How to create an effective compliance training program

Compliance training prevents lawsuits and increases employee retention.

May 26, 2021

Article highlights

It's easy for workplace compliance training to get lost in the process of regular onboarding. There's the training and orientation for all new employees about things like parking, vacation requests, sick days, using the business software, and so on.

Your company policies and sometimes even government regulations require compliance training to take place within a certain time period of a new employees start, but that can easily fall by the wayside once things get started and the employee finds themselves swept up in the normal day to day work of the office.

Another issue is just finding time to do regular compliance training for the existing employees who have been there for a while. Everyone is busy, they have a lot of work and meetings, and there's barely enough time to get their real work done, let alone find a way to carve out a few days for compliance training seminars.

And when you do manage to schedule it, employees may often tune it out or skip over it, because they think they already know the material. It's especially a problem if they have sat through the training in the past. They wonder why it's necessary to repeat the same material, year after year.

Part of the problem may be that the material is presented in a way that isn't very engaging or interesting. The training ends up just being a recitation of rules and regulations, and they're not very interesting or engaging. (If you've ever had anyone read presentation slides full of text out loud to you, you understand why this kind of presentation isn't interesting. At all.)

This kind of training may meet the dictionary definition of "training," and it may even meet the required training hours, but if it's not effective in the first place, your employees may be ignorant of several compliance issues. And you won't even know it's a problem until an employee commits a major violation and the organization finds itself embroiled in a lawsuit, facing huge regulatory fines, or even the loss of accreditation.

For example, the U.S. government has fined Big Pharma companies $33 billion over 13 years, between 2003–2016. Similarly, U.S. banks were fined $11.11 billion in 2020 alone.

But you can reduce your risk of fines, as well as save your organization money with regular, ongoing compliance training. In another article, we pointed out that one study showed that for every $1 an organization paid for compliance training, they decreased damages, settlements, and fines by $1.37.

Effective compliance training not only instills the importance of training in your employees, it can show them how those compliance issues apply to them and their work.

Here are a few ideas for creating an effective compliance training program:

Creating your compliance training program

Whether you're creating an in-person, scheduled compliance training system or you're building online compliance training programs, there are a few features that every program should have so it's more than just the teacher from Ferris Bueller reading from a slide deck that everyone else can already see.

If that's all your training program has been in the past, then there are some things you can do so that people will enjoy it, or at least get something out of it instead of ignoring and resenting it.

Make it personal

A lot of compliance training content focuses on being preventative, often turning into a list of "Thou Shalt Nots" that don't seem to apply to people in the organization. They're too theoretical and could apply to anyone or, they're not specific enough to fit what the employees are doing themselves.

This may make the employees think your ethics and compliance training are less important than your other training. For example, they know they have to use their computers every day, so their computer training is very important. But they may never have encountered an issue with harassment or bullying, or believe they can have a conflict of interest or an ethical issue, so they tend not to focus on that part of the training.

So your compliance training needs to use real-world scenarios and examples. For example, if your training content is originally geared toward people who work in an office, but you're part of a healthcare organization, people may not make the connection between the examples and content and their own situations.

Your content should stick to the actual issues your organization faces, and discuss the "why" behind the compliance issues you're trying to teach.

So it may be time-consuming on the training staff's end, but you may want to create personalized training content to fit your company's own needs and requirements. Pre-purchased training videos and content may seem easier, but your employees may find them boring since the situations often don't relate to them. Everything you saved in time can be lost when someone violates the very regulations and practices they were supposed to learn.

Creating your own content or adding some personalized material to pre-packaged content can teach your staff why these issues are important to your organization.

Make it interesting

People will forget information they read on a PowerPoint slide, or worse, when that information is read to them. But they're more likely to remember the information if it's presented more creatively, or uses other techniques beside rote reading.

Tell a story, for example. We've been telling stories for more than 5,000 years now, and that's how knowledge used to be passed down from generation to generation. We're pre-wired for it, so use case studies or hypothetical stories to reinforce knowledge.

Throw in some jokes. People also remember things more easily if you can reinforce the information with humor. Use charts and visual aids as well. Sometimes, a picture really is worth a thousand words.

And if you're doing your compliance training online, you want to make sure your visuals are more than just recordings of lectures, since those are just as boring as the individual reading the slides. Only now, people can watch it over and over.

Make it understandable

If you want people to follow the rules, they need to be able to understand them. So make sure your training content is simple, direct, and easy to understand. Don't overload people with too much information, and avoid technical jargon and data that employees may not understand. It may not be a problem for existing employees who have been there for a while, but the new employees may have so much trouble keeping up with the terminology that they don't process the important information.

Also, make sure you appeal to different learning styles so employees can easily understand and process what you're telling them. This may mean using a combination of written, audio, and video content. You may even want to add some discussion questions and role playing.

Make it accessible

Trying to find a time that everyone can get into the same classroom at the same time can be quite a problem. It's especially an issue if you have employees who work in the field or work remotely. 

Not to mention you'll have people who are out sick, and they miss the one and only training opportunity. Plus, a day-long training can eat into valuable work time. Everyone is already busy enough at it is, so you don't want to lose those valuable hours. Plus, you may even need to pay overtime to either have shifts covered or to accommodate the training schedules.

This is where online compliance training programs can save you so many scheduling and payroll headaches. Online compliance training lets people do their training on their own time, to fit in their own schedules, and at their own pace. Rather than gathering in a classroom when it's the least inconvenient for the greatest number of people, they can just log into the secure training software platform from any device. They can watch videos, read materials, and take online assessments.

Not to mention, the compliance training software can even help you to easily track their training and assessments. You can also send automatic reminders to people who haven't completed their training. And you can share all these detailed training records with the accreditation and compliance professionals who handle your certifications and licensing.

Make it ongoing

Compliance training shouldn't be a one-time process, or even a once-a-year event. And the easiest way to reduce everyone's workload and to avoid that all-day-for-two-days training is to spread the training sessions throughout the year and make it an ongoing event.

For one things, laws and regulations change, and you would hate to have to have a law or regulation change the month after you completed your annual training. Employees need to be aware of the changes that happen, and ongoing training is the best place to address that.

People also need to be regularly reminded of policies, procedures, and best practices. They can slip into bad habits or forget those proper procedures if they're not reminded on a regular basis.

You can't expect people to retain the necessary information if they only hear about compliance issues when they're first hired It's hard enough to remember things that are discussed once a year, let alone expecting people to remember it five years later. People need regular training and follow-through in order to stay knowledgeable about compliance issues.

A compliance training program should be part of your regular retraining and development efforts. You could do it quarterly, bi-annually, or even annually depending on your organization. (We still recommend making it ongoing whenever possible though.)

How software can improve your compliance training program

A good compliance program helps your company follow laws, reduce your liability risks, and operate more effectively. To do this, you need a compliance training program that is interesting, personalized, that is accessible from anywhere, and done on a regular basis.

PowerDMS' training program brings policy management, training management, and accreditation into a single platform. It helps HR and training professionals manage all three of these areas to ensure their meeting all compliance requirements.

If you're interested in learning more about how it works, you can read more about what is compliance management and why it matters to you.

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