Want Compliance Training That Works? Let Your Workers Design It.

Architects and worker discussing over blueprint at quarry against clear sky

When I tell strangers at parties that my company develops training programs, they’ll often start talking about some terribly designed sexual harassment or safety course that their employer forced them to take.  And while I’ll quickly try to explain how our company doesn’t create that kind of training, those people have a point: most compliance training is embarrassingly bad, instructionally ineffective and only exists so the organization can say “We told our employees not to do that” should a team member’s actions result in a lawsuit.  

Granted, some degree of “told you so” compliance training is necessary to shield organizations from liability and regulatory fines.  But is there a better way to deliver compliance training than having workers click through slide after slide of legal disclaimers then answer insultingly basic true/false questions?   Can compliance training actually change behavior and prevent fines and lawsuits in the first place?

While it might not be appropriate for every situation, we encourage organizations to try having workers conduct a simplified version of the “job risk analysis” that HR, legal and safety professionals would perform when designing compliance training.   While they might not know enough about the job and working environment to anticipate all of the risks, the more people can discover for themselves, the more likely they are to retain and internalize it.

As part of onboarding, you can include an activity where participants:

  • Assess risks in job performance: What health, legal, safety and/or environmental risks are inherent in performing the job?  For example “If we are giving people investment advice, what things could we say, do or fail to say/do that might make a customer feel we wronged them?”  Or, “What might be a sign that we should refer a crisis hotline caller to a hospital for psychiatric treatment?”

  • Identify risks in the environment: Some jobs, like providing healthcare in conflict zones or repairing power lines in wilderness areas, require workers to be constantly alert to physical dangers.  Meanwhile, even office jobs can pose legal, security or physical risks, such as discrimination lawsuits and cybersecurity breaches. Have participants think about where they will be working and who they’ll be working with, and identify potential sources of trouble.

  • Introduce organizational policies and regulations after they’ve thought about the risks for themselves: As mentioned before, your workers aren’t going to identify every risk, and there will usually be a legal or ethical obligation to deliver a comprehensive set of carefully worded warnings and guidelines.  

    However, if you give people a chance to think critically about these issues before reading through the complete list,  learners will be more interested and appreciative of what you have to say.

If you are interested in developing more engaging compliance training, feel free to contact Sonata Learning for a consultation.


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