Rethinking Compliance Training in eLearning: Part 2

In the first part of this post, we looked at some of the problems associated with a lot of compliance training. It can be tedious, uninspiring and not particularly effective – it may satisfy a requirement to perform the infamous “sheep dip” training session, but that doesn’t mean that their behavior will change.

Faced with something like a fire, a major accident, a breach of security or a legal challenge, the fact that 99% of the employees had completed the statutory training designed to prevent such things from occurring is not an enormous comfort to anyone involved.

So how can it be done differently? Good ideas include things like getting to the point quickly, without a lot of unnecessary policy or legal background, and using real life scenarios, incorporating an engaging visual element. Games and simulations can help, as can a slightly lighter approach, provided it’s not out of keeping with the subject matter.

Above all, it’s important that the training is appropriate for the intended audience, which is why off-the-shelf courses rarely work. Each organization’s culture is different, and what works for an insurance company might not work for a furniture manufacturer.

Three examples from very different areas. The UK broadcaster, Channel 4 needed to train all its staff in risk awareness. From the company’s point of view, the aim was to ensure that they didn’t face any more expensive legal challenges or public inquiries into programs based on things like faked images, unreliable evidence or other bad journalistic practices.

Part of the problem however was that Channel 4 was, in its own words “born risky” – it had been deliberately created to be non-compliant, a kind of halfway house between the BBC and the fully commercial channels. From the 1980s onwards, it developed a reputation for fearless investigate journalism, challenging drama and alternative comedy. There was a feeling however that it had lost direction, and that many staff weren’t aware of what they should be doing.

Acteon were commissioned to produce eLearning which would address this issue. The training was essentially about to how to take risks safely – to be “risky but not reckless”. To engage learners from the start, it included short video clips of stunt performers and extreme sports fanatics, before showing the stringent safety checks and backup systems that were in place behind the scenes.

This was based on a simple lesson from the cinema – an action sequence at the start of a film is a great way of capturing the audience’s attention.

There was an emphasis on competence, not compliance – on what to do, not what to follow or accept. The questions staff were encouraged to ask before engaging in risky activities included:

  • Does it feel right?
  • What would colleagues think?
  • What would viewers think?
  • Does it comply with code of conduct?
  • Is it legal?

Examples used included large scale things like signing off a new program budget, but also more mundane activities like sending an important email, putting in a slightly inflated expenses claim or hiring a friend or relative.

The training used peer contributed content from all levels of the organization, and recognizable voices such as continuity announcers. The scenarios were all video based, but followed a standard pattern of presenting a context, and offering the learner choices before exploring the consequences

The eLearning was backed up by imaginative use of other media channels – things like messages of the day, screen savers, splash screens, wall posters, coffee mugs and coasters. As a result, the outcomes were achieved ahead of time, with 85% positive evaluation, and nearly 90% of staff reporting that they would be more likely to report conflicts of interest or other concerns.

A second example from a completely different area is Connect with Haji Kamal, part of a program designed by Cathy Moore for Kinection to help US troops engage more sympathetically with people from different cultures. The course takes learners through simple conversations in a variety of situations using a comic strip format, showing how the right choice of words can often diffuse tensions and improve the chances of co-operation towards shared goals.

Although they had initially planned to use video, budgetary and time constraints led to this novel solution, which was based on soldiers’ enthusiasm for war comics. The line drawings were based on photographs, and the scripts were taken from real life discussions in classroom courses.

The game and its accompanying facilitator guide were tested by soldiers in focus groups before more widespread deployment. 70% of the players said that they were looking forward to discussing the game in class the next day, and instructors reported that the activity “prompted the majority of the discussion” , encouraging soldiers to share and critique their own experiences.

Finally, UK retailer Mothercare needed to train all staff in a variety of health and safety issues including fire awareness, dealing with threats and hoaxes and accident prevention. Rather than adopt the usual legalistic, instruction led approach, they worked with eLearning developers at Sponge UK to produce a single 20 minute module, Staying Safe at Work. Based on a series of simple games and custom-made illustrations, the short course has proved to be an engaging learning experience for new starters, and an effective refresher for existing staff.

As Carmen Simon suggested in her interview, to be effective, any learning program must include elements of reward, emotion and motivation. Unfortunately, a lot of compliance training ignores this. The examples outlined in this post point to some ways in which eLearning can be reshaped towards fulfilling its true potential.

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