We host a number of informative webinars at Vector Solutions to try to help people with common workplace performance problems. There's a list of recorded, on-demand webinars and upcoming, live webinars at our Webinars webpage.
In this article, we're going to review some of the key points from our recent Create Better Compliance Training webinar. You can listen to that webinar by clicking the link below:
Recorded, On-Demand Webinar: Create Better Compliance Training
(Vector Solutions Industrial and Vector Solutions AEC, webinar presenter Jeff Dalto, January, 2022)
We began with a brief introduction to some basics about compliance and compliance training, which we’ll briefly address below.
We started the compliance training webinar by asking our attendees how much of the total training that their organization delivered and assigned was compliance-based training.
I admit I was surprised that the percentage of compliance-based training was so high. I know compliance training is a necessity and a “big thing,” but still didn’t anticipate it would be quite this high. Although perhaps when you hold a webinar on compliance training, that skews the attendees to a group that conducts more compliance training. Either way, the poll was interesting and certainly underscored the importance of compliance training in organizations.
We then moved on to list a set of basic assumptions about compliance and compliance training that would serve as a framework or foundation for what we’d discuss in the rest of the webinar. These assumptions are:
With those set of assumptions stated, we went on to give credit where credit is due. To prepare for this webinar, we read several books and did some additional crowd-sourcing through our professional networks as well. One of the best sources we found, and one we relied on a lot for both the webinar and for this article, was the book Fully Compliant: Compliance Training to Change Behavior by Travis Waugh (published by the ATD Press). In particular, we really relied on Waugh’s suggestions for designing compliance training to change behaviors as we’ll explain below. So, all credit to Waugh, and we do recommend people go out and buy the book and get much more information that we can provide in an hour-long webinar or in this article.
Next, we addressed the question of “What is compliance?” a little bit, and in particular, where are the types of compliance-related requirements an organization might face and the kinds of compliance training an organization might deliver to employees. In short, these included compliance requirements from regulators (such as OSHA, MSHA, DOT, etc.) but also training about an organization’s own code of conduct and the organization’s ethical training. So while regulatory compliance is a big part of compliance training, it’s not all of it.
With that addressed, we then discussed one of the major drivers of bad compliance training: which risk(s) an organization is most trying to address with their compliance training. In the broadest picture, an organization might use compliance training to mitigate two different types of risk. The first is the set of real risks faced by workers at organizations (and how those can lead to or contribute to non-compliant behaviors). The second is the risk of getting caught by a regulator or winding up in court without having provided compliance training to workers. And we admit, it’s understandable that an organization should consider both of these types of risks. But we ask you to consider if compliance training is sometimes too concerned with the risk of getting caught by regulators and does not focus enough on the risks that workers face in the work environment. We’d suggest it’s common for organizations to focus too much on the risk of getting in legal trouble (or being fined) because they didn’t provide compliance training instead of focusing on the real compliance-related issues and helping workers navigate difficult compliance challenges.
According to Waugh in his book Fully Compliant, much of the current legal landscape regarding compliance training, and in particular legal sentencing issues, originates with the US Federal Sentencing Guidelines of 1991 (although this has been amended and other laws factor in as well). Those guidelines address not only sentencing but helped establish the following seven major ways organizations should address compliance-related issues:
So it’s important not only to design better compliance training, but to strategically plan your organization’s compliance efforts so your compliance training is aligned with these other compliance activities.
During the webinar, we conducted another poll, asking how well organization’s have aligned their compliance training with these other foundations of compliance. Here are the results:
So most attendees were in the middle, with some of their compliance training well-aligned with other compliance efforts but room for improvement as well. There’s reason for optimism but also room for improvement in this aspect of compliance.
We summarized some of the most common flaws with compliance training this way:
To the point about not focusing on behaviors, one big flaw with a lot of compliance training is that it primarily focuses on delivering information to workers. Information is important, to be sure, and information can influence behaviors sometimes, but certainly information alone is not enough and compliance training that focuses entirely on “telling” workers things is likely to not attract or keep worker’s attention and is likely to be ineffective.
Given the sheer amount of compliance training that many organizations have to deliver to workers, it makes a lot of sense to at least consider partnering with a training provider for help with compliance training. In particular, a training provider can help by offering:
You’re probably familiar with elearning courses even if you don’t know them by that name. Some people refer to them as “online training” or even just “videos.” For the purposes of this article, it’s just important to know that elearning is the standard format for online training (you can read more about elearning courses here). When you’re looking for compliance training elearning courses, consider getting courses that are:
You may be less familiar with learning management systems, a software system also known as an LMS. Learning management systems are online, generally cloud-based software systems that help manage, administer, deliver, track, and report on all of your training, including both training that happens online and training that occurs offline. You can read more about learning management systems (LMS) here.
Here are a few things to consider when looking for a learning management system (LMS) to help manage your organization’s compliance training:
Because documentation of compliance training is such a key concern, the next poll in the webinar asked the live audience if their organizations are struggling with documenting their compliance training (creating completion records, storing completion records, quickly finding completion records, etc.). Here’s what they reported (no pun intended):
A learning management system excels at automating this kind of training documentation. Learn more about this in our Features to Look for in an LMS for Compliance Training article.
Time and again, instructional designers will tell you that analysis is at the heart of all effective training efforts.
If you’re not familiar with analysis, it’s the investigation into things like:
In the webinar, we suggested conducting an analysis before beginning any work on compliance training in order to:
In the webinar, we illustrate a technique for identifying risks, causes, and specific employees behaviors that elevate those risks (so that you can design training to help modify those behaviors). This is based on an example from Waugh’s Fully Compliant book, and in Waugh’s book it’s illustrated in the form of a fishbone/Ishikawa diagram. The diagram, which a training designer would create after consulting managers and employees, shows:
Organizations can use everything identified in their fishbone diagram(s) to strengthen their overall compliance programs, and they can use those worker behaviors that lead to causes and risks to begin creating targeted compliance training intended to modify those behaviors.
There are a number of things that drive behaviors at the workplace. In Waugh’s book, he identifies the following:
Waugh recommends not trying to create training to change your organization’s culture or change the actual beliefs of individual workers. And instead, he suggests focusing on changing how employees behave within specific workplace contexts or as a result of habits, and he also suggests creating compliance training that will motivate workers to both learn and behave differently on the job when training is over.
We won’t go into great detail why Waugh makes this argument, but we will note we agree with his logic and will give you a very compressed explanation below:
Before we get into this section, it’s important to introduce the theories of the Nobel-Prize winning behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman as presented in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow. We’ve got an entire article devoted to applying the lessons of Thinking, Fast and Slow to workplace performance improvement projects, but we’ll quickly summarize the relevant points below:
It’s this second system, the fast-thinking system that doesn’t require rational thought, that often kicks in when we’re faced with issues within our workplace context. And it’s things within the workplace context and our reactions to those contextual elements that we can target with compliance training to modify behaviors at work.
The automatic/system-1/fast-thinking behaviors (these can also be called rules of thumb, heuristics, or biases that Waugh calls out for particular attention with compliance training are:
Here are some tips (again, from Waugh’s book) on creating training with an eye toward how workplace context drives behaviors.
In reference to the availability bias/heuristic, considering doing this within your compliance training:
In reference to the affect bias/heuristic, consider doing the following within your compliance training:
In reference to the social influence bias/heuristic, consider the following in your compliance training:
To fully understand this next section, in which we discuss training to help workers change habits at work, it’s important to understand the three parts of a habit:
So to make that less abstract and more concrete, if I smoked cigarettes (my habit) and got stressed (cue), I’d pull out a cigarette and smoke it (routine) and feel relaxed as a result (reward). That’s it—the three parts of a habit.
So the compliance trainer’s goal here is to provide training that somehow helps the worker rewire that habit, either by changing the cue, routine, or reward. Below we’ve listed some ways to do that.
To create compliance training that modifies the cue at the beginning of a habit:
To create compliance training that helps employees change the routine after a cue:
To create compliance training that helps employees change the reward after the cue and routine of a habit:
We may not talk about this as much as we should in the world of training design, but having a learner be motivated to complete and learn from training is essential. Likewise, employees are more likely to apply that training and change behaviors on the job if they’re motivated. So our goal within compliance should be to unleash that motivation. For more on this general topic, check our articles on Daniel Pink’s book Drive and Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath.
To create compliance training that’s more likely to motivate workers to both engage with (and learn from) the training and later apply that training to change behaviors on the job, try the following in your training:
At Vector Solutions, we’ve got the extensive libraries of compliance-related elearning courses to help and learning management systems with important compliance-training-based features to help you ensure compliance at work.
Our LMS also offers tools to help you import, create, assign, and track completion of your own custom, site-specific compliance training activities that you may have made using the tips about behavior, context, habits, and motivation discussed above.
Contact us today to learn how we can help you and good luck with your compliance training efforts.