10 compliance training myths – busted!

Let's get busting!

A couple of weeks ago, I did a webinar called Compliance training - more than just ticking boxes (click to watch the recording if you're not in a reading mood 😉). The webinar covers more than just mythbusting, but let's concentrate on that in this article.

The overall takeaway is that despite its mandatory nature, Learning Experience design still applies to compliance training.


We know that by following a clear LX design process, we can do a lot to ensure that learners feel that training is painless and relevant. We can also make them want more and want to help their colleagues succeed. These 4 feelings give a pull effect to training, rather than the more confrontational push ("You must do this on pain of death!")

The pull effect is well-known to be better for both engagement and retention.


This pull effect is normal with voluntary training, but what about mandatory training? Far too often we hear that it's not possible, because of one thing or another. But it is. 👍👍👍

Learners generally live up to the expectations you have of them. Will your training live up to theirs?


Myth 1: Learners are lazy and don’t want to do compliance training.

The truth is that they just don’t want to do boring training. Learners demand and expect more from compliance training.

Myth 2: It’s the learner’s fault if they don’t do mandatory training and we should punish them.

This is not true. In fact, it's our fault if learners don’t do mandatory training and we should support them. "We" means LX designers, training owners, subject-matter experts (SMEs), line managers – and the company as a whole.

Myth 3: Learners don’t know anything about the topic, so they need it all.

Compliance training relates to real life, laws, and so on. Unless learners have been living in a cave, they always know at least something about the topic, so we need to fill in the missing parts. Understanding this is the first step to making training personalized and relevant.

A clear split of responsibilities and enough time for design and review are key.


Myth 4: Once we’ve collected all the content, we’re ready to go.

Definitely not! The content is only the tip of the iceberg, Before we even get there, we need to get our team ready. So this is what we need:

  1. An LX designer – to design the learning experience
  2. SMEs – to provide the expertise, support for the LX designer, and content based on the design. SMEs also review the factual content of the training.
  3. A project lead – to make sure we stay on schedule and budget
  4. Learner representatives – to review the content from the learner experience point of view – i.e. Is it engaging? Is it relevant? Will we learn anything?

Skills-based training for the win.


Myth 5: Compliance training is about delivering knowledge and creating awareness.

Absolutely not! It's about practicing skills and creating culture. The word "awareness" is a horrible word in learning. We need our learners to act in a compliant way, not just be aware that something is non-compliant. That's not even half the job.

So, we need to define skill gaps, provide safe practice and then give them just enough knowledge to be able to act in a compliant way.

Watch out for the disconnect.


Myth 6: We can build a culture of compliance quickly by brute force.

You really can't. 😉

Culture building is long-term project but worth the effort. Check out this disconnect that is way too common in compliance training:

Vision: "Here at Company A, we’re building an ethical culture together. "

Reality: "Do this 45-minute reading exercise on pain of death by next Friday or the men with baseball bats are coming to visit" – or words to that effect. 🤣

Who is this training for? The learners or the company?


Myth 7: Compliance training is about protecting the company.

Well, in a way. But not at the expense of the learners. Maintaining a company's reputation and preventing monetary loss is the business case for compliance training, but not the learning outcome.

Real learner-focused outcomes could be, for example:

  1. Making sure you can concentrate on doing your job
  2. Protecting you from unethical, unsafe or illegal acts or behaviour
  3. Giving you the tools and support so that you don’t unintentionally do something unethical, unsafe or illegal
  4. Giving you the mandate and authority to intervene

Learners already have a moral compass


Myth 8: We must cover everything that could possibly happen.

No, we don't have to do that. How about we cover the things that might actually happen. Honestly, how likely is it that a learner will accept a bribe, sexually harass someone or steal company money because they are not "aware" that it's wrong? If so, compliance training is not going to solve that problem. 😊

So, let's treat our learners as if they have a moral compass and focus on the areas where they might unintentionally be non-compliant because of potential misunderstandings or because they are in a position where they have an ethical dilemma. This is much more relevant and engaging too!

The skill we need to focus on most is how to think about and apply the rules to the situation a learner is facing


Myth 9: Rules are rules. It’s easy to follow them.

Is it? If it were, we wouldn't need lawyers. 😜 Excellent compliance training isn't a set of rules to memorize and follow. Rather, it's:

  1. A compass that supplements learners' already existing moral compass
  2. A toolbox to help learners think about and apply the rules to the situation they are facing
  3. A first step towards a culture or compliance

Compliance training can be engaging and – dare we say it – fun!


Myth 10: Compliance training is a serious business. There’s no room for fun.

Not quite. Compliance is a serious business, for sure. The training doesn't have to be. How about using gamification (not games necessarily 😉) to simulate pressure, time constraints, or balancing conflicting interests?

Of course. gamification can increase the engagement levels too. Try turning your learners into the "heroes" of your story. Let them choose their own path and create characters so that the training becomes more of a quest.

After all, aren't we all on a quest for that oh-so-elusive culture of compliance?

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