If you asked 100 employees what the worst type of training is, what do you think they would say? Answer: required training. *ba-dum-tss* Seriously though, the overwhelming answer would be compliance training. Compliance is typically so packed with boring policies and regulations that there’s no room left for engagement. Fear not, there is a way to make fun compliance training.

Before proceeding, we should clarify a few things:

  1. FUN is relative. So to be clear, in this context, we’re likely not talking about birthday party at the nightclub fun. More like birthday party in the breakroom fun. After all, people still need to learn things here.
  2. These techniques aren’t a fit for every situation. There are occasional justifications for “check the box” training. Sometimes there are legal requirements for people to have seen something, without the budget or need to ensure they do anything different. I don’t love it, but it’s a reality.
  3. At the end of the day, these techniques center around relevancy and engagement.

Addressing terrible compliance training fits right into our 8th Principle for Success: Reject Boring. So, this article will look at 10 different engagement techniques and how they can help take your compliance courses in a new direction.

Technique #10 – Compliance Test Out

Number 10 on our list is Test Outs. As we mentioned above, some companies only require “checking the box” that employees have taken the training. Depending on the company, *taking* the course can range from opening it in the LMS, to viewing all the slides, to passing some assessment.

For situations that require demonstrating competency, one way to temper seat time and enhance engagement is using test outs. Not only does testing out reduce potential seat time, but taking a test and determining what learners do and don’t know, creates a certain amount of buy in and acceptance. Additionally, what we learn from making mistakes is much more resistant to forgetting.

learning dashboard

In the example above, we had a 4-section course, with 4 associated pre-test sections. If a user achieved the test-out score for a section, they didn’t need to take that portion of the training. After the pre-test, users landed at the dashboard, which told them what they had left to complete. As you can see, they passed sections 1 and 4, so they only have the remaining 2 sections to complete.

Testing out of portions of the course reduces the seat time. This obviously makes learners happy. It makes management happy as well, since it reduces the “time away from work” cost. Everybody wins.

Technique #9 – Policy Look Up

Number 9 on our list involves challenges around how to present or reinforce policies. First, policies are often very long and not clearly written or organized. Workers often rely on others to ask about policy (often HR) rather than take the time to look it up themselves. So not only is there a challenge with making sure employees know what’s in the policy, there is a challenge of encouraging self-help behaviors. And getting back to checking a box, how many of you have your employees answer an attestation question that they read the policy?

Employee Orientation training portal

The above approach teaches those self-help procedures. We embedded segments of policy documents into the course itself. These were paired with scenario questions that required the user look up the information in the document and answer the question based on the policy wording.

Beyond teaching the specific policy aspects, it taught users how to locate information themselves. This empowered them while relieving some of the burden from HR.

Technique #8 – Game-Like Reality

Number 8 on our list is creating a game-like aspect to the course. For example, we had a situation where our client had a serious need to teach travel safety. However, they didn’t want to get too serious and scare users by communicating every negative consequence related to physical safety and job responsibilities. Additionally, sometimes facts about accidents or safety issues are not seen as relevant and meaningful to the learner because those facts relate to “someone else” – not me, the learner.

Employee Orientation training portal

So in this course we created a Have You Ever quiz approach to the content. To do this, we presented a variety of behaviors that many travels exhibit. Each behavior had an associated risk, and increased or decreased the learner’s risk-o-meter. This brought a game-like element to the training. It also created buy-in, pointing out risky behaviors that learners identified they did.

Technique #7 – Dream Sequence Stories

Number 7 on our list comes from the same travel course. In it we used a technique we’re calling dream sequences. This technique uses the narrator’s recollection of a past experience to provide the context for the upcoming section of content. This flashback helped set the stage for the upcoming safety tips.

Employee Orientation training portal

In this course, our narrator played the roll of “I made all the mistakes so you don’t have to.” This allowed us to detail a specific scenario where he didn’t follow the advised procedures, and exactly what the consequences were. This storytelling approach was much more engaging that typical lists of safety tips. This technique also prompted the learner to reflect on their own past experiences or to recall a circumstance they can relate to, even if they didn’t suffer the consequences.

Technique #6 – Visual Knowledge Checks

Number 6 comes from a course out of the TK archives. This course won an Articulate Guru award WAY back in the day. Despite being a golden oldie, the concepts are still valid. This technique can be used in situations where listing text-based multiple choices makes questions too obvious.

HIPAA portal screenshot

In this course, we set up the visual knowledge check as a scenario game. We created the interaction by explaining that the inspector was pulling into the parking lot. As someone who had completed the HIPAA training, you  were tasked with “running around” the office and locating any violations, before the inspector caught them.

We proceeded to show pictures of cubicles or public office spaces and required learners to click on violations. Listing “don’t leave your workstation unlocked” would be too obvious, but staging the scene made learners recognize what was wrong. As in the photo above, we were also able to inject some levity into the game by involving participants, like the FedEx guy, that employees would recognize.

At the end of the day, application of knowledge presented in compliance training is the ultimate goal of compliance. The challenge is that unless you do an elaborate 360 post-training evaluation, or conduct physical observations for compliance on the job floor, you really don’t know if the learner got enough out of the training to be able to apply the knowledge to the job. Visual knowledge checks are one way to accomplish this.

Technique #5 – Humorous Stories

Number 5 comes from the same award-winning course above. The main thing the Articulate judges loved about this course was the creative storytelling, especially for compliance. This course was on HIPAA Privacy for a medical billing company.

HIPAA portal screenshot

One of the crazier “put yourself in his shoes” stories asked how you would feel if your coworkers read your medical information. The rest of the story unfolded that the office knew about a near-fatal nose picking incident that landed you in the hospital. Humorous stories don’t need to be that over-the-top, but bringing a bit of levity to topics that are typically presented in boring and monotonous ways can really draw in learners by going against their expectations.

Technique #4 – Expert Personalities / Avatars

Our final example covers the remaining 4 techniques. In this example, the client needed to wean their audience away from a readily accessible expert. The policy requiring compliance swung more to the use of legal language and training needed to be plain English. We used an “expert personality” that you might call an avatar. We refer to her as an expert personality because while she is expert, she is also extremely personable. Her voice sets the tone for the entire training experience.

Let me introduce you to Firewall Freida.

Employee Orientation training portalAdding experts to compliance courses gives them a sense of authority. This helps learners respect the information they’re given. But beyond that, we gave Frieda a helluva personality. She was inquisitive, perky, and fun. Overall,  learners loved interacting with her. When’s the last time you heard that about a compliance course?

Technique #3 – Random Test Bank for Uniqueness

Number 3 on our list is randomized testing. Everyone in the organization needed to know about the firewall policies. They also needed to convey honesty and integrity related to the firewall. Therefore, it was implemented with the expectation that everyone receive firewall training annually. Since content rarely changed, the challenge the client was concerned about was presenting the same exact course year after year for at least five years.

Employee Orientation training portal

To combat this, we used 5-question test banks for every knowledge check. This way, each year the user would see a uniquely different set of knowledge check questions. While the content would be a review from year to year, the test questions would not be. This gave management confidence that users wouldn’t cheat, and validated the testing portion.

Technique #2 – Audience Adaptation / Personalization

Technique number 2 is personalizing (or adapting) the learning experience. Everyone in the organization needed to know about the firewall policies. But different people in the organization had different rules surrounding their particular compliance, depending upon their role. We used adaptive logic to identify each role, and subsequently what policy applied to them. We also used that logic to branch them to a learning path specific to their role and then later to practice activities.

Employee Orientation training portal

You see, it wasn’t enough to ask someone’s department and then funnel all similar people to the same questions. Not all marketing people performed the same marketing tasks. Not all sales people performed the same sales tasks, and they might also perform some marketing tasks.

Therefore, we led into each scenario with an interview of sorts. Frieda asked a series of questions about the learner’s role. She remembered their answers, and then presented them with only the relevant questions.

If someone didn’t perform anything within an entire functional category, they would skip a bunch of questions. If they did, Frieda would drill down to see what they actually did. This not only streamlined the course, but it also maximized the relevancy for each individual learner.

Technique #1 – Interactive / Personalized Dialogue

And finally, number 1 on our list is interactive and personalized dialogue. The key word in this technique is DIALOGUE. The entire course functioned as a two-way conversation, not a typical one-directional monologue. This included Frieda asking the learner questions, checking for understanding, and overall, remembering learner responses.

Employee Orientation training portal

This illusion of dialogue created a unique feel. Learners felt a part of the course, similar to the community in an ILT. This was a welcome departure from normal one-directional eLearning. Furthermore, taking this approach with a typically dry topic like compliance is what made it stand out even more.

The combination of these four techniques resulted in a robust compliance education solution. The course feedback was overwhelmingly positive, mainly because almost everyone loved Frieda’s vibe. However, a few outliers thought Frieda was too bubbly. You’ll never create a great course that hits a home run for everyone. So, make sure you align with the overall company culture.

So, Fun Compliance Training is a Reality!

Obviously, you can’t use all these techniques in a single course. And frankly, not every technique is right for every situation. But if you use these ideas as a guide, you can infuse your compliance training with a fresh perspective, and help remove the stigma around compliance training.