Let’s be honest, the best compliment any worker has ever given to compliance training was probably along the lines of: “That wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”

Perhaps it could be likened to having an injection in your arm:

Doctor: “All finished”

Patient: “That wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it would be”

Doctor: “Ooh, would you like another one then?”

Patient: “Erm… No.”

But the problem is that in order for an organisation to fulfil its regulatory obligations, we (most often L&D) do need to influence the way that workers operate – and that usually means within the bounds of compliance.

Here are 5 tips that, when combined, can truly engage employees in a scalable way that will increase your chances of achieving compliance and take the pain away for your patients, I mean workers!

1. Don’t create a course…

Create resources instead. A lot of the time, workers don’t need education, they need guidance. The ‘course’ is not – and has never been – the most effective way of influencing people at work. Learning from what peers know and do has always been more effective (and efficient) and now it could be said that Google influences workers far more than L&D ever could. Digital resources, such as short videos of internal experts, articles, blogs, interviews and news items can be created (or curated) and assigned in next to no time at all. You can still track activity, progress and completion but with the additional benefit of easily keeping the content up-to-date.

2. Make it real

Compliance happens in the real world and non-compliance can be interesting – and usually quite messy. Sterilising the issues with scenarios inside e-learning modules removes all the interesting stuff. Instead of this, link to actual news reporting and explore what it would mean for workers to avoid the pitfalls experienced in those stories. Curate news items into short resources, prefixed with why it’s important and followed with tips on how to avoid that news scenario happening in their company. Or better still…

3. Link it to the actual job you want to influence

Understand how the compliance topic affects the way different employee groups should be thinking about and doing their jobs. This can be expensive and time-consuming to do with e-learning but resources can be created in just a few minutes and tailored to distinct employee groups, distinguished by level, job family and maturity. You can also embed compliance into other resources that help workers to learn new parts of their job – no longer isolating compliance outside of the work. It’s much more interesting – and useful – with context.

4. Be absolutely clear on what you need to measure and report on

Correctly answering facile quiz questions is no measure of understanding. Much of the time, quiz results are simply indicators of common sense and good judgement rather than ‘learning’. But by fully understanding what needs to be measured in order to demonstrate individual and organisational compliance, you can get the box ticked and efficiently influence the way that work is done. Create assessment measures by all means but don’t ask ‘how many questions do workers need to answer to be compliant?’ Instead, ask ‘what do we absolutely need to do in order to demonstrate compliance?’ and then work on stuff that really works, for example…

5. Run compliance campaigns

Compliance training once a year with e-learning – that workers dislike and actively resist – is no more closely linked to actual compliance than me watching Superman once a year and believing I can fly. By leading with resources rather than courses, by not isolating compliance away from the work itself, by linking it to news and to roles workers actually have you will have the time, freedom and inclination to run regular campaigns that maintain awareness of compliance issues and engage workers continuously.

What this looks like in practice

Imagine you were doing all of the above for Cyber-Security in your company (a hot topic for most companies today). There are news items and feature articles published every day, so you could pick a news item to curate, one that links to what some workers – or all – are working on in your organisation. Curate a resource that starts with why this is important to them and your company (just a few words). Add the news item itself and then follow up with advice from your Cyber-Security team on what was remiss and how workers (your target audience for this resource) can prevent this happening themselves. Challenge your workers to act immediately and share their experience of what works for them in a comments section – and follow up again with another resource in a month:

Resource creation / curation in 3 simple steps

The resource described above could take 10 minutes to build and just a couple of minutes to share. It’s real. It’s in real time. And, as part of a campaign, it could make a real difference.

You can also include short videos of internal stakeholders in your resources. Have them explain the topic, what it means for your company and consequences of non-compliance. And treat your employees like adults because you and I don’t search for 30 minute animated, gamified e-learning courses when we’re seeking guidance and advice online. We look for relevant and credible news and feature articles, videos and blogs.

So, let’s stop making compliance training a pain – and little more than a tick-box exercise – because it is quicker, easier and cheaper to make it much more than that.


David James is Chief Learning Strategist with Looop and a seasoned Talent Management, Learning & OD leader with nearly 20 years of experience in the field. Until recently, David was Director of Talent, Learning & OD for The Walt Disney Company’s EMEA region.

Looop help their clients all over the world to digitally transform their L&D and capitalise on how people really want to learn today with a platform that is renowned for its extraordinary levels of learner engagement.

See also:

Four Learning Design Principles That Impact Every Day Performance

Tips for Increasing Engagement in Online Learning

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