In case of emergency: 5 compliance training topics you should start with
Instructional Design

In case of emergency: 5 compliance training topics you should start with


Employee compliance training can feel a bit like an exercise in bureaucracy. Both companies and employees treat the subject like a necessary box to tick, but very few take the time to truly understand it. (Much like every Terms and Conditions page ever.)

But the fact remains: compliance training is mandatory training for employees. And for good reason. It’s not just the financial and legal ramifications of noncompliance — although at an average of $14.82 million according to Gallup, those ramifications are steep. It’s the fact that employee compliance and employee engagement go hand in hand.

A staff member who doesn’t bother learning the rules that apply to their job, is not a staff member who sees themselves as a part of the company in the long run. Educating your employees on laws, regulations and policies is a necessary aspect of keeping them engaged with company culture. You know this.

And while you also know there are many ways to ensure your compliance training program is successful, you are unsure which compliance topics to cover first. Depending on your industry, there’s a number of regulations to meet – and that’s on top of all the local and international laws!

The world of compliance training is massive, but you need to start somewhere.

Consider the following your cheat sheet.

Which compliance training topics should you focus on?

When drafting a compliance training strategy that makes sense and brings results, there are some key goals to consider. Reducing risk and removing legal liability should of course be high up on your list, as well as ensuring that your employees are aware of their responsibilities. But ultimately, when you choose compliance topics for training, you should think about how those topics promote a better workplace culture.

Company Ethics Compliance Training

Starting your topics with a module centered on ethics instead of regulations, is a conscious choice. You are showing your employees how much company culture matters to you — and how much it should matter to them. Plus, it’s much easier to get people interested in learning the more technical (read: boring) stuff, if they know why they should bother.

Ethics training programs are multi-faceted

In this module, you should highlight your most important company policies; your Code of Conduct. How should employees and managers behave? What is considered an unethical work practice in your line of work? Who are your competitors — and which company information is never okay to share with them? Are there any state mandated guidelines (like the FCPA guidelines in the US) for employees and managers accepting gifts higher than a certain value? In short, when does a gift become bribery?

Educating your employees in these issues will help promote ethical work practices and protect your company’s reputation.

You should also cover HR compliance training topics, such as equal employment opportunity and diversity training. This is very important if you’re serious about having a thriving, culturally diverse workforce. You can use different POV stories, to help your employees understand the struggles of people who come from different social and racial backgrounds. It will help foster respect across the board.

Another crucial aspect of your Ethics Compliance Training should be preventing workplace harassment. In 2019, POSH ( Prevention of Sexual Harassment) training became mandatory for all New York companies and organizations and nowadays it’s mandatory in many countries worldwide.

What you want to achieve during your POSH training is for your employees to be able to understand the different types of harassment. To know what is acceptable and what is non-acceptable workplace behavior. But also to know that if they have a grievance, there is a proper process in place that ensures they will be heard.

Finally, your Ethics Compliance Training should cover your company’s policies on drugs and alcohol use. It sounds like a straightforward topic right? Still, you need to be mindful of the recent changes.

Our world is changing fast. Your Ethics Compliance Training is the first step towards keeping your company and employees abreast of these developments.

Company (and industry) specific regulations

This module should cover industry-specific laws and regulations your employees need to comply with. It could also touch base upon your customer service standards.

The structure of this module will really depend on what kind of industry you’re in. Not all industries are regulated as heavily. For example, if you’re in the financial services industry you’ll need to take into account things like the DODD-Frank act (or your country’s equivalent of it, if it exists). If your company is in healthcare, you’ll need to make sure your employees are familiar with things like the HIPAA act. Of course some regulations, like the PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard), apply to all industries.

If your company is international, or will open to an international clientele in the future, then your employees should be able to comply with foreign regulations as well.

Work health and safety

You know what they say: safety first.

Your employees deserve to feel safe in their work environment. This module will help them understand all the safety norms that need to be followed in order to achieve that.

The Work Health and Safety module should include some general healthcare compliance training topics. Think sickness policies, smoking policies, electrical safety and rules for the use of hazardous chemicals (if applicable).

The list of compliance training topics for employees should also include any workplace hazards that are particular to your industry/business. Such topics could be how to handle certain equipment and tools, vehicle use, working at heights, personal protective equipment etc.

Are your employees mostly computer-bound? You still need to cover health-related topics that apply to desk jobs like proper posture, eye safety, blood circulation, diabetes control etc. Some mental health and stress management wouldn’t go amiss, either.

Remember though: no matter how great your compliance training software is, your employees will still need some hours of hands-on safety practices. This Training Industry article pinpoints the importance of adding “lab hour” to your e-learning, in front of a well-trained superior. It’s the only way to be 100% sure that your employees are well prepared, for their own safety (and your own sanity).

Online security and regulations

After addressing your employees’ physical safety, online safety should be next on your corporate compliance training topics. Not just the online safety of your employees, mind you, but that of your clients as well.

Online Security, or cyber security, has been one of the staples in compliance training topics lately — which makes perfect sense. Nobody wants to worry about things like hacking, phishing or data leaks. In fact, people want to worry about it so little, that according to IDC, worldwide spending on security solutions is expected to hit $120.7 billion by 2021. So educating your employees about how to keep their systems secure against cybercrime practices is essential.

This module can include topics like storing emails (and data) safely, password complexity, as well as examples of phishing scams to be on the lookout for.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but you should also include information about GDPR. Yes, even if your company is not based in the EU. GDPR has really changed the way so many companies operate — and the fines for non-compliance are extremely steep. It’s important that you offer enough compliance training resources to your employees so that they know how to protect an EU-based client’s personal information. They also need to know what to do in case of a data breach and be up to speed with the current laws and regulations.

Emergency information & examples of compliance in the workplace

This should be your standard “break glass in case of emergency” module. Here you can include topics like fire safety, evacuation drills, electrical safety and first aid and response to accidents. It’s also very important to include tangible examples of compliance in the workspace.

Unfortunately, we’re not living in such standard times. So, an emergency information course nowadays would not be complete without some COVID-19 safety policies. You should make sure your employees know what to do in order to keep safe when your business reopens.

The Society for Human Resource Management also notes how important it is to consider your employees’ special needs, in case they clash with COVID-19 regulations. For example, if someone is allergic to latex, they shouldn’t be made to wear latex gloves. Or, if an employee has a hearing deficiency and relies on lip reading, perhaps your company should invest in some clear masks.

Overall, your Emergency Information module should always be updated to cover any current emergencies.

Over to you

By now you have a good grasp of which compliance training topics to start with.

The key is to choose diverse employee training topics that will cover different compliance concerns: from security and safety to ethics and regulations. You probably won’t be able to cover every possible topic at once — especially since the legislation for several important issues keeps changing. But this way, even when you’ll need to add more modules/topics to your program, you will have a good baseline.

Now all you need to do is pick a reliable compliance training software. This will help make sure your training topics will be delivered in such a way that your employees will want to pay attention. Not just scroll down and tick the right box when they’re done. Here’s to not treating compliance training like a Terms and Conditions page ever again!


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