Creating effective and engaging compliance training can be difficult, especially when the topics are complex and not everyone is a compliance expert. On top of that, compliance training is heavily scrutinized because it is one of the pillars of an effective Bank Secrecy Act/anti–money laundering compliance program.
Given these challenges, focusing on engagement as well as content can be tough. But if you keep these four principles at the forefront when developing compliance training for your organization, you’ll have a good start.
1. Use a conversational tone instead of legalese.
One of the crucial tasks compliance training professionals must perform is translating the difficult language of laws and regulations—what we lovingly call “legalese”—into language that anyone in the workforce can understand.
As an authority on plain English, Robert Eagleson advocates using only as many words as are necessary, so the audience can concentrate on the message. It’s tempting to simply cut and paste language from laws and regulations and use it directly in training, but that’s not the best thing for learners. Don’t be afraid to rewrite explanations so the average person can understand it. Take notice of terms like “enforcement actions” and “limited liability” throughout your training—terms that lawyers love to use. How can you substitute these words with ones that make sense to everyone?
2. Focus more on behaviors and purpose, less on regulations and laws.
According to Alan Siegel and Irene Etzkorn’s Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity, “People mistakenly believe that more information equals greater clarity.” Given that idea, is it necessary for everyone in an organization to know the details of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act? Probably not. Instead, what they need to know is that they should be protecting consumers as much as they can and within the guidelines of that act.
When training focuses on what types of behaviors we are looking to create or change, rather than the detailed nuances of the regulation or law that require this change or creation, learners understand their roles better and how they can best comply with the regulation or law.
3. Make training more interactive.
This seems like a no-brainer, but so many times compliance training gets stuck in the lull of presenting facts, asking questions, and presenting more facts. How about mixing in animations or voiceovers with these facts? What about scenarios or gamification? We have an entire digital world at our fingertips, and it’s not going away. We need to embrace these new tools. Just because compliance topics may be more serious than others doesn’t mean learners can’t have fun.
4. Know how and when to use acronyms and abbreviations.
Every organization has this problem—a mile-long list of company- and industry-specific acronyms and abbreviations that only seem to confuse and frustrate both new hires and seasoned employees. (I’m sure we’ve all heard something like this around the office: Our BSA/AML program under OCPC is focused on CDD and GAO reviews.)
Here’s something most people don’t realize: Just because something has an acronym or abbreviation doesn’t mean you must use it. This goes for training, too. The general rule is, if you use the term only once, don’t use the abbreviation or acronym; some styles even go so far as to recommend not using the abbreviation or acronym at all unless the term will be used more than five times. This is because the purpose of abbreviations and acronyms is to make the text easier to read going forward.
However, you’ll still want to use abbreviations or acronyms that people need to know, even if you mention it only once. Just remember—be clear when you first define acronyms and abbreviations, and don’t be afraid to redefine again in the training, if need be. For nonlinear online courses or paper documents where you don’t really know where the learner will start, define the acronym or abbreviation every single time to ensure clarity.
I’m sure many of you have more tips from your experiences as training professionals. While these are not the end of this topic, they’re good to keep in mind as you create your next training. Happy developing!