Ticking the box

Jun 17,2013

Compliance is the subject I selected for the first Learning and skills Group conference Learning design challenge which is taking place on Tuesday this week at Olympia. In the workplace compliance training is virtually unavoidable now and is often seen as a much dreaded annual or bi-annual activity, so I wanted to see just what could be done to make it engaging and ultimately change behaviours.


I once sat on a Fire safety compliance session being run by a very passionate and interesting ex-fireman to find the head of L&D sat next to me. She was taking lots of notes. I felt a bit guilty, I had only taken a few, but I had learnt a few things I didn’t know. During a break I asked her about the session. Her reply really shocked me. She told me she’d sat through it all two years ago and it hadn’t changed so she was making a list of things she needed to do before she went off on annual leave. I was so stunned by her reply, I just muttered something about the session starting again and walked off. Inside I badly wanted to take her to task, she was responsible for this training session!


Compliance training is required mainly to make sure that employees are kept safe and well and to make sure that they know how to operate safely in the workplace to protect their organisation, customers and other parties. Many compliance training courses are backed by laws that have been established because repeated governments of our country have felt legal regulation is important. In practice we judge compliance by forcing employees to take some form of training and because they’ve sat through it companies fool themselves into thinking they can tick the regulator’s box. Some compliance training, often e-learning, will include some form of quiz. It is common in offices for employees to “help” each other through the quiz just to get the damned compliance training out of the way.
This is not learning. This is wasting valuable employees time on ticking a box to meet a regulatory requirement. Compliance subjects deserve better. Employees deserve better. Why do regulatory bodies accept the tick in the box? What happened to quality management?


I’m interested to see what good practice and changes in approach the learning design challenge at the LSG conference will expose. So good luck to the three plucky learning designers – Niall Gavin, Matt Brewer and Craig Taylor. Let’s hope you’re going to inspire us with ways that make compliance training meaningful, engaging and ultimately change behaviour. Because the one behaviour that L&D professionals need to change in the organisations they support is a culture of false reliance on “ticking the box”.

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