Archive for December, 2008


Criminals, fraud, terrorists, prison, fines, media frenzy and bankruptcy – exciting stuff! So why is the vast majority of compliance training as dry as Gandhi’s sandals?

Financial fraud and data protection cases have been all over the news in 2008, and 2009 is set to be a big year for legislative and regulatory bodies. Big corporates will be fighting to herd their workforce through the gate of hell that is compliance “e-learning”.

I use the quotes because the sad truth of the matter is that learning has very little to do with the motivation behind compliance interventions and even less to do with the result. Many a blogger before me has lamented this fact; here are just a few choice quotes to illustrate the point:

“In most, you will literally lose the will to live…
This is all about attendance, not attainment – literally ticks in boxes.” – Donald Clark

“It has NOTHING to do with learning.” – Brent Schlenker

“It’s like immunising people with placebos.” – Donald Clark

When it comes to workplace training, it doesn’t get much more serious than legal and regulatory compliance. Yes, you want employees to be good at their jobs, to be motivated to continuously develop new skills and to manage their own learning. But surely, before all that, you want them not to land the company in a whole heap of trouble by leaving customers’ details on the train, letting slip the latest product info to their mates down the pub or not noticing that their fellow trader is swindling millions at the other end of the desk.

Yet the same companies who are so diligent about the quality of their e-learning when it comes to soft skills, performance management and systems training suddenly lose all ambition when it comes to compliance. So why do organisations find it so hard to see the correlation between compliance training and performance? Why is the highest ambition companies have for compliance training “you have to do it and you have to show that you’ve done it” (Sue Weeks)?

As Brent Schlenker points out, “if the goal of the training is to be compliant then you’re wasting your money doing anything more than just a simple converted PowerPoint with a test at the end.” If this attitude is the driving force behind delivering compliance training, the ROI is precisely nil. Why not get your money’s worth out of your training and actually try and prevent breaches of compliance at the same time as showing that you have done what’s required of you?

Or, at least, attempt to make the training – dare I say – fun. This is possible, I promise! Compliance e-learning offers a wealth of possibilities when it comes to making the training engaging for the learner, whether that’s going for a game-like delivery or making it as relevant and realistic as possible – you’ll know which your people will respond best to.

With 2009 looking like it’s going to be less than a barrel of laughs, let’s not add to the woes of the global workforce by sapping what little will to live they do have through mindless, pointless, painful compliance training.

Let’s dust ourselves off from the disappointments of previous efforts and keep trying to bridge that gap between compliance and performance. Or, at the very least, between compliance training and consciousness.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.”
Charles Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities.

So what does the economic disaster spell for learning in the corporate world – doom and gloom or happy days? Training budgets are being slashed quicker than the price of pick and mix at Woolworths and those in learning and development are uncertain what their department will look like next year.

One thing’s for certain, change is coming and it’s coming fast. With cost-cutting number one on the list of business priorities 2009 could be, as Clive Shepherd points out, the “turning point for learning and development.”

Despite the huge advances in technology, progress in e-learning up to now has been slow. Organisations have been taking cautious, baby steps towards using technology to support learning for over a decade, experimenting with the odd e-learning course here, flirting with a serious game or two there. But even those companies with a well established tradition of using technology within their organisation have not even begun to take full advantage of the opportunities available. Ultimately, it may be the fear inspired by the economic crisis that drives organisations towards taking full advantage of what e-learning has to offer.

What has been holding people back is the belief that formalised, instructor-led training is the best way, if not the only way, for people to learn. Even if some people still hold that belief, in 2009 they may not have the luxury of upholding it – the money simply will not be there. Jay Cross calls for us to “Stop talking about training. Forever. Talk business metrics.” Taking learning away from trainers and putting it in the hands of the learners themselves has always made sense from a cost-cutting perspective and is increasingly seen as desirable from a performance perspective. Give people the tools they need to learn and let them do the rest, that’s the goal.

2.0 technology means the tools for self-directed learning are there – blogs, wikis, networks, serious games, simulations, mobile learning – and so are the methodologies – blended, informal and situation-based learning – what’s missing is the courage and the motivation to make it happen. The economic crisis may give us all the push required to move away from instructor-led training and towards self-directed learning once and for all.




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