The average employee working in an office receives 121 emails per day. If we had to rank all of those emails in their inbox from 'most' to 'least' exciting, I'd venture to guess that the one from their compliance department containing mandatory ethics and compliance training (E&C) they need to complete is pretty close to 'least' exciting.
As someone who genuinely believes in the value and importance of driving ethical and compliant behavior, finding new and innovative ways to change that reaction is always on my mind. But why the lack of excitement?
My personal experiences hinge upon two driving forces behind the current perception of ethics and compliance training among the modern workforce: time and perceived value.
Changing behavior through learning: a matter of time
In 2018, LinkedIn asked 2,200 employees, 1,200 talent developers, 400 managers, and 200 executives how their workplace learning could be improved. The consensus wasn't that people don't want to learn new things, but that people simply don't have enough time to do so. When it comes to learning at work, survey participants shared that it's not just what they learn that matters, but when they can digest that information, where they can access it, and why it matters to them.
source: LinkedIn report
This is reinforced by research conducted by Deloitte, who found that the average employee can only devote 1% of their time to any formal learning - just 24 minutes a week! In their minds, every minute spent consuming training is one minute less they have to do their jobs, especially if they can only do it on their computer at their desk.
That trade-off is even more evident when the training itself isn't valued by the employee, or adding value to how they can do their jobs.
Communicating the value of ethics and compliance
In our research over recent years, we have observed the trend that some employees continue to harbor a particularly negative impression of ethics and compliance learning. Many struggle to see how it contributes to making their day-to-day jobs any easier, safer or better, and sometimes even see it as a waste of their time.
There may once have been some truth in this, but with well-known corporate scandals making headlines, ethics and compliance learning is more important than ever in the challenge to reduce risk and protect reputations.
Deloitte's research also found that “today's employees are overwhelmed, distracted and impatient” and when it comes to learning, they want to “take more control over their own development.” Ethics and compliance learning competes with all of the messaging, information, media, and distractions to which employees are increasingly exposed. To be heard, it needs to rise above the noise.
This can only be achieved if employees can see the value that it offers. So before we can train, we need to convince employees of the value ethics and compliance learning will offer, and win their buy-in that these learning experiences are a valuable, and even essential, use of their time.
Convincing with campaigns: a flexible approach
Convincing is a process, and like any process, it takes a number of steps over time, with each step focused on achieving a particular purpose. The easiest way to think about campaigns are through the lens of advertising and marketing.
To convince you to buy their latest brand of coffee, a beverage company might conduct a campaign using a range of different advertising channels and marketing techniques throughout four main steps: Discovery, Consideration, Conversion, and Retention.
Throughout the four-steps of that campaign, the beverage company will make you aware of that new product by leveraging traditional advertising (print, TV, radio) and digital advertising (social media, sponsored content, podcasts), help you understand why you may want to try it, make it easy for you to buy it, and ultimately, nurture that relationship so you stay a customer.
Seeing a commercial once isn't enough to make you buy that coffee, just as learning about something one time isn't enough to make you remember it, let alone think about it when it matters. Like advertising and marketing, learning is ultimately about changing behavior, and changing behavior is driven through repetition.
If you can fundamentally agree with that idea, then taking a campaign-based approach can also be a very successful way to deliver an effective learning experience. When we help global organizations build ethics and compliance programs to address risks and protect their brand, we aspire to go beyond time-consuming, one-time training courses. We think like marketers trying to change someone's behavior and break the learning experience up into four steps, too:
source: SAI Global
1. Prime (Discovery): Like any good advertisement, this stage is all about making someone aware of a new concept (a risk topic or cultural value) and helping them recognize that they have a learning need.
2. Train (Consideration): At this stage, you're going to deliver key knowledge about that new concept (in-depth training), and engage each individual so they develop the right attitudes around that concept.
3. Apply (Conversion): This is when you help each individual transfer the information they've discovered and considered into the desired outcome. For ethics and compliance programs, it's all about connecting the dots to operationalize the training they've been given in the context of their roles and responsibilities.
4. Sustain (Retention): The last stage isn't the end of your journey, but a constant effort to continue embedding that desired outcome and behavior. For a beverage company, it means buying that product again. For your ethics and compliance program, it means helping someone maintain what they've learned and reinforce why it's important to them.
Done well, taking a campaign-based approach to ethics and compliance learning can help employees recognize the value your program provides and make it easier for them to engage with that information. Making these experiences more flexible shows employees that you value their time, and by doing that, you might just change their perception of ethics and compliance too.
Modern ethics and compliance programs consist of a forward-thinking learning methodology and technology that simplifies the experience of engaging with content. If you liked this blog post about learning methodology, you may enjoy reading about our approach to technology.