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Compliance training is a concern in organisations around the world, yet data shows traditional methods just aren’t working. Gamification may be the solution.

There have been epic compliance failures in the headlines lately. So if corporate compliance dramatically impacts organisations everywhere, why are we getting it wrong so often? A rethink of training methods is a good place to start.

Is compliance training working for you?

Most organisations will be quick to talk about their consistent adherence to compliance training requirements, but judging by the prominent ethics and compliance failures of the past two years, this probably isn’t the case. Or, if it is, the compliance message isn’t getting through. There’s been Facebook’s shady data privacy practices, Tesla’s supply of “false and misleading” information to investors, allegations of unethical conduct and fraudulent employee behaviour at Wells Fargo, and the anti-money laundering scandal surrounding Danske Bank.

In essence, compliance training should help employees understand the rules, regulations and policies relevant to their work and illustrate the potential ramifications of non-compliance. Clearly businesses are failing, too often, to deliver training that influences the real-life decisions employees must make every day. Most situations are always messier than any training scenario and have a fair number of grey areas that aren’t covered in traditional training manuals.

So how do you know if your training is effective, or not?

  • Too many workplace accident incidents. When compliance training fails to educate your people about workplace health and safety laws and regulations, both employees and clients (or customers) are vulnerable to accidental injury, or even death. Apart from the lapse of moral and ethical responsibility, the legal, financial and reputational damage could have dire consequences for your business.
  • New laws and regulations take your employees by surprise. Since laws and internal policies are constantly evolving in South Africa, your training material must be continuously updated and easily accessible to all staff.
  • There are regular lapses in your internal processes. There can be costly consequences for organisations that fail to effectively communicate roles and responsibilities and hold individuals accountable. Non-compliance can result in significant legal and financial risks to the business.
  • Employees resist training or don’t complete it. If your training courses are boring and repetitive (particularly for mandatory annual training), you’ve already the lost the battle. This makes your business and employees vulnerable to compliance failures.

The quickly changing and complex regulatory landscape of a business today means that complying with the relevant laws, rules and internal policies (both to the letter and in spirit), is crucial to your organisation’s sustainability and success. How do you do this?

Bring your training into the 21st century

It makes little sense in an age of smartphones, 24-hour connectivity and knowledge on-tap, that much corporate compliance training still consists of instructor-led classroom sessions and PowerPoint presentations. These traditional methods are not considered the most effective as stand-alone practices. On-the-job-training, and games and simulations are the more effective methods and tools, but just 11% of businesses use virtual classrooms, informal collaboration and simulations.

48% of companies would like to train this way in future, according to Brandon Hall Group’s 2017 Compliance Training Study. But it seems that although organisations realise the importance of updating their methods, they fail to do so. This could be because they’re uncertain about how to train today’s digital-savvy employees, or they’re up against other obstacles like a lack of buy-in at executive level.

Making the case for gamification

Whether you realise it or not, gamification has become mainstream in most people’s lives. If you’re an avid collector of loyalty points, or faithfully track your daily steps with a fitness app, you’ve been hooked by the power of gamification. So if you want to speak to your employees in a way they’ll understand – and in a voice that excites them – get familiar with gamification sooner rather than later. There’s a real and well-documented business case to be made for gamification of learning in the workplace.

Karl Kapp, Professor of Instructional Technology at Bloomsbury University in the U.S. is a world authority on the impact of learning games in corporate and educational settings. He says, that combining the principles of gaming with good quality instructional design, works well for compliance training because games embed good decision making behaviours, support learning transfer by mimicking real life choices and situations, and can be incorporated into a wider ongoing learning program.

In a game situation, players must make conscious decisions about what is allowed and what is not. This is actioned not only mentally, but has a corresponding physical action. Gamification of learning does not stop there. People get feedback on whether or not a decision and action was correct or incorrect. Effective feedback then provides the next steps for learning.

Also, a game can be designed to be played over time – and from research we know that the most effective way to not only learn, but retain what has been learnt, is by learning little bits over time. This is also called micro-learning. The repetitive nature of a well-designed game allows decision making to become automatic over time, reinforcing desired behaviours in a way that is not intimidating. This allows people to feel more open to learning with fewer mental obstacles.

How to get gamification of compliance training right

  • Getting proper performance out of a workforce is never about the message alone. It’s about how you choose to deliver that message. So pay as much attention to the best delivery mechanisms as you do to the message itself. Rethink that old training manual into gaming videos and simulations. Use what works. Turn compliance into a game quest that they enjoy engaging with, and you’ve taken the first steps to creating a culture of continuous learning in your organisation.
  • Pace a training course. Deliver content in smaller quantities, less frequently. If non-compliance continues to be an issue in your organisation – you probably need better training, not more of the same training.
  • It’s easier to turn learning into an enjoyable experience that aims to keep a person returning to learn over the long term, if you stop seeing compliance training as an onboarding or annual event. Keep in mind the evolving nature of laws and regulations and turn your compliance training into an exciting journey of professional development.
  • Carry out an internal audit of your learning management system. The Brandon Hall Group’s 2017 Compliance Training Study found that the higher the percentage of manual management of training activities, the less effective the training becomes. This is because manual management tends to be less effective than using an automated system that allows all compliance functions to be managed from a single platform.

Training for real people

None of us like to feel like a one or a zero. Gamifying your compliance training says a lot about you before you’ve even asked an employee to learn a single rule or regulation. Turning learning into an enjoyable and non-intimidating experience, making training digitally accessible, and speaking to your people in a way they understand through all the modern online training tools at your disposal – communicates their worth to your company. This is the message they will respond to with loyalty and their best efforts – and that, today, is the new bottom line.