It has become standard operating procedure for corporations to train their employees on ethics & compliance (E&C) related topics. But it’s a constant challenge to keep it relevant. Evolving business risks, learning demands from three generations of workers, and increased expectations of regulators are just a few of the reasons why training is one of the biggest investments in an E&C program.
This past week 120+ E&C professionals gathered at ECI’s Best Practice Forum on New Advancements in E&C Training. Together with adult learning experts and technologists, we spent a day and a half talking about what we’re really trying to accomplish with training, what works, and what’s on the horizon. The conversation ranged from training on a shoe-string budget to the future of adult learning using virtual and augmented reality technologies. We talked about making training effective using everything from post-it notes to holographic avatars.
I came away with 5 ideas as to how any organization can revolutionize its E&C training, in order to maximize the impact without having to break the bank.
- Change the tone. If we’re honest, most training programs convey a top-down message: learn our rules and abide by them, or there will be consequences. Yet most adult learners come to training with a wealth of experience, and 95% of them already recognize the E&C issues they face each day on the job. They want to be respected for their knowledge and understanding. You can radically change your training if you acknowledge your employees’ commitment to integrity and their experience as adults. Tell them why you are asking for their time, and what’s in it for them.
- Focus on work life, not a compliance topic. The most impactive training programs present E&C in terms of the problems employees face, rather than a regulation or a risk area they need to recognize. There’s not much difference between a snippet explaining “professional conduct” and a case example that shows how your boss will be disappointed if you drink too much at a meeting reception. But for the learner, the first is abstract; the second is personal. Employees are significantly more positive about a training experience when they are asked to solve ethical dilemmas or take the perspective of the people who will be impacted by their decisions.
- Catch people where they are. Most organizations dedicate a total of 3.3 hours per employee to E&C training each year. That’s not enough to address all the E&C related decisions people make each day. For that reason, companies are turning to burst training segments and short manager-led discussions that are integrated into other meetings. An emerging best practice is to work with other functions in the organization (like HR and finance) to link E&C content with their efforts. It makes the training more meaningful when E&C is integrated into the regular day.
- To assess learning, ask about satisfaction. We all try to do it, but no evaluation can measure the direct impact of a training program on employees’ behavior. This is because most people are unable to assess their own learning, let alone gauge the extent to which training changed their ways. Nevertheless, studies do show that if people feel satisfied with their training experience, they are more likely to have actually learned. So instead of quizzing your employees on their knowledge, or asking if they learned something…ask them how satisfied they were with their training experience.
- Woo the board. Board members are no different from other adult learners, yet we lose our creative chops in approaching them. Directors need to be engaged. Know your goal for board training, and tell it to them. Are you asking them to take the employee training so they are aware of what everyone else is receiving? Or are you trying to help them govern the organization better? It’s also important to make their learning enjoyable. Some companies plan special receptions that double as teaching events for the board, as part of their annual retreat. Others use “war-gaming” exercises to engage them in an effort to solve real problems that board members face.
There is certainly a lot to be excited about when it comes to the future for E&C training. In fact, it may not be long before we are e-delivering short training segments to employees on topics that are relevant to them in real-time. Or we might engage employees in a virtual scenario that allows them to experience an E&C issue first-hand with holographic characters. But that said, no matter how fancy the technology or pretty the packaging, relevant content will always be king.
Note: Presentation slides, handouts, and resources from the Best Practice Forum are available to all ECI members on our website.
Patricia J. Harned, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer, ECI
This article was originally published March 7, 2017 by ECI CEO, Pat Harned, on LinkedIn.