Friday, October 20, 2006

Creating a Culture of Compliance

Our webinar on compliance training yesterday attracted 50 participants, including a good representation from financial and pharmaceutical companies (not surprising, given the degree of regulatory oversight in these sectors). We did a critique of some typical compliance training, discussed some of the possible legal repercussions of poor training, and presented a demo of some best practices in compliance training. The upshot of the webinar was that it is not enough to merely require that employees participate in training. Rather, the goal should be to create a culture of compliance to ensure that the goals of compliance (whether improved safety, zero environmental infractions, proper accounting procedures, etc.) are realized.

When we asked participants about their experiences with compliance training, the results were decidedly mixed. Although some had success with blended approaches, many thought that their compliance training efforts, especially those conducted online, left a lot to be desired. Comments about compliance training included:

"Dry and boring..."

"Boring PowerPoints handed down by corporate..."

"'Just the facts ma'am' style - not engaging..."

"Staff just click through it yearly..."

"End users not really happy when it is time to complete the annual training..."

This is unfortunate, because eLearning holds out the possibility of reaching employees across the organization with a consistent message and approach. It allows learners to proceed through the learning at their own pace when it is most convenient to them. Documentation of who completed the training can be automated and the organization can have real-time completion stats at its fingertips. And eLearning can be a more cost-effective approach than in-class, especially with large numbers of learners and over time.

However, for compliance eLearning to be effective, it has to be good. We were lucky to be joined on our webinar by Michael Korcuska, the VP of Operations for ELT Inc., a San Francisco-based producer of online compliance programs. We took a tour of their new Workplace Harassment program. ELT takes an innovative story-based approach to such training. The scenarios they create are realistic (based on actual cases), present sympathetic characters, focus on workplace behaviour, raise pertinent and challenging questions, and compel the learner to focus on their own attitudes, preconceptions and behaviours. This is definitely not a dry and boring click-through approach.

Our other special guest was Bruce McMeekin, a partner with Miller Thomson law firm in Toronto. He impressed upon participants that if something does go wrong (e.g. someone gets hurt or is killed on the job, chemicals are released into environment, customers are injured because someone did not follow proper procedures, etc.) your training efforts could come under scrutiny. Reasonable care must be taken to ensure that your compliance training is thorough and of good quality.

One participant brought up the point that it is not enough to have good training, you must also have systems in place to ensure that the desired behaviours are actually occurring in the workplace. Bruce agreed entirely, stating that there should be periodic audits to ensure proper behaviour, and that the importance of this message be clear from the very top on down in the organization. In the end, proper approaches to training are important, but it is a "culture of compliance" that ulimately ensures compliant behaviour.

If you missed it, here is a recording of the webinar.

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