We’ve learned a lot in recent years about how to create a culture of compliance, where employees behave in an ethical and respectful manner and embody a company’s code of conduct in their daily activities. Effective compliance training has been key. Ineffective compliance training can be detrimental.
Training that results in positive workplace behavior change requires program managers to see the training experience through the eyes of the employee.
When you do this, compliance training shortcomings become more apparent. These include exposing employees to one-and-done online seminars, expecting them to apply an outdated code of conduct to real-world conflicts, or approaching training as only a legal defense rather than a driver of strong culture.
While online training, codes of conduct and legal input are all components of a successful E&C program, more is needed to build a culture that reinforces an organization’s core values. At the top of the list is a commitment by leadership, including the board of directors, to building and enforcing an effective E&C program. Second is understanding how people learn and modify their behavior. Luckily, we have enough empirical research and practical experience in this area to lay out a few basic principles:
- Learning means engaging. We know no matter how interesting the training material is, attention trails off eventually. So effective training programs present sessions in shorter bursts, often no longer than 25 minutes.
- Mix it up. Training programs are more effective when they incorporate video, animation and interactive exercises to drive employee engagement. New technologies and devices are ubiquitous in employees’ professional and personal lives. Incorporate these technologies when possible to engage with employees on platforms they prefer.
- Provide context. It’s not enough to show employees potential situations that could occur without giving them the tools to respond with the correct behavioral reaction in their own workplace. The goal is to teach them to think ahead: How will I deal with this situation when it comes up?
- Make it real. Workplace conflicts often generate strong emotions, whether they involve sexual harassment or the pressure to engage in unethical behavior like bribery and corruption. Teaching scenarios should help the learner experience the full emotional impact of a situation so they have the ethical muscle memory to respond with the proper behavior in the real world.
- Space it out. Repetition and retrieval are critical to changing a person’s behavior. Instead of a single annual training session, employees must be exposed to multiple lessons in varied formats, and challenged to retrieve information they’ve already learned.
corporate culture is organic -- an expression in actions, words, symbols, stories and values that flows through an organization from the boardroom to the mailroom and back again.
Any attempt to change or reinforce a culture of compliance requires all of these elements to be successful. As I’ve mentioned, corporate culture is organic -- an expression in actions, words, symbols, stories and values that flows through an organization from the boardroom to the mailroom and back again. This expression of values doesn’t just instruct employees to do the right thing, it encourages them to do so. Instead of presenting employees with a list of requirements, it empowers them to be active participants in creating the culture.
This is where the next generation of E&C training meets the science of learning. These are the concepts we at NAVEX Global use to design our diverse portfolio of E&C training tools and give organizations maximum flexibility in assembling a curriculum and corporate code of conduct tailored to their specific needs.
The guiding principle is that people shouldn’t encounter a compliance dilemma for the first time in real life. Creating training programs and educational materials to serve that goal is a little bit art and a little bit science. The training examples must be general enough to apply to a wide variety of employees in different positions, yet specific enough to allow them to understand the appropriate behavioral response for their given situation. Interactions between coworkers are different from manager/worker relationships, not to mention relationships with outside vendors and customers.
Asynchronous online learning is an important component of any E&C training program, but if we’ve learned anything over the past couple of decades it is that such individual learning doesn’t change behavior unless it’s reinforced through interaction among employees and engagement with the code of conduct. Whether it’s posters on the breakroom wall or easy-to-access compliance materials available on mobile devices, the goal is to make ethics and compliance come alive in a social setting.
With this holistic approach, the employee will say “I get it,” and reinforce the culture of the company, making it a great place to work and fulfill its important mission in the marketplace.