The Masie Center reported that 60% of all new learning initiatives in large organizations are driven by legal compliance regulations. They are scrambling to meet the demands for training in a wide range of areas, including health and safety, environmental regulation, privacy, financial reporting, and human rights. And many see the advantage of reaching a dispersed workforce with such training via eLearning. They can overcome the challenges of time and distance to reach many people at once, and have a record of such training having been completed (important for compliance).

I have examined a lot of what passes for eLearning compliance training and it isn’t pretty. There is a great deal of online tell-and-test memorization exercises, but very little that aims at changing behaviours in the workplace. Because compliance training is something that we HAVE to do, we tend to look at it as a nuisance to be gotten through, rather than an opportunity to effect real and beneficial change in the organization.

Unfortunately, many training departments look for the fastest and cheapest way to be able to check compliance training off the list. They buy something off the shelf or slap something together themselves, make their employees endure it, and then declare that they have met their obligations.

When the primary goal becomes checking off your list, the focus is on the training, not the compliance.

What would happen if we turned things around? For example, instead of starting with the objective of getting x number of employees to complete hazardous materials handling training by x date, we had an objective for our training of reducing hazardous materials handling incidents by x per cent in the next year? I think that this would focus our attention on creating a learning intervention centred on changing the way that our employees actual handle hazardous materials, not just on having them complete a quick-and-dirty top-level program that allows us to check this off our list.

Too many training departments confuse cost and value when doing compliance training. Doing it right may cost a bit more, but the value is in effecting positive change (e.g. lower accident rates, less human rights complaints, positive financial audit outcomes, zero environmental incidents, etc.), that not only brings the organization into compliance, but improves the bottom line.

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