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Five obstacles that can impede compliance training

Compliance training doesn’t always work. Sometimes trainers and trainees don’t click. Sessions are flat. Trainees are unengaged, bored, and sleepy. What’s gone wrong?

Here are five things that cause compliance training to fail.

It’s all about the company and not the trainees. Protecting the organization from criminal and civil liability is important. But when the only reason for compliance is the company’s welfare, trainees are likely to tune out. Everyone wants to know, “How does this impact me?” That’s why compliance training should also be personal. “This training will help you stay employed and out of legal trouble.”

It’s just another rule book. More rules? There are too many already. So, if compliance training is a litany of do’s and don’ts, most trainees will withdraw. “Will this ever end?” “I wonder what I’ll have for dinner?” “Maybe I can snooze with my eyes open.”

It sounds like criticism. When compliance trainers are careless, they can bruise egos. “We know you guys are cutting corners on due diligence.” Nearly everyone reacts badly to criticism. Defense mechanisms kick in. Trainees go into denial, blame others, play the victim, and so on. When that happens, trainees stop being trainable.

The bosses say one thing and do another. Maybe training that day is about encouraging and protecting whistleblowers. But every trainee has heard the story about a colleague who was harassed, fired, financially ruined, and blacklisted because they flagged a compliance concern. When trainees don’t trust the C-suite or its mouthpiece, training flops. A message contradicted by real or perceived management misbehavior breeds deep cynicism. That’s the worst outcome and a recipe for compliance disasters.

Compliance becomes “corporate communication.” Even good companies are guilty of draining the life out of compliance. Leaders reduce the program to a bloodless technical exercise. “These requirements are designed to prevent violations of applicable laws, rules, and regulations.” In contrast, messages tied to values are authentic and relatable. “Bribery is morally repulsive and victimizes innocent people in these ten ways.” Trainees welcome that perspective. They want to hear more and do more. There’s always a technical side. But it’s the human side that engages us humans.

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