ticking exercise and a necessary evil rather than a value-add activity for greater productivity and success

Compliance training: 5 ways to make it more engaging

Take time to know your audience

This is crucial. Who are your trainees? How long have they been with the company? What are their pain points? What do they specifically need to know? What other training have they been on? This helps with a range of areas in making the training more engaging:

  • It allows you to build scenarios relevant to your trainees’ daily lives
  • You can design quizzes that are suited to the trainees’ skill and seniority levels
  • You can invite trainees only to sessions that are relevant: this helps you avoid forcing established employees to sit through the whole compliance training when it may be only the ‘latest updates’ section that is relevant to them
  • You’re able to identify potential subject matter experts or champions in advance: these people can take a more active role in the training and also help embed the learning post-training

Get people to make decisions with consequences

Don’t instruct people on the right answers and, if you do go down the multiple choice route, don’t make the answers obvious to encourage a high pass rate.

Many employees see compliance training as a box-ticking exercise and a necessary evil rather than a value-add activity for greater wellbeing, productivity and success.

When presented with tough choices, people are more likely to engage their brains to follow each option to its natural conclusion, which is far more engaging than being a passive absorber of the ‘right answer.’

Use stories to illustrate and bring to life the material

The story format has survived for thousands of years because it is extremely easy to follow, remember and understand. Abstract training is much harder to follow and keep ‘loaded’ in the brain and is harder to engage with for longer periods of time.

When developing stories, make sure they are as true to life as possible and involve scenarios not only from the company itself, but from the working patterns of individuals who are on the training.

You can pick people out and give an example of how the right decision - based on the training - avoids a negative outcome. But don’t focus exclusively on the negative: outline how the person can add value to the organisation.

Mix up the learning methods and break up the training

Blended learning will not only provide variety and mitigate against information overload but will also suit a broader audience with a range of learning styles.

Compliance training often lends itself towards ‘lecture-style’ training but combining scenario-planning, quizzes, role-play and bite-sized elearning can help deliver a more engaging experience.

At the same time, leave time for reflection and recuperation between sessions. Do not rush training and do not try to cram in information. Just because your trainees have the information, it doesn’t mean they have been ‘trained.’

Reflection is an essential part of the learning experience to mitigate against the forgetting curve but also so that trainees can take the information learned and apply it to their own personal circumstances. This turns the abstract into the concrete.

Meanwhile, recuperation between sessions is important because information overload prevents information being retained.

The story format has survived for thousands of years because it is extremely easy to follow, remember and understand.

Force them to make mistakes

This is a controversial one but there is evidence it works. It’s a fact of life that negative experiences are remembered more acutely than positive ones and are therefore more engaging and more likely to result in behavioural change.

Neuroscientist Dr Itiel Dror uses this technique when training medical students on spotting sepsis in patients. Sepsis is hard to diagnose because its symptoms - like low blood pressure and difficulty breathing - are common to other conditions. A misdiagnosis is dangerous because sepsis needs to be spotted early. This problem is compounded because sepsis is rare: a doctor might encounter it twice in their career.

Traditionally, students would be told they’re going into sepsis training and thus would be primed to spot the signs. Dr Dror removed the priming element and instead told them the patient had low blood pressure and to diagnose the condition based on the symptoms. Most then ‘killed’ the patient through late diagnosis. That tends to leave a lasting impression, which is very useful: it might be 15 years after the sepsis training when they encounter the condition.

Can you replicate this effect in your own compliance training? It won’t always be appropriate, of course.

Have you developed any methods to make your compliance training more engaging?