To Engage Learners, Focus Compliance Training on Outcomes

What is the point of your compliance training? The answer is not obvious; in fact, in too many companies, the real answer is “to reduce liability” or “to meet legal requirements.” Those goals do not, for the most part, translate to compelling compliance training that changes employee behavior or improves performance.

Dan Belhassen, founder and president of Neovation, characterizes this type of compliance training as “responsibility transfer” training. Instead, he said, compliance training should emphasize outcomes and ensure that learners’ time and prior knowledge are respected.

Responsibility transfer

“We think a lot of compliance training now is about responsibility transfer, where the real mission is to have the learner acknowledge that they have completed the module,” Belhassen said. “You’re essentially transferring responsibility to the learner, so the learner says that they know not to harass their co-workers or how to avoid money laundering or fraud or whatever the compliance topic is.”

Training that is measured by tracking how many employees have completed it—rather than tracking changes in performance-based metrics—falls into this category. As does any eLearning module that asks learners to indicate that they have “read and understood the content.”

Responsibility-transfer training focuses on delivering information and doing a perfunctory check—those super-easy quizzes that no one fails—and documenting that employees have completed it.

“There’s a problem with quizzes,” Belhassen said: If learners fail, designers face a conundrum. “Do you have them take the course again, which just means you’re going to have to do a whole lot more chasing of the learners? Or do you try to get them to go back to a certain area of the course, which ends up being really awkward for the learner?” He noted, “What we see a lot of organizations do is they simply, over time, start having non-failable exams at the end of their modules—so pretty much all the learners pass. From their organization’s perspective it’s a win: Look at all these learners that have completed the training!”

“The problem with all that is that sometimes you actually want the learners to learn the material,” Belhassen said. And exposure to information does not automatically translate to learning.

Outcome achievement

That’s why Belhassen advocates training design that focuses on learner retention or improving performance. This moves training from “responsibility transfer” to what he calls the “outcome achievement” realm.

While there is often a need to deliver massive amounts of information, that should not be the only objective. Once information is presented to learners, it should be reinforced—and they should be offered opportunities to apply it and test their learning before they are placed in actual work situations that demand that knowledge.

Or reinforcement could be delivered in the workflow. Belhassen’s favored approach is continuous delivery of microlearning, rather than annual training courses. He also offers learners the opportunity to “test out of” material they already know and presents them with new and relevant content and training that reinforces their weak spots. The training offers optional material as performance support and includes “the most important part”—practice exercises.

“That would be activities that the learner completes in order to demonstrate their knowledge—but they don’t need to know the material ahead of time,” Belhassen said. “There’s so much that people can learn just by actually exercising their knowledge about how they would solve a problem or solve a scenario or what is the right way to handle a situation.”

His approach is based on “a lot of great science”—and extensive user testing and feedback. “We know from our statistics that when learners are wrong, that’s when they read the actual explanatory material,” he said. “They don’t read it when they’re right. They just skip on. But when they’re wrong, they’ll sit there and they’ll read it. And that’s exactly the kind of engagement that we want because we want the learners to feel like their time is being respected—and that their prior knowledge is being recognized as well.”

The eLearning Guild’s white paper, Creating Compliance Training Learners Will Love, describes additional ways to enliven your compliance training—and other eLearning as well. And don’t miss the Compliance Training Summit, November 14 & 15, 2018; registration ends soon!

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