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8 best practices that rethink compliance training and communications

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As long as there have been ethics and compliance programs, training has been an integral part of them. Boards, CEOs, regulators, and even employees expect it. Vendors provide it. Achieving it can be a condition for a bonus or a raise. Also, the US Department of Justice frequently calls for enhanced compliance training programs as part of criminal settlements of companies accused of wrongdoing.

But is training really the right approach to change employee behavior? What are the best practices to make an impact? And most importantly, what does effective E&C training look like and how do you know it works?

The results are now available in a new white paper. Effective employee education: training and communication for today’s world of work. The most important principle that emerged from these working group discussions was that the focus should be on the learner, not the content. In other words, it’s time to shift our focus from training and communication to learning and engagement. 

8 best practices to rethink compliance training and communication

Below are the main best practices identified in the white paper (You can read the full text here). The group consulted with experts in instructional design. This expert provided detailed advice to companies looking to increase effectiveness and better design their curriculum and training content in-house.

Gain executive buy-in for ethics and compliance training

Training is all about mitigating risks by educating employees about ethics and compliance risks and how to address them. Data from surveys and hotlines, metrics from training platforms that show which topics are the most difficult, and other internal sources of insight help make the case for training. Also, close attention should be paid to the risks facing the company in determining which topics to address. This field can change rapidly, as the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have shown. A risk-focused approach can more resonate with business leaders and meet the DOJ’s focus on effective risk mitigation.

How you train is just as important as what your compliance training is

Many training programs focus too much on classroom training. But Creative Leadership Center (CCL) promotes the 70-20-10 learning principle. 70% challenging experiences and challenges, 20% development relationships (mentoring and coaching), 10% coursework and training. 

Leverage best practices and research in designing E&C training

Using new modalities and best practices in compliance training requires careful consideration, as described in the Instructional Design Principles section. For example, in gamification, the idea is that turning learning opportunities into reward-based interactive experiences, or friendly competition with peers, automatically makes learning opportunities more engaging and impactful. For gamification to truly drive learning experiences rather than flash-in-the-pan entertainment, it must incorporate sound game theory and current game design principles. All of these required a certain range of skills and expertise. 

Make E&C training learner-centric by making it more accessible and relevant

As documented in the 2022 Ethics and Compliance Program Effectiveness Report, top-performing companies emphasize making training relevant, engaging, and real-time when it comes to learning. Leveraging a “just-in-time” training methodology is more likely to resonate and make an impact than an in-depth course taken months ago. For example, consider incorporating customized, relevant information into the short bursts that appear on an employee’s phone when her company’s systems are triggered.

Introducing adult learning theory into compliance training

To be most effective, an ethics and compliance training program should be structured for the target audience at hand. in this way, adult learning theory Participation in a compliance training program is key to ensuring an effective curriculum that delivers results. Adult learning theory suggests that adults learn best through any combination of: Transformative, self-directed, and/or experiential learning.

  • Transformative learning changes students in meaningful ways, often changing the way students think and perceive things (e.g. anti-bias training).
  • Self-directed learning emphasizes informal, often collaborative learning experiences that take place outside of traditional classroom settings (eg, project-based learning).
  • Experiential learning (such as role-playing or simulation) that allows students to learn by doing and experiencing.

Engage learners through ethics and compliance training

Engaging learners and meeting them where they are is just as important. Compliance training that repeats the same message to the point of exhaustion or preaches rather than helps participants is similarly ineffective because it fails to engage learners. Instead, his E&C training, conveniently delivered in an interesting way, can improve employee engagement. Additionally, training that uses realistic and relevant examples that reflect employee experiences in the workplace connects learners and more likely to be remembered.

Develop a sound communication strategy to support E&C training

In 2022, World’s Most Ethical Companies increasingly, communication and training are treated as mutually reinforcing elements of a successful compliance program, rather than as separate activities. Designing and implementing the communication campaign itself takes time. Incorporating training communication as an afterthought severely limits its effectiveness. Working with your communications department can be very helpful in spreading awareness and driving engagement with your training E&C program and its key messages.

Measure available compliance training data

An exciting development in the E&C space is the increasing focus on data analytics to inform the work of E&C teams. You may question how effective the online training itself is, but it certainly produces data you can analyze. Integrating data points from users into comprehensive dashboards is one example of the insights that a training platform can provide. Ethisphere’s BELA working group used several key data metrics, including in-course click metrics, increased use of feature-specific training, completion data, test outs, and data correlation.

Important point

Training remains a key component of an effective E&C program, and companies spend millions of dollars developing, purchasing, and providing employee training to promote ethical behavior. However, the BELA discussion and the unifying principles in the LRN research and data suggest that shifting the focus of training towards the learner, rather than imposing content, makes training of all kinds more effective and effective. That’s it. Download a copy of the white paper for more information on these eight best practices.

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