Compliance training in a conference room.
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November 28, 2017
    Article highlights
  • What is compliance training?
  • Benefits of compliance training.
  • How to create an effective compliance training program.

Corporate and regulatory compliance may not be the most exciting business concepts, but your company cannot run without some level of compliance.

Corporate compliance enables your organization to operate safely and efficiently, and regulatory compliance ensures that your workplace follows laws and regulations.

In order to improve compliance, your organization must offer compliance training to help employees understand rules and regulations.

However, with all the different aspects of operations and training, it’s easy for compliance training to get overlooked or rushed through.

But ethics and compliance training is important, and it’s been shown to be a worthwhile business practice. As the Association of Corporate Counsel points out:

An organization’s commitment to its compliance program and training plan can yield economic benefits. One study found that for every dollar allocated to an organization’s compliance budget, on average, “damages, settlements, and fines [decreased] by $1.37.”

Another found that organizations investing an above-average amount on training were projected to have returned an average of 45% more than the S&P 500 index.

Effective ethics and compliance training are more than just formalities in the onboarding process. Workplace compliance training should be ongoing, keeping employees updated on new regulations and policies.

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What Is Compliance Training?

Compliance training is the process of making sure employees understand all the relevant laws, regulations, and internal policies and know how to adhere to them in their daily work.

The training walks employees through examples of how issues of ethics and compliance apply to their roles in the workplace.

Good compliance training helps employees flourish. They know their responsibilities and boundaries and can work productively with less supervision.

Compliance training is different than other training

Compliance training is different than general training covering job functions and operations – such as how to work the company computer system or file a report. Rather, it covers a broad spectrum of topics and rules.

The topics will include broad business and employment laws, industry-specific regulations, and the principles and policies of the organization itself. It may include discussions of legal and ethical issues as well as company values and operating philosophies.

Compliance training should be compulsory and ongoing. But done well, it’s an opportunity to lay the groundwork for a healthy workplace culture, discuss issues, and proactively address potential problems before they arise.

Compliance issues that require training

The exact issues covered in compliance training will differ between companies.

Some industries, such as healthcare, are more highly regulated and risky than others, and therefore will require more training on things such as HIPAA regulations.

Topics organizations may cover in compliance training include:

  • Federal and state laws
  • Company SOPs and policies
  • Code of conduct
  • Data privacy and security
  • Fraud detection and prevention (anti-money laundering, anti-bribery, etc.)
  • Business ethics (gift policy, conflicts of interest,
  • Discrimination
  • Sexual harassment
  • OSHA regulations and workplace safety
  • Workplace violence
  • Risk management
  • Workplace substance abuse
  • Workplace violence
  • Diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace

Compliance training may vary between departments, as well. For example, companies may require employees in the finance department to do more intensive training on fraud prevention than employees in the production department.

Employees look together at compliance training.

Benefits of Compliance Training

The consequences of noncompliance can be detrimental to a business. Compliance and ethics violations can result in major fines, drops in revenue, and damage to the company’s reputation.

It’s not enough to simply provide employees with a list of the rules they need to follow. Compliance needs to be built into the corporate culture. Workplace compliance training helps make this happen.

Usually, employees don’t break the law intentionally. Many lapses in compliance occur because the employee doesn’t know about a rule or doesn’t understand how it applies to their work.

Compliance and ethics training help employees understand how to stay in compliance. It helps them know how to identify and report any compliance violations they witness. And they can help spot potential compliance issues before a violation occurs.

All of this helps the company as a whole stay in compliance by making sure everyone takes responsibility for compliance. When everyone understands the expectations and standards, the organization can operate at an optimal level.

If a compliance issue does arise, training records demonstrate that the company trained employees about regulations and took steps to maintain compliance. This can help decrease the company’s liability.

If, for example, an employee got injured at work, compliance training records would help demonstrate that the company took every reasonable step to maintain a safe working environment and train employees in safety procedures.

This could help protect the company if the employee tried to bring a lawsuit against the organization.

How to Create an Effective Compliance Training Program

It’s easy for workplace compliance training to get lost in the mix of standard onboarding training or annual retraining. Employees may tune it out or skip over it, thinking they already know the content so they don’t really need to pay attention.

Often, this is because the content is presented in a way that simply gives employees a rundown of rules and regulations without really engaging them.

This method of training may meet the minimum required training hours, but it can leave employees ignorant of important compliance issues.

Effective compliance training instills in employees the importance of compliance and shows them how compliance issues apply to them. Here are a few ideas for creating an effective compliance training program:

Make it personal

Much of compliance training is preventative, and some topics may seem simply theoretical to employees.

This can prompt some employees to view ethics and compliance training as less important than other training. They use computer systems every day, for example, but they may never have encountered an issue with harassment or a conflict of interest.

Therefore, it’s important for compliance training to use real-world scenarios and examples. It should tie into the actual issues the company faces and speak to the “why” behind compliance.

A good way to do this is to personalize training content to fit your company’s needs. Employees may find pre-purchased training videos or content boring since it doesn’t seem to relate to them.

But creating your own content or adding a few personalized sections to the pre-packaged content can help show your employees why the issues matter for your organization.

Make it interesting

Employees will quickly forget rote information they read on a PowerPoint slide. But they are more likely to remember information when it’s presented with some more creative elements.

Tell a story. Throw in some jokes. Use charts and visual aids. If your company is conducting online compliance training, make sure your visuals are more than just tapes of lectures.

All of this helps employees engage with the content and understand how it applies to them. Maybe they will relate to a character in a story, or remember a joke (and the concept behind it), or grasp the importance of compliance through the help of a graph.

Employees attending a compliance training course using PowerDMS.

Make it understandable

In order to follow the rules, employees need to be able to understand them.

Make sure your compliance training content is easy to comprehend. Try not to overload employees with too much information. Avoid technical data or jargon that employees may not understand.

Also, try to accommodate different learning styles to make sure employees can easily digest the information. This may mean using a variety of written content, audio and video content, and other visuals.

Make it accessible

Coordinating schedules to get everyone in a classroom can be quite a headache. Employees could be out sick and miss the training. Pulling them into a classroom can eat into valuable work hours. You may even have to pay overtime for someone to cover shifts while you do training.

Conducting compliance training online can be an effective solution to these issues.

Online compliance training lets employees do training on their own time and at their own pace. Instead of gathering in a classroom, they can simply log in to the secure training software platform from any device.

A training management software lets you easily track training, sent automatic reminders to employees who haven’t completed training, and keep detailed training records.

Make it ongoing

Compliance training shouldn’t be a one-time thing. Laws and regulations change, and employees need to be aware of those changes.

Even when regulations don’t change, employees need to be reminded of policies, procedures, and best practices. It can be easy for employees to forget proper procedures or slip into bad habits.

There is no reasonable expectation of retention if an employee only hears about compliance issues when they are first hired. They need regular training and follow-through during their career to remain aware of compliance issues.

Compliance training should be part of regular retraining. You may wish to conduct it quarterly, twice a year, or annually, depending on the needs of your organization.

Good workplace compliance training helps your company follow laws, reduce liability risks, and operate effectively.

As you seek to train your employees in compliance, make sure to create personalized, interesting training content, make training accessible, and offer regular compliance training.

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