The Importance of Compliance Training – Your Real-World Guide to Learning that Delivers

Importance_of_Compliance_Corporate_ComplianceWhen you understand what compliance training really is, you can help your people “get it”!

The organization you work for depends on something that’s puzzling …

  • If it works well, no one wants to think about it.
  • If it doesn’t, let the finger-pointing begin!

Why? Well, when this thing goes wrong, the problems rain down and take money, time, and focus–even the very existence of the organization–right down the drain with them.

So what is it, this hard-to-manage thing that is ignored yet so critical?

Sounds like a playground riddle, doesn’t it?

Well, no laughs, no chuckles, and no smirks here, because I’m talking about employee compliance. As in, following the rules, regulations, and the practices that keep your organization:

  • Within bounds of the law,
  • In conformance with standards, and,
  • Out of harm’s way.


The organization you work for doesn’t just want its people to understand and deliver what is expected of them …

It counts on it.

Compliance training? Noooooo!

Compliance doesn’t sleep. It’s a factor in your organization’s operations every day, all the time.

The information delivered by compliance training and the complying behaviors it defines must be on-duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year-round. It must be acquired and applied by significant numbers of associates, if not all, and this group sometimes encompasses vendors, contractors, and other outsiders. Adherence to the “rules” often extends beyond the boundaries of the working day, guiding the behavior of associates even into their personal lives.

Compliance training is serious stuff with real implications.

Even so, a lot of us groan a little—or a lot!—whenever the subject of compliance training pops up.

If we’re on the development side, we know we’re in for a long, dull slog through dense material. When we’re on the receiving side, we prepare for a sleepy hour or two of endless information, precious time lost forever.

It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way

I wish that we could all make a pact right now to tear off the mantle of deadly boredom that shrouds compliance training! The truth is that underneath the perfunctory groans and slow ticking of the clock, compliance topics reveal themselves to be:

  • Interesting
  • Compelling
  • Critical

And think about this: If our training reflects these aspects of a compliance topic, we can produce learning that’s among the most important we will ever deliver.


Let’s take a deeper dive.

OK, what’s the big idea?

Generally speaking, compliance is about following rules.

These rules can come in the form of official requirements (for example, the US Health and Human Services’ HIPAA rules or the Security and Exchange Commission’s insider trading regulations), or they can be best practices. These can be either externally or internally required or be just common-sense smart (for example, OSHA electrical safety regulations or a general employer’s handwashing requirements to prevent the spread of viruses).

The rules we’re asked to follow (and train) are designed to result in greater-good outcomes like protection of privacy, leveling of the stock-trading playing field, safety for workers, and a healthy and productive workplace.

Realizing the promise of these outcomes is the real purpose of compliance training, and this is why compliance training is so important.

However, instead of focusing on these “good things,” compliance training solutions (no matter how prettily packaged) often deliver only the official requirements themselves. They describe the rules, but provide little insight about what those rules mean in terms of actual day-to-day behavior.

The result? Participant takeaway is at the “Remember” and “Understand” levels of Bloom’s taxonomy only. Maybe this is sufficient for showing a regulatory body that training has been provided to the letter of the law.


Unfortunately, this is a short-sighted view.

Like I said earlier, our organizations actually depend on each participating associate to take what they remember and understand about a compliance topic out into their worlds.

Armed with that, they need to move right up to the top of Bloom’s pyramid, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and solving problems, all in their real-time environment, where things are tricky, unpredictable, and complicated.

If we’re only training at the remember and understand levels, only delivering the letter of the law but not its behavioral implications, we aren’t doing our people—or our organizations—a favor.

To do better, we need to get to know this animal called compliance training a little better.

So, what is compliance training, exactly?

Recently, I made a list of subjects that fall under the compliance training banner. In a quick effort to gather topics, culling from programs my team and I have worked on, programs I’ve taken, and a general Internet search, I came up with nearly 80 unique compliance subjects. That’s 8 – 0, and I’m sure this list could not be considered complete!

The topics seemed to drop into three distinct categories:

  • Legal and regulatory
  • Safety
  • Information technology

Each of these categories carries obvious importance in the workplace, supporting the idea that there’s a reason compliance training exists.

In fact, contrary to reputation, compliance training programs aren’t created just to waste everyone’s time.

Instead, the regulations, rules, and best practices presented in these programs reflect responses to actual accidents and incidents, and real risk in the operating environment, in short, things with real consequences.



Across all subjects, compliance training is an effort to communicate vital information about genuinely important topics.

Our job as workplace learning developers is to build and preserve a sense of that vitality and importance in the mind of each participant.

This is what is meant when people say they want to create engaging compliance training: How can we make it come alive for our viewers?

Next up in this series? We’ll take a look at some how-to steps for building compliance training.

And until then, remember: Today is a great day!


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