Compliance training – keeping up-to-date with regulatory demands

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Written by Dirk Thissen on 22 December 2014 in Features

E-learning is an efficient and cost-effective way of delivering compliance training, says Dirk Thissen

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) carried out its first Bribery Act prosecutions in December 2014(1), resulting in three directors facing a total of 28 years in prison. This has set alarm bells ringing in key industries such as the financial sector and as a result, training officers face increasing pressure to keep all their staff up to speed with regulatory demands.

Managing compliance training is no longer a tick box exercise and HR departments are looking to extend the scope of compliance training to become part of a broader strategy to foster a culture of compliance that encompasses all staff. A wide range of employees, from IT staff to sales representatives and line managers, must not only be aware of their individual responsibilities, but also the legal and regulatory obligations of their organisation. Companies also have the challenge of being able to demonstrate that their staff are working in a way that is compliant with regulations and that they are adequately supported to do this.

The consequences of getting the process wrong include not only major fines and imprisonment of senior staff but also reputational damage which can have a wider impact on the brand and even the viability of the organisation. 

Challenges of compliance training

HR staff face a number of challenges in managing compliance training, particularly in the light of the predicted higher rates of staff churn in 2015.(2) The stream of new compliance rules and regulations appears endless. Additionally, UK and EU laws are not the only ones UK companies have to worry about. Recent fines for breaching sanctions demonstrate that regulations in other territories, particularly the US, are also having an increased impact overseas.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has said that not only must firms have clear criteria for individuals to be assessed as competent, they must also assess the competence and training needs of their employees regularly so that appropriate and effective training can be provided. Organisations need to monitor changes in the marketplace, products and regulations while considering the skills, expertise, technical knowledge and behaviour of their employees, as well as their ability to apply changes in practice. To meet these FCA requirements, any learning management system must not only deliver effective training but also help manage deadlines for completion of training and enable a thorough audit of compliance training provision, particularly if the regulators come calling.

Compliance training is rarely at the top of anyone’s to-do list and employees who have not previously been concerned with compliance may be particularly resistant to spending time on compliance training. However, fostering a compliance culture where staff automatically considers the compliance ramifications of their actions will be easier to achieve by deploying the carrot rather than the stick. If compliance training is engaging because it is closely relevant to the trainees’ job roles and consistent with the values of the organisation then the learning is more likely to stick.

E-learning is an efficient and cost-effective way of delivering compliance training, but it will only be an engaging and successful mode of training if it is up-to-date, interactive and caters to a variety of learning styles from visual to auditory. Get the content and language of the training right and it will be suitable for all members of staff at all levels. If staff see senior management undertaking the training too, that will help reinforce its importance to the core operations of the organisation.

If compliance training modules are embedded within employee workflows and made easy to access – and made available on and offline so that it can be completed just about anywhere via a tablet or mobile device, there will be few objections that it is not convenient or that employees won’t be able to find time to do the training. As compliance is not core to most employees’ roles, it is particularly important to ensure that the training is engaging by keeping modules short and intuitive, with content that is easy to navigate. Regular interactive elements might include games-based activities to motivate and engage people.

Employees must gain a clear understanding of the implications for themselves and the company of getting it wrong and breaking the rules. Scenario-based training tailored to the organisation and role works well here by plunging the employee into a realistic situation that they might well encounter as part of their job. Their response will demonstrate what they have learned and uncover any remaining holes in their knowledge.

One size does not fit all

The FCA has made it clear that compliance can no longer be a tick box exercise and that organisations should create a culture of compliance with rules intended to both safeguard the effective operation of the financial markets and protect consumers. Compliance training must be effective and relevant and now, more than ever, a one-size-fits-all approach to training is not going to work.

Tips to keep staff up to speed with regulatory demands:

  • Effective compliance training should be about changing behaviour not just imparting facts.
  • Training should be seen as just one element of a broader approach to creating a culture of compliance.
  • Compliance needs to be part of ‘business as usual’ and training should aim to make people consider the compliance implications of their actions as an automatic response.



2 Bersin by Deloitte: 21st Century Talent Management: Imperatives for 2014 and 2015



About the author

Dirk Thissen is director at IMC Learning 


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