Keeping compliance simple

by 26 Nov 2008

Most companies today are beset by a raft of regulatory and other legislative requirements. Human Resources magazine looks at how online compliance training can help companies comply with legal obligations

Compliance requirements have increased in both number and complexity in recent years. With the current economic downturn, governments around the world are also looking to tighten up banking and financial systems through increased legislation and regulation. As such, compliance requirements are set to increase significantly for many organisations.

Online compliance training is also evolving to meet both client needs and the increasing complexity of compliance requirements. One of the big trends is a combination of online and face-to-face training,according to Andrew Adlam, business development manager for law firm Blake Dawson, which has developed an online legal compliance training and reporting system called salt Enterprise.

“Organisations are using a blended approach –implementing online to cover the basics that everyone needs to know about, then analysing the online reporting to tailor their instructor-led programs. In this way they can target the more complex or weaker areas – for example, where people might be struggling with certain concepts,” he says.

There is also a move away from the heavily customised online training towards a more flexible, modular approach, enabling employees to access what is relevant to their particular role. “This modular approach also allows for courses to be updated by section rather than a reworking of the entire course,because updating an entire course can be a costly and time-consuming exercise,” Adlam says.

Gill Fletcher, director of education for Learning Seat, says there has been a significant change in the online compliance training market, with a big growth in the number of client acquisitions over the past six months. “We believe this is because companies genuinely want to uphold compliance training and, in this economic environment, it makes sense to move to online delivery which offers a far more efficient and cost-effective delivery format,” Fletcher says.

“Not only does online training ensure consistency of delivery, it also offers approximately 80 per cent reduction in cost. To be able to deliver, track and record training anywhere in the world at the touch of a button and to be able to report on progress at any stage is a great benefit – especially for companies with multiple sites.”

Adam Dunkley, marketing manager for e3Learning,has also seen a dramatic increase in the uptake for compliance training online as HR managers recognise the success of online compliance training. “For example e3Learning content access has jumped 400 per cent in the last year to 1.5 million course pages per month.”

Common compliance training problems

The key to effective implementation of any online compliance training program is in getting a commitment from the CEO and executive team, according to Dunkley, and in emphasising that online compliance training is critical to the organisation.

“e3Leaning have implemented over 200 projects, and found that when leadership buy-in is lacking and staff can voluntarily undertake training, outcomes are poor. The online solution needs backing, a company-wide approached, commitment and enthusiastic organisation champions,” he says.

Another key challenge is IT infrastructure. Dunkley says this needs to be checked prior to implementation to ensure all systems can access the online system to include capabilities for audio, flash, internet browsers and email.

Fletcher says that companies developing their own online training courses often have difficulty in understanding how an online program needs to be written in order for it to be engaging, interactive and instructionally sound.

“There are some key things that companies do not understand, such as the language to use, the amount of text to include on each screen, the right balance of animation and activities, as well as instructional strategies that need to be used to motivate and engage the learner,” she says.

“With compliance being a relatively bland topic,it’s important to get these things right in order to inject life into the programs to ensure the user not only has a great learning experience, but also that they are then motivated to transfer that knowledge into behaviours in the workplace.”

Adlam says that it is important that legal and compliance recognise HR when introducing an online compliance program. HR is often the best resource for efficiently managing and rolling out online compliance, he says, because they have the necessary skills and channels of communication across the entire organisation. “HR are more connected to the organisational culture and have access to operational systems and so are ideally placed to design effective and relevant programs for the diverse job roles and compliance risk profiles,” he says.

In research being undertaken by Blake Dawson Technology, 26 per cent of companies indicate that limitations on employee time is the most pressing issue when it comes to compliance training, followed by inadequate budget (14 per cent), resistance from management (11 per cent) and a lack of knowledge of applicable compliance requirements (13 per cent).

“Employees must be allocated enough time to undertake their compliance training,” Says Adlam. “Many organisations run training at induction, but this training subsequently falls away once new staff members are ‘swallowed up’ by their job. Online systems allow staff access to training when and where it can be fitted into busy schedules.”

“It is essential for organisations to have champions in management, to ensure that appropriate budget is allocated, to keep employees motivated to do their training and ensure they are allocated enough time in their day to undertake the training. Without the appropriate levels of support, compliance training programs will fail, and, once that happens, it is even more difficult to get support for future initiatives,” he says.

Making the most of compliance training

The most important thing to consider in online compliance training is the user experience, according to Fletcher. “If the courses aren’t easy to use, engaging, interactive and instructionally sound then it is not worth delivering,” she says. “Compliance training needs to be more than just ticking a box; the training needs to provide the learner with the impetus to make changes and take notice. They need to be practical in their approach and personal in their language. If you have this part right, the rest of the process is relatively simple.”

Dunkley says that online compliance and the broader e-learning strategy is a partnership. In working with a provider,he recommends looking for a company that is innovative, flexible and that understands the partnership model. Another important element is a robust online learning management system,which can be customised to company specific reporting and tracking requirements, Dunkley says.

He recommends a provider that offers an online learning portal to enable all courseware to have client branding, a broad and growing range of generic courseware that can be customised, a demonstrated ability to develop client specific courseware, and the ability to integrate with other systems used by the organisation.

Adlam says it is important for HR to work closely with legal, compliance, risk, OHS and many other stakeholders in the organisation when adopting a compliance training strategy.

“Other stakeholders identify the compliance risks within their working environments, but HR often understands the training culture within their organisations and is best placed to centrally and efficiently manage the program. External advisors will also be able to assist by looking at trends and recent cases facing organisations in your industry,” he says.

“From our experience, it is imperative that these areas work closely together to meet and communicate their compliance objectives to their respective organisations. A number of our clients make online compliance training a KPI of an employee’s job role, which is recorded by HR in their HR management system and used as a measure during appraisals.”

Adlam says their clients identify key influencers within their organisations to communicate their compliance training goals and to overcome cultural barriers to compliance training. “Again, HR has the requisite skills to adopt this strategy.”