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How to increase engagement with compliance learning

"We need to do better, and we can," said Kairos Modern Learning's L&D director

Compliance learning needs to be relevant and easy to remember. But how can we make people care?

Every year, people teams need to ensure that all staff have completed their relevant compliance learning: from cybersecurity to anti-bribery and corruption, from health and safety regulations to diversity and inclusion.

We all know the drill; send out the links to the learning, usually on our learning management system, write to managers with their completion rates dashboard, and chase those errant employees who don’t realise we are trying to keep them safe, healthy and legal. Compliance is not there to annoy people, it’s there for a reason.

Every year, the process is as laborious as the last. Nobody seems to care.

It’s hard to motivate colleagues. It’s just another thing on their ‘to do’ list. However, we diligently persevere so eventually everyone gets to the 8/10 pass mark on the quiz and all the boxes are ticked. We are legally compliant. We are good enough. All via a mandatory snooze fest.

This low level of learning engagement is never good enough when it comes to compliance, for two critical reasons.

Read more: Six ways to engage employees to help drive their development

Firstly, compliance learning is the most important learning we offer as learning and development professionals. The reason for such learning is not simply box ticking, rather it’s to keep colleagues safe, healthy and legal. Yet so many learning departments offer dull and uninspiring click-next, quiz-at-the-end e-learning, often outsourced for ease. The experience leaves the cognitive load of learning application on the learner, rather than helping them understand the relevance to their job. We need to do better, and we can.

Channel 4's leaders learned the hard way that compliance is not just about ticking a box. Faced with challenges to the broadcaster's code of conduct, consultancy Acteon made Channel 4’s learning look and feel like a Channel 4 programme: edgy and relevant.

Using the tagline ‘Is It OK?’ from the channel's hit show The Last Leg, all employees learnt that it was easy to be compliant by simply asking that question. If unsure of the answer, simply check.

Acteon created a learning campaign around the tagline, using marketing techniques to get people talking, feeling fully immersed and participatory. Full engagement is what keeps people safe, healthy and legal.

Secondly, as absolutely everyone has to complete compliance learning, that learning offer is actually our shop window as learning and development professionals. It’s here we entice people into other learning. That window should display our best wares, or people will treat all learning as boring, click-next, irrelevant work.

Read more: L&D professionals innovate without use of AI

In compliance, we have a brilliant opportunity to showcase the best learning experience we can offer. Excellence here both shows people we care about keeping them safe, healthy and legal, and also encourages a learning culture. We have a chance to get our learners revved up for more learning as every year they have a wonderful learning experience through us. They will then look forward to non-mandatory learning experiences too. 

We can achieve a great shop window if compliance learning becomes relevant, easy to access and easy to remember. Using adult learning principles around memory, spaced learning practice and learning hooks, rules can be recalled and acted upon.

People don’t refer back to policies in the moment, so using marketing ideas (catchy tunes, colourful graphics, taglines, immersion) ensures relevance and recall. Take the cognitive load off the learner, ensuring everyone knows the ‘why’ for them.

Share stories of when compliance goes wrong. Get testimonials from colleagues and customers of what the impacts are.

Help people to feel emotionally connected, as they will remember it more. Use your real accident data reporting, for example, to show more reporting means staff can be kept safer. Knowledge is power when it comes to compliance. Learning and development professionals have the chance to increase awareness using data. 

Most people's eyes roll in the back of their heads when it comes to compliance training. This is a terrible state of affairs but I know that we can turn it around so it is less about policy and more about lived experience to personalise the learning. If we always focus on the why, I believe we can, and should, make compliance learning the best thing we offer.

Michelle Parry-Slater is learning and development director for Kairos Modern Learning