You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him…learn

Employees aren’t learning anything just because you make a compliance course required

Whenever I meet new people and tell them that I design compliance training and ethics awareness programs for a living, I almost always get some version of the same response. First, its a weird look (maybe it’s a look of pity…I don’t know). And then…

I hate compliance training. It’s soooo boring. I just click through it until I get it over with.

Not long ago, I met with a compliance professional who told me that a manager came to him and requested that they develop a training module to address a particular topic. The compliance professional told the manager that they already had a training course that included that topic, and that the manager had recently taken it. Because the manager essentially just clicked through the training, he didn’t realize the topic had already been covered!

It can be difficult to measure the ROI on compliance training. But here’s something that can be said for sure about ROI:

If employees aren’t paying attention, they aren’t learning. If they aren’t learning then—you. are. wasting. money.

Engaging learners is one of the most overused, least understood, and frequently poorly executed concepts around. Especially when it comes to compliance training. We get caught up in how important the information is that we need to communicate and we forget that people won’t pay attention to that message just because we think it’s important. You can force them to sit there and click, but you can’t make them learn.

You want, and need, your learners to pay attention. Think about that phrase for a moment: to pay attention.

When we pay for something we expect a return of value. Whether we pay money or we pay attention, we expect something that we deem to be of value in return.

In my last email to you, I talked about how the proper use of storytelling is an important key to improving learner engagement. Now let’s add to that the fact that the way your training looks is also an important key to improving learner engagement.

Give them a reason to pay attention with something that is visually appealing.

Keep these points in mind:

  • No one voluntarily looks at flat, boring, unimaginative content. (But they aren’t doing it voluntarily, you say. Exactly! And that makes the hurdle you need to clear to earn their attention so much higher because they don’t want to do it to begin with).
  • Be thoughtful about color, imagery and tone. These things should not be afterthoughts. There should be a specific reason you choose a color or a graphic. And for Pete’s sake, give some thought to tone (also known in literary circles as attitude). The tone doesn’t always need to be “lawyer-ly”.
  • If you are more of a left-brained person, you should get some help with this. There’s no shame in being more analytically inclined, but capturing attention and influencing behavior requires more than “just the facts ma’am” (as they used to say on Dragnet).

Below is a quick example of the difference visual design can make. The image on the left may look like training you know (it was a real course). It’s the before. The image on the right is the after. Not only has visual dimension been added, but so too has the “why”, which was very important because every employee needed to take this training and most originally didn’t see why it was relevant to them.










To really awesome ethics and compliance content,


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