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Compliance training…some might say it’s the black sheep of L&D. Why? Well, for one, employees aren’t engaged with it. Training professionals know this and are forced to overcome that barrier and ensure that this extremely critical information is properly understood by the entire organization. 

I’m here to tell you that compliance training doesn’t have to be a check the box activity that’s dreaded by learners. It can actually be fun, engaging and thoughtful with the right approach.

The Case For Compliance Training

Why do we conduct compliance training? Well, for some industries, it’s required and they must show proof to external entities. For other industries, not being in compliance can lead to a host of problems for the organization. Here are some common reasons that this training exists:

  • Legal requirements
  • Risk mitigation
  • Financial protection
  • Reputation management
  • Operational efficiency 
  • Employee protection
  • Consistent standards
  • Stakeholder confidence
  • Customer trust


Take the pharmaceutical industry, for example. These companies are routinely the targets of penalties. According to a study of 26 large drug firms published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 85% received financial penalties over a 14-year period. Fines for activities like pricing violations, off-label marketing and kickbacks cost the companies $33 billion combined. One small slip up due to one employee lacking the proper knowledge can result in catastrophic consequences.

Whatever your reason for conducting compliance training, the subject matter is obviously important to your organization for one reason or another. But do employees know exactly why that is? This is a nice segway into my first best practice in creating a culture of compliance.

Spread Your Compliance Message

Think of the last time you rolled out compliance training to the organization. Were stakeholders appropriately briefed on the why behind it? Or did they simply receive an email that a new course was available for them to complete by a certain date?

This approach does not garner employee buy-in and dare I say, build excitement and urgency, around the subject matter. 

Next time you scope a training, create a plan of attack. Take a step back and craft a thoughtful launch strategy. Ideally, this plan will have multiple pillars. Think along the lines of an announcement at a company-wide meeting, a series of emails, talking points for managers, etc. — all conveying the importance of the training, why they’ve been asked to participate and what your organization hopes to achieve. Tie the training back to your mission and values, when applicable, as well as how it’s contributing to employee development. 

For example, one of your values might be to provide an excellent customer experience. This ties nicely into any training conducted on the protection of client data. Another might be to take care of your employees at all costs. This works well when unveiling any sort of employee safety, DEI or workplace conduct training.

One of our customers, Bill Burtis, Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer at Juniper Networks sums up this effort nicely, “I often equate compliance to sales and marketing. At the end of the day, my team and I are marketing how to do the right thing and creating channels that allow employees, business partners and customers to be compliant.”

Making a connection between each training and your company’s standards helps employees see the bigger picture and makes them more likely to buy into and engage with what was once seen as a dry, run-of-the mill exercise.

Build Engagement With An Employee-Centric Approach

Once you’ve got your buy-in, you must deliver training in a way that captures and sustains engagement. Much of the compliance training done today is merely a check-the-box exercise in the LMS. Employees complete it to get it done with very little focus on the material being taught. 

Microlearning, on the other hand, is ideally suited to meet today’s learners’ needs and account for shorter attention spans. These platforms push complex information directly to the learners in the form of short, easy to comprehend, scenario-based Q&A challenges. This builds critical thinking skills by putting the learner in realistic job scenarios. Think of microlearning as a safe pilot setting to practice how employees would respond in their daily work.

Micro-content is delivered in the flow of work to keep learners productive, a breath of fresh air compared to the LMS that requires digging up a password, logging in and dedicating an hour’s plus worth of time to complete the training.

Another problem with traditional compliance training: it’s one-size-fits-all. While this approach might be mandatory for some industries, others can tailor their programs to meet each person’s needs. Microlearning’s adaptive algorithms allow learners to essentially test out of concepts they already know based on how they answer. This dispels the idea that compliance training is a tedious, check-the-box exercise.

Finally, once a learner has answered a microlearning question, they receive immediate feedback and can see how they stack up amongst their teammates for benchmarking purposes and some friendly competition. 

Many Qstream customers use the leaderboards to run contests and award prizes to top performers – another great way to build excitement and gain buy-in around compliance training.

A few of our customers have been able to replace their formal compliance training with microlearning, saving them time and money. Providence, for example, reduced training time by 84% and saved more than $1M. What’s more, they achieved a 93% engagement rate, which is your concrete proof that employees love this style of training. 

“From a learner’s point of view, being able to take required compliance education in half the time and in one minute increments is a huge win,” says Johnny Hamilton, Manager, Innovation & Development at Providence. “From an enterprise point of view, receiving detailed analytics not only on the learners, but on the questions themselves helps us refine our learning design as well as validate our results that are aligned toward strategic business initiatives.”

Make Material Stick With Scientifically Proven Knowledge Retention

Microlearning teaches critical information using a method that takes into account the way the adult human brain learns. Long, non-interactive LMS courses are not appropriately engaging and do not build long-term knowledge retention. Think back to high school or college when you crammed for that big exam. How much do you remember today or even one week after the test? This approach is similar to that.

Microlearning’s spaced repetition tests learners on information at key intervals where they are likely to forget it. This practice of retrieving information improves long-term retention of critical topics and builds the skills necessary to practice compliance.

Harness Data For Remediation (& Praise!)

Completion rates in the LMS and other systems simply don’t tell you if learners actually grasped the information. 

Microlearning platforms, on the other hand, track proficiency, a powerful metric that tells you what your learners know and don’t know at any given time. Plus, heat maps, like those available in Qstream, expose knowledge gaps so swift intervention can be taken, facilitating that ongoing culture of compliance. Once coaching has occurred, users can see positive trend lines from initial proficiency to the final. On average, Qstream customers see a 35+% increase in this proficiency due to their remediation efforts and our signature spaced delivery of information.

Conversely, Qstream pinpoints top performers, allowing you to reward and call attention to  those employees excelling in compliance training.

This data can be used as proof of learning, aka a piece of mind that this critical information is ready to be applied on the job and to tell an ROI story to leadership to demonstrate the L&D function’s impact. 

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