The ultimate guide to compliance training
Instructional Design

The ultimate guide to compliance training

, Former Content Marketing Manager

For a concept that’s developed to keep teams (and companies) secure, compliance in the workplace sure stirs a lot of fear in managers’ hearts. Where to even start? How can you make sure you’ve covered all your bases?

More importantly: Is there a way to guarantee that the employee training you offer will save you from having to pay exorbitant fines due to a non-compliance event?

Compliance is a multifaceted, complicated issue that can differ depending on your industry’s regulations and the location of your company. Yet, at its core, compliance in the workplace begins with training. And some basic tenets of compliance training for employees remain the same regardless of your profession or your postal code.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything about compliance in the workplace: from the most common challenges you can encounter when planning your training strategy, to the types of compliance training you need to cover—and the ways to do so effectively.

What is compliance training?

​Compliance training is a broad term to describe mandatory training provided to employees to ensure they understand the laws, policies, and regulations they need to uphold. Its aim is to reduce the risk of legal liabilities, ensure safety and security, and create a better work environment overall.

There are several types of compliance training, from ethics and DE&I to cybersecurity, each one covering specific content to help keep employees and companies safe and up to date.

Why is it important?

Everyone agrees that the importance of compliance training cannot be overstated. But why?

For starters, non-compliance costs dearly: on average, organizations can lose $4 million in annual revenue due to non-compliance. And while compliance training is not free, companies that have invested in it have found that the costs of non-compliance are 2.71 times higher.

Apart from the financial risk, there are also security risks to consider. For example, if you fail to provide your employees with efficient cybersecurity training, you’re exposing your company to data breaches and threats. And that risk is especially relevant lately, with the rise of remote and hybrid workplaces. A recent survey of 1,000 CXOs found that ninety percent of companies faced an increase in cyberattacks.

It also needs to be stated that compliance in the workplace translates to a healthy environment that’s safe for everyone. A big part of compliance training revolves around ethics, so if you can’t ensure your employees are behaving in a professional and appropriate manner, then your company’s reputation will take a hit. This, in turn, could lead to a higher turnover and difficulties attracting top talent.

Finally, there is a subtle but irrefutable connection between investing in compliance in the workplace and keeping your employees engaged. Employees who haven’t bothered (or weren’t able) to learn the basics regarding the rules that apply to their job are not employees who will feel connected to your company’s mission in the long run.

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Types of compliance training

There are several different compliance topics you can cover with your training, but the below are the most essential:

Ethics & anti-harassment training

Ethics and anti-harassment training are sometimes offered as different courses within compliance training, but their premise is similar: to ensure your employees understand and uphold your company’s code of conduct.

Ethics training can cover anything from anti-bribery practices to conflicts of interest and drug and alcohol abuse, whereas anti-harassment training addresses unacceptable workplace behaviors such as discrimination and gender-based harassment.

Sexual harassment training plays a very important role in this part of your compliance training. Although not yet mandatory in all 50 US states, sexual harassment training is really vital if you want your employees to feel safe.

A survey from TalentLMS and The Purple Campaign showed that, for more than 80% of respondents, sexual harassment training made them feel safer at work. It also left them better educated about what constitutes sexual harassment, and better informed about how their company handles sexual harassment incidents.

DE&I training

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training are quickly becoming an integral part and a priority for HR compliance. And understandably so.

Work environments where all employees can thrive and where biases (conscious or unconscious) are eliminated are in everyone’s best interest. In fact, a commitment to DE&I makes a difference when attracting talent. According to a Glassdoor survey, 76% of job seekers see a diverse workforce as an important factor when evaluating companies and considering job offers.

DE&I training addresses soft skills such as self-awareness and cultural sensitivity. At the same time, it’s focusing on how equity impacts the ways people collaborate and co-exist in a workspace. Note that this type of training should be offered to management and leaders as well as to your staff.

Cybersecurity training

When it comes to cybersecurity and privacy, there are certain things that are industry-specific, while others are mandated (for example, the GDPR requirements in the EU.) Legislation around the handling of data and other sensitive information can be quite rigorous—and it’s important that your employees follow it, along with the best cyber practices.

Even if it’s mandatory, cybersecurity training shouldn’t be just a box you have to tick. Especially because, as a TalentLMS survey showed, employees may fail even a basic cybersecurity test despite the fact they’ve received training and think they know how to handle cyber threats.

Health & safety training

Compliance in the workplace also translates to an environment that’s physically safe for both your employees and your clients. Especially now, as people return to the offices, keeping up with best practices in health and sanitation can be more crucial than ever.

Health and safety compliance training focuses on eliminating workplace hazards that can cause injuries, accidents, and illnesses—saving you money and keeping productivity levels high along the way.

Although there are specific standards you need to adhere to (for example, the OSH Act of 1970 in the US), your health and safety training will differ a bit based on your industry and work environment. For example, you might need to train employees how to handle potentially dangerous substances or machinery. Or, if your industry is relatively low-risk, your training could focus more on things like office ergonomics.

Industry-specific compliance training

Based on your niche, chances are you’ll also have to provide some specific compliance training for your employees—especially if your industry is a highly regulated one.

For example, if you’re in healthcare, your training should cover things like the HIPAA act. Or, if you’re in financial services, you’ll need to take into account the DODD-Frank act for the US (or your country’s equivalent of it). If your company is open to international clients, then your employees should be familiar with and able to comply with foreign regulations.

This primer will give you more info and inspiration on what topics to include in your compliance training.

Compliance in the workplace: How to create a successful compliance training program | TalentLMS

Challenges during compliance training

Time to talk about the elephant in the room: compliance training for employees is rarely engaging.

Data from Gallup shows that only 23% of the employees who have participated in a compliance or ethics training session within the past 12 months would rate that training as “excellent.” And according to the same survey, only 11% of participants strongly agree that their coworkers apply what they learned in compliance training to their work every day.

Put simply: for the majority of employees, compliance training feels either uninspiring, unmemorable, or irrelevant to their work.

The challenges you need to overcome when building your compliance training strategy are several, but some of the most common ones involve the type of content you’ll include, the way the content resonates with an employee’s day-to-day tasks, and the frequency of training.

Type of content

Compliance topics can be hard to absorb and thus boring by nature. On top of that, the language used in training can often be overly technical or filled with legal jargon.

This makes it very hard for employees to grasp the content and be able to recall it afterward.

Content relevance

Along with the language used in compliance training, the relevance of the content also goes a long way toward ensuring the teachings will be remembered—or utterly forgotten.

Since many of the topics compliance needs to cover deal with “break glass in case of emergency” situations that don’t normally happen from day to day, it’s difficult for employees to envision how these things they’re taught “fit” within their daily routine.

Training frequency

Due to ever-changing regulations and the very nature of compliance in the workplace, the training cannot be “one and done.” And while that’s definitely not a bad thing (information retention increases with repetition, after all), when you have to repeat your compliance training on an annual basis, it may be difficult to find fresh angles that will prevent you from sounding repetitive.

And if you offer your employees the exact same content, they may feel like they’ve “heard all this before” and disengage from the process.

Tips to engage learners

If the previous section made you feel like all your efforts to create a successful compliance training program may be in vain, it’s time to reconsider. The truth is that, at its core, compliance training is no different than any other training: there are ways to keep learners engaged and ensure that learning will stick.

1. Use accessible language

This is the core of any successful training program. In fact, the more complicated your subject matter is, the simpler the language you’re using should be. If your staff needs to learn a whole new vocabulary just to understand a lesson, they will probably forget it soon afterward—both the vocabulary and the lesson.

“Accessible language” doesn’t only mean using easy words. It also means keeping courses relatable. Use videos, animated characters, gamification elements, infographics, or any other technique that can make employees understand how what they’re being taught “fits” with their day-to-day tasks.

2. Make sure you cover the essentials

When you’re not sure which compliance topics to cover, a good idea is to get access to an online library where you can pick premade courses on the essentials of compliance.

What’s great about using ready-made courses is that they cover the basics. This way, you’ll only have to create content that’s specific to your company, if needed. For example, you may use an online course to train your teams on sexual harassment, and then follow up and share with them your company’s anti-harassment policy.

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3. Keep training short

Long lectures or endless texts about complicated issues is a surefire way to disengage learners. Instead, try dividing the content into easy-to-digest chunks, such as short videos.

Microlearning makes it easier for employees to tackle challenging topics such as compliance, and ensures that the core lessons will be remembered more easily in the long run.

4. Invest in the right compliance training platform

Having a one-stop hub for your compliance training is essential if you want to easily manage your courses. With the right compliance training software, you can ensure that training will be available to your employees at all times, and accessible from all their devices.

Investing in a compliance training platform is also useful when it comes to keeping digital records or proof of your training (which you may need in case of litigation).

Compliance in the workplace is maturing

No more just a reactive measure, compliance training is maturing and becoming more advanced by the day, with the number of mature and advanced risk and compliance programs growing by 29% in 2021, according to a report by Navex Global.

Now more than ever, delivering training for compliance in the workplace is not enough: you need to deliver successful compliance training in order to protect your employees and help your business succeed.

Setting and tracking the right KPIs for your program will allow you to see not only whether people completed their training for compliance in the workplace but also if and how they apply what they learned on the job.

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Christina Pavlou - Former Content Marketing Manager

Christina, ex-Content Marketing Manager at Epignosis, focuses on L&D, diversity, and enhancing workplace well-being. Learn how to improve your work environment. More by Christina!

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