What Makes Ongoing Training Effective 17:58, March 9, 2017

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What Makes Ongoing Training Effective

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Compliance training educates employees and staff about how to comply with external laws and internal policies, like company values and codes of conduct. According to Professor Donald C. Langevoort in his article Monitoring the Behavioral Economics of Corporate Compliance with Law, “By most accounts, compliance begins with education” and “effective communication.” Staff, employees, and agents should not only understand the law enough to spot issues in the workplace, but also internalize “the firm’s commitment to compliance and . . . how they are expected to respond.”

However, building understanding and influencing behavior is not a simple process. Research has shown, time and time again, that training which merely presents the law or a policy to a learner is ineffective. In fact, it can make noncompliance worse. One study showed that “the more frequently organizations engage in formal communication regarding the corporate codes of conduct, the more unethical behavior is exhibited in organizations.”

Reinforcing important material in successive sessions may be effective. Take another study, for example, cited by Professor Maurice E. Stucke in his article In Search of Effective Ethics & Compliance Programs. Researchers conducted behavioral experiments involving students from Yale, MIT, and Harvard and each institution’s ethics and/or honor code. One group of students didn’t see their policies, another group saw their policies once, and a third group saw the policies at the beginning of the study period and again right before taking a test. The study found that seeing the policy once had no effect on the instances of cheating, whereas students who saw the policies right before taking the test did not cheat. Companies must be thoughtful about not only what is taught, but how and when it is taught and communicated.

Of course, not all training, whether ongoing or not, is the same. “Valuable conduct training begins and ends with a willing learner and training that is guided by their needs,” according to Carmen Poole in her white paper Value of Conduct Training. For example, engaging the millennial learner should involve multimedia, microlearning, and gamification. Instructional design theories (like affordance and the usability-aesthetic effect), are additional considerations for effective conduct training, particularly e-learning. Companies should ensure their core training is valuable in its own right.

Additionally, to be most effective “all policies, procedures and training must be part of a larger culture that instills compliance as a fundamental value,” according to Professor David Hess in his article Ethical Infrastructures and Evidence-Based Corporate Compliance and Ethics Programs: Policy Implications from the Empirical Evidence. Compliance programs that incorporate culture can better achieve organizational and regulatory goals compared to more problematic “check-the-box” compliance programs that merely fulfill legal or external obligations without due consideration for employee motivation or learning.

No business is ever “done” implementing a compliance program; thoughtfully implementing ongoing training can keep an organization’s culture moving in the right direction.

LawRoom (powered by EverFi) delivers online training to help your business meet compliance requirements both dynamically and scalably. In addition to our award-winning online courses, LawRoom delivers a robust, cloud-based learning management system to help you easily deploy and track our growing library of ethics, anti-harassment, data security and employee conduct courses.

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Douglas Kelly
Douglas Kelly is EverFi's lead legal editor. He writes on corporate compliance and culture, analyzing new case law, legislation and regulations affecting US companies. Before joining EverFi, he litigated federal and state employment cases and wrote about legal trends. He earned his JD from Berkeley Law and BBA from Emory University.

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