Make Learners Care about Compliance Training

Compliance training is a common use for elearning. All those policies and regulations that affect our businesses need to be trained. Unfortunately, compliance training is often just a content dump with a narrator basically reading the policy, followed by some multiple choice questions to see if learners remember what they heard 5 minutes earlier. This training can be so boring that organizations have to offer bribes (you’ll be entered in a drawing!) or threats (failure to complete this training may result in termination) to cajole employees into completing the courses.  In many cases, companies don’t even really seem to care if employees’ behavior changes due to the training. They just want to check a box that says, “we provided training” to cover themselves legally.

What if you could create compliance training that learners actually wanted to complete? What if you could create courses that did more than check a box, that actually increased the odds that employees would follow the policy? What if you could create compliance training that engaged employees so much that they would actually seek out policy information themselves, rather than just waiting for it to be spoon fed to them?

Worst Case Scenario

If you’re training food production workers on personal hygiene policies, you could simply list the rules. However, just telling people the rules isn’t always enough to convince people to follow them. Have you ever driven faster than the speed limit—even when you knew what the limit was? Instead of focusing on just the policies and regulation in abstract, engaging compliance training focuses on when employees need to follow those policies and why they matter. Start with an example of what can happen if they don’t follow the policies. In the case of food safety, it’s easy to imagine a worst case scenario with a nationwide food recall.

Fictional Headline: Nationwide Food Recall Affects Thousands

With ethics training, that worst case scenario might be a scandal that causes a company’s stock to drop. With safety training, it could be an injury. For security training, it could be a breach that results in data loss and all the ramifications from that. For any compliance training topic, there’s a consequence if the policy isn’t followed. That consequence can be your opening scenario that draws your learners into the story and gets them emotionally involved.

A great example of this technique is The Lab: Avoiding Research Misconduct. This is an interactive video you can play from the perspective of different characters. The story starts with “a very bad day,” where news reporters are interviewing a supervisor about misconduct. Right from the start, you see the consequences of poor decisions. As a learner, you get the opportunity to go back in time to see how those decisions were made and try to avert disaster.

You might not have the resources to hire actors and film scenarios in multiple locations like this, but you could still provide this kind of setup. It’s easy to mock up a newspaper headline like the one above or a fake website screenshot with trending news. If your worst case scenario would be internal, like an employee losing sales or being placed on a performance improvement plan, even a photo of an unhappy manager with voice over or text explaining the consequences can be effective.

The worst case scenario gets learners attention because it shows them why the policy or regulation matters. Instead of the compliance training being just a box to check off, it’s teaching them how to be a hero and prevent a disaster. It’s important to show these consequences and not just tell them. Simply telling people, “Failure to comply with personal hygiene policies could result in a food recall,” doesn’t have the same emotional impact as showing them a fake headline about a recall for contamination.

Starting with a worst case scenario is the “why” for a policy. In my next post, I’ll explain how to focus on the “when” in your compliance training so employees recognize situations in which the policies apply.

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