Three steps (and nine tips) to compliance greatness

My recent survey of the e-learning and compliance communities highlighted three characteristics of the compliance e-learning we’d all like to see more of

It needs to be engaging, relevant and effective.

In user-focused terms, it needs to make them care, show them it matters and help them live it.

Here are my tips for achieving those three things.

Making them care

Why is it so important to make learners care about what they’re doing? If learners don’t care, they won’t take notice of what they’re experiencing. If they’re not taking notice, they’re not really learning. If they’re not learning, they won’t action it back in the workplace.

This matters from a business perspective too. If people don’t take the learning on board and apply it, they’ll continue to make the same mistakes or miss the same opportunities. So the business ends up paying for the training and the mistake or missed opportunity, making the training a wasted investment. So it really is in everyone’s interest to put the effort in to making users care about what they’re learning.

Here are my three tips for making them care:

  1. Create a fresh, surprising, eye-catching design or concept to make users sit up and take notice; use the visual design to help overcome any compliance preconceptions they might have.
  2. Banish the business speak (it’s not a legal document, textbook or academic paper, after all), keep it conversational, and have fun with the tone of voice and language you use.
  3. Add some variety in the approaches, interactions and media you use, and give the learner a bit of control over the experience (the use of audio, or the path through the learning, for instance).

Showing them it matters

Put yourself in the learners’ shoes. If the e-learning screams ‘compliance’, they’re more likely to view it as something that the organisation is doing to cover its own back – not the best way to get them on board. (For instance, how many learners do you think will really care about the potential reputational damage or a fine that’s unlikely to directly impact them?)

Instead, you’ve got to design something that’s relevant to their life and work and shows them how the compliance issues impact them as individuals. If you want them to see it as more than a tick-box exercise, you’ve got to show them it’s more than a tick-box exercise.

Here are my three tips for showing them it matters:

  1. Put the learning in context by designing scenarios in which the user has to make decisions or recommendations, drawing on high-profile cases or building in real-life anecdotes and stories.
  2. Take a tip from the adverts, and put the really useful, surprising, interesting and practical stuff centre-stage; the theoretical explanations need to be there, but keep them in the background.
  3. Group job roles into risk categories or use a pre-test to identify gaps in knowledge, then point each user to what they specifically need to know (information overload = disengaged learners).

Helping them live it

Finally, if an e-learning course is going to translate into changed behaviour and improved performance, it’s got to be effective. You’ve got to give the learners the skills and tools they need to implement the learning back in the workplace.

Again, this benefits both the learners and the business. The user will see the value of what they’re learning, and the business gets evidence not just of compliance but also of competence.

Here are my three tips for helping them live it:

  1. Actions speak louder than words, so focus on behaviour and competence rather than knowledge and simple compliance – what do people need to do, stop doing, or do differently?
  2. Ask first, check later: use questions to drive the learning and remember the Goldilocks rule (questions and interactions should be not too hard, not too easy, but just right!).
  3. Design an ongoing experience, including links to other reference points or learning resources and providing a well-designed crib sheet with key ‘dos and don’ts’ and contact points.

These are just some starting-point suggestions, but if you keep in mind the three user-focused steps (make them care, show them it matters, help them live it) you’ll be well on your way to compliance greatness!

(You can see the slides from my session on user-focused design for gold-standard compliance training in my last blog post or on SlideShare.)

Image: Suat Eman /

2 thoughts on “Three steps (and nine tips) to compliance greatness

  1. Pingback: Round-up of the year (August to December) | Good To Great

  2. Pingback: Podcast #6: Tick, tick, tick, tick in the box | Tayloring it…

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