Many companies still consider the path to effective knowledge management to be a difficult one, especially when it involves complicated (and often unpopular) issues such as compliance. As part of this process, regulations and values can easily be communicated to employees via technical support. Online training platforms ensure motivation and memorability in compact units known as “microlearning”. They present opportunities for specifically optimising compliance training through microlearning. For if employees are well-informed about laws, guidelines and codices, companies have little to fear when it comes to their reputation and legal security.
One frequently chosen method for disseminating compliance is the written Code of Conduct. This is certainly a useful reference work, but due to its length and complex formulation, it is seldom read and absorbed in its entirety. This poses problems for companies, because only 36% of employees claim to know and follow their company’s compliance regulations1. Besides an overall ignorance regarding established regulations – 23% of employees were clueless regarding the term “compliance” – regulatory standards in companies are often ambiguous, complicated and subject to frequent amendments. Compliance documentation also lacks provisions for posing questions, social interaction and examples from real life. On-site training, on the other hand, is expensive and must be planned long in advance. Especially when it comes to inducting new employees, companies wish to convey and clarify their rules and values at an early stage.
Since the introduction of cloud technology, efficient methods of disseminating information and testing knowledge are freely available. Software as a Service (SaaS) providers offer platforms that can be accessed from anywhere. Users of various devices can obtain access to contents that can be accessed or updated at any time. Such online training offers users the following advantages:
Ready-made compliance training is available for various topics, such as gifts, donations and sponsors, money laundering prevention, antitrust regulations and data protection. However, if a company wishes to authoritatively convey its own values, we recommend that they create an in-house training. This can be done by the legal officer or the personnel department.
Compliance officers who are referred to as “trainers” are experts in content – this does not mean that they are familiar with the creation of training sessions. In order to simplify implementation, many trainers rely on practical, pre-set authoring tools. The current European market already offers user-friendly training platforms that are inexpensive and easy to install. Furthermore, companies can use written material that they already have by downloading and converting documents or presentations, or alternatively, the trainer can work step by step towards creating an individual course that is tailored to the company’s needs.
Inexperienced trainers in particular must learn how to design effective and motivating content. Therefore, training experts have been making use of the microlearning method for many years: this involves training with short units that are adapted to the user’s needs through their directness and efficient use of time. Why plan in extended periods of time for the teaching of regulations? Employees learn in a more relaxed manner if they are able to access individual modules at times that suit them. Even long, complicated texts can be separated into single sequences that can be more easily absorbed and comprehended. Multimedia units such as charts, animation, audio or video files make the process more exciting; ensuring that the content learned is better retained.
An example of compliance that’s easy to remember is the question of accepting gifts. Do you know the value limit of the gifts that employees are allowed to accept from business partners? The question in itself – ideally presented as a test question with an answer field – draws the course participant further into the matter. Suspicion of corruption and damage to reputations are closely related, as the auto manufacturer, Ford and the former Federal President of Germany, Christian Wulff know only too well. Fragments of news reports regarding current cases lend themselves well to inclusion in the training as an image or a link. Instead of these being used as a deterrent, however, the focus should remain on the positive. The image of a happy employee illustrates an elementary message, simply and permanently: Gifts should make us happy rather than triggering feelings of obligation.
By reducing essential key information, users are able to assimilate new information better and the amount of information retained is also increased. This applies particularly if participants can do tests to repeat what they’ve learned and describe it themselves. Text insertion fields for the learned knowledge questions are recommended for this purpose. Test questions are also required in order to certify the training. These should refer to the learning progress and either be definitely answerable (e.g. multiple-choice questions) or allow room for individual interpretation. In this case, the trainer is asked to get involved: free text entries need to be checked and answered, and possibly assessed, so that participants have a feeling of confirmation regarding in their interaction.
Trainers can continuously track the status of the compliance training and the level of participation. They can not only invite new participants to make use of the online training; they are also able to check to ensure that the training has been completed successfully whether any queries or discussions arose. The measurability of the results is important for two reasons:
Compliance training is done, not only for employee certification, but also for legal security in cases of damage. The results reveal various assumptions that can be made with regard to the participating groups (e.g. whether significantly less information comes from some production locations than from others). Companies should respond to this feedback by offering informative training and increasing personal contact to remote factories as well.
Furthermore, interactive online training allows participants to have discussions and clarify discrepancies, thus delivering valuable feedback. This feedback also gives the employee a feeling of being part of the company. The actual compliance with regulations is based on this: In the end, it is the employee’s sense of responsibility and integrity that are crucial in adhering to compliance.
1 Results of a survey of 169 German companies by the Hochschule für angewandte Wirtschaftswissenschaften [University of Applied Economic Sciences] Würzburg-Schweinfurt, regarding implementation of Compliance Management Systems (CMS).
This article was published in German at Community of Knowledge, an international platform for knowledge management.