7 Ways to Modernize Your Compliance and Ethics Training Program
July 12, 2022
It’s clear that adult attention spans are not what they were 10 or 20 years ago. While they’re likely better than the proverbial eight-second goldfish, data suggests that the typical learner’s attention span dwindles after about 15 to 20 minutes. Likewise, people are overloaded with content, stress, and distractions like text and instant messaging. The pendulum has swung toward relevant content that is applicable to a learner’s role and immediate situation.
Why and relevance are critical to keeping employees engaged in training, according to Kristy Grant-Hart, a compliance and ethics consultant and CEO of Spark Compliance. “If you don’t start with why you have about 30 seconds to get somebody’s attention,” says Grant-Hart. As an international compliance consultant, she partnered with Dr. Ben Hayes, an educational psychologist with over 20 years of experience, to make compliance and ethics training resonate with adult learners.
“Adults are always all about why. They are not interested in being talked down to or being told what to do. They’re actually much more interested in why do I care about this? What’s in it for me? Immediate application is incredibly important to adults. If you don’t tell them why they’re there right up front, you’re done.”
Grant-Hart suggests always starting with why and making training relevant to an employee’s specific role. “It’s really important that people know you chose them on purpose because there’s this temptation in compliance training, especially with e-learning, to just invite everybody. They may be forced to do training but they’ll stop coming emotionally or mentally—so you have to make it something that is applicable to them.”
“So much compliance starts with let’s talk about FCPA. Let’s talk about the definition of bribery. That’s absolutely against adult learning. It should be you’re here because the gifts and hospitality policy applies to you and if you get it wrong you could be punished or fired. So I’m going to tell you how not to have those things happen…and then you go into the ethics of why gifts and hospitality can cause problems.”
Furthermore, adults do not shy away from complexity according to Grant-Hart. “One of the things that we have found is that adults really hate simple. They like to be taught with complexity and I think that a lot of times compliance fights that because they want correct answers.” It’s important to guide people in their ethical way of thinking so that when they are confronted with real-life complex or difficult situations, they have an ethical toolbox to guide their words and actions.
Future-Forward Training: 7 key elements
While the goal of training is to influence or change behavior, only one in 10 employees who have participated in ethics and compliance training strongly agree that they learned something that has changed how they do their work according to Gallup data. As training tactics progress, they are going beyond real-life scenarios to in-the-moment training. Immediacy is taking center stage and can be accomplished by blending adult learning theories with technology advancements.
Here are 7 ways to improve training and program effectiveness:
Start with why:Simon Sinek is right. Why matters. Employees value transparency and there’s nothing more transparent than telling someone from the start why a particular training is relevant to them and worthy of their time. Starting with why gains buy-in from the get-go and helps focus attention for more memorable learning. It’s also the most efficient way to train because it forces curriculum and communications to be concise, relevant, and brief.
Think in the moment and in context: Concepts often fall short because training is irrelevant to real-life work and ultimately not memorable. A more effective way to learn is on a real-time and ongoing basis. Communications protection software, such as Fairwords, helps employees stay compliant while they type. Additionally, the software explains why the language they’re using could be out of compliance. Similar to a car’s lane departure warning system, which alerts a driver when they’re out of their lane, these “teachable moments” are consistently reinforced.
Identify blindspots: Toxic behavior often goes unreported, creating blindspots within organizations and a false belief that everything is okay. Software like Fairwords can help identify harmful communications such as sexual harassment, discrimination, and bullying. This data-informed approach enables leaders to take proactive action to provide specific training for policies that are most often violated and stop harmful communications before toxic culture takes root.
Measure culture and program efficacy: While employee pulse surveys can provide valuable culture indicators, they are one moment in time. A more effective approach to measuring culture is a data-informed approach. Data and analytics solutions like Fairwords can help compliance leaders proactively keep a pulse on the health of their employee communications and culture by notifying leaders when harmful words are being used and providing anonymous analytics around what words, how often, and which digital channels.
Don’t go it alone: It’s natural to gravitate toward working within silos, but often counterproductive. HR and Compliance, in particular, often have overlapping functions but may not be effectively working together to counteract turnover, elevate company culture, and collaborate on training initiatives. With so much in play—from record attrition rates to hybrid workforces and heightened DEI focus—now is the time for HR and compliance to identify areas where they can partner to move the needle on common goals while proving the efficacy of their programs to the business.
Think hindsight, foresight, insight: Consider an audit of your existing compliance and ethics policies and methodologies. Are they forward-thinking or reactive? Are they relevant to hybrid work or centered around in-office behaviors? As Steve Scott, Global Head of Workforce Management and Analytics at Standard Chartered Bank, shared in a myHRfuture podcast, “I talk about the hindsight, insight, foresight model that we are trying to build. I don’t think we are unique at Standard Chartered that a lot of our time is occupied thinking about the future of work and the reimagination of work.”
Map the culture you want to build: Create a road map for the culture that you want to manifest. For example, could you link your code of conduct to your company values as Snap, Inc. did with their kindness code of conduct? Where are your blind spots and what technology could help you stay vigilant and proactive? Risk is emergent—and getting ahead of all the possible ethical and compliance risks is a dauntless task. A better route is to empower employees to be ethical leaders and thinkers. That way, when unforeseen risks or harmful behaviors arise, they have a strong foundation in place to apply ethical thinking.
Right moment, right context, right person. That is the future of training. It’s an open road for HR and compliance leaders—a chance to push the reset button and reimagine how training gets done.
If you’re interested in learning how you can enable future-forward training for your organization, let us know. Fairwords is a technology that trains in the moment, enabling relevant, meaningful, and impactful learning for businesses and their employees.