Friday, May 31, 2013

Why won't they comply?

After a manic month of completing my studies and numerous other projects, it's finally time to get some overdue reflections on Epic's 'Why won't they comply?' event together.  Here goes...
The best and worst of compliance training

Is all compliance training really that bad? Have you experienced something that was engaging, practical, interactive, specific and relevant to your role, maybe even a little bit fun? Some people have, but sadly the reality is often generic, page-turning, content-heavy, narrator-driven, generic and repetitive.

Top areas for compliance training are health & safety, anti-bribery/corruption (been there, done that!), data protection and code of conduct. Employees all say that they want changes in employee behaviour, attitude and engagement, but sadly the focus is still on completion and assessment pass rates. Our panel for the day set about inspiring us with ways to break the cycle and inject some life into this necessary, but often tedious subject.

Why doesn't compliance training work?

Charles Jennings wrote a very thoughtful blog post on the subject last year - just in time to give me a reality check as I was putting anti-bribery compliance training into play at work - so I was keen to hear his thoughts on the matter.  We often find that compliance training falls into the trap of box ticking, to prove that the required training was given as a protection against lawsuits.  There is no doubt that companies and individuals can be damaged by compliance failures - just look at the Ford Pinto story.  Ford ignored safety warnings, confident that they could easily compensate for any injuries through their profits.  They not only cost lives but also lost huge sales revenues when the truth came out.  So how do you stop the compliance failures in the first place?

Firstly you need to shift away from the belief that information alone can change behaviours.  When you make the information relevant and specific to people's roles you have part of the equation, but the key is to connect it to the risk-causing events that you want to prevent, and devise decision-making challenges that people have to think their way around.  It also has to give people a safe environment to experience failure, and make its way into culture and workflow to ensure that pressures to meet targets don't over-ride good practice.

Why won't they comply?

Most compliance training fails to hit the mark because people are bored by it, and there's not enough clarity on how they are expected to change their behaviour.  Imogen Casebourne suggested some good reading on the subjects of habit and persuasion with technology for us, along with a wealth of her own insights on producing effective compliance training.
One of the biggest factors in effective compliance is how the leadership take responsibility for it, because this is key to embedding a culture of compliance.  The CEO of one aluminium production company would sack managers who refused to comply - this resulted in a massive drop in casualties, not to mention increased profits.  Although many of us don't put our lives on the line doing our jobs, these industries can give us important pointers on how to get things right in our own culture.  Hearing colleagues talk about their own near-death accidents might sound extreme, but it certainly works for some companies.
What can we fix in our own compliance training?  Cutting out repetition in favour of letting people show that they know the material, making it multi-device and role-filtered could go a long way to cutting out the information overload and contributing to real ability amongst employees.  Harnessing the power of storytelling can help to overcome motivation problems by giving learners a clear goal to focus on.  If you have the budget and the ability, perhaps even take this as far as creating a game to get people to make behavioural commitments within the game environment.  But getting people to continue the behaviour in the real world needs some triggers.  Mobile technology could be used to give prompts in this respect - those looking even further forward might consider the potential of Google Glass and the iWatch.
What can we do differently?

Some interesting ideas for alternative future approaches came out in this session.  Some of the ideas that I'll be keen to explore in future are:
  • personal growth plans
  • interviewing colleagues for sound-bites (peer-to-peer learning)
  • changing to return on expectations (rather than investment)
  • measuring the impact on others (not just yourself)
  • measuring the impact on learner confidence.
The concept that brought out the best discussion (both during and after the session) was moving from courses to campaigns.  For some good examples, see Lars Hyland's post on the eLearning Network blog, or Craig Taylor's series of blog posts on his experiences.

Looking forward: new technologies for compliance training

I've been hearing a good deal of excitement about the release of the Tin Can API, but this is the first time I've heard some live thoughts about what people are calling 'Son of SCORM'. Whilst SCORM has been built into practically every e-learning product as a universal, reliable technical standard, some people are keen to break the limitations of the system - so how will Tin Can help here?  Mark Aberdour gave us his thoughts on what can be achieved.
Tin Can will allow for more data to be captured that relates to learning, wherever and whenever it may happen.  Interactions don't have to take place within the LMS - we are moving towards the creation of a Learning Record Store (LRS) for personal learning, that can interface with your LMS when you log back in.  This can extend to capturing data through QR codes and possibly even internal software - although perhaps this could actually raise privacy and security issues for companies?
The key model for the LRS approach seems to be linking up noun - verb - object, which lets any task be converted to a language that the software can keep track of, for any type of activity.  Potentially performance statements could even feed into this.  From a compliance perspective, it allows employees to build up evidence of learning that doesn't have to be from standardised modules - webinar participation, blog posts and other informal activities could be used instead.  The system could even be configured to build up achievements - I'm sure gamification fans will be jumping up and down with excitement here...

Overall, there appears to be a wealth of interesting options made available with this emerging software.  However, as with any technology, we will have to beware of letting the technology dictate design - our responsibility is to make sure it fits with employee motivation.

How do you build a successful business case for compliance? 

Compliance training is often costly both in money and time, so how do you keep effective programs in play without breaking your budget?  Simon Brown was given the task of bringing the learning function at Lloyds Banking Group under control in 2010, and found that they had a huge and expensive catalogue.  Within 2 years this had been brought under control, reducing budget and improving effectiveness.

So what are the key points for a business case?  Reducing duplication of courses and keeping to a smaller number of trusted suppliers are quick wins, bringing better consistency and reducing the size and cost of the catalogue.  Moving towards e-learning wherever practical can reduce your costs, not just on purchasing but also through reduced completion time, by freeing up employees for more important tasks.

With a slimmer and more effective training portfolio, the company has been able implement academies and group-wide capabilities.  But don't forget the need to keep stakeholders engaged - embedding processes for reporting and governance takes time and effort, even with the best e-learning at your fingertips.

Ask the panel: How do we re-engage the business with compliance training?

Some final points about compliance training came out through this session with the panel members.  Re-engaging your business with compliance training will really depend on you being able to make it role-specific, and more closely aligned with supporting performance objectives.  Tracking your data to satisfy regulatory bodies is often a bugbear, but hopefully Tin Can and the emerging LRS software will give you more flexible ways of achieving this.
From the L&D perspective, our on-going challenge remains in demonstrating the value that we bring to the business.  Good points of advice here include using the Kirkpatrick evaluation model - but be sure to use all the levels.  Stick to business metrics in your evaluations - avoid producing masses of data, just enough to satisfy the leadership that you are doing the right thing.  Also remember that sometimes your role might be to say NO to training when it's not the best approach.
And above all else, keep the conversation going - your thoughts?