Skip to content
[Blog header] How you deliver compliance training is just as important as what it covers.
4 minute read

How you deliver compliance training is just as important as what it covers.

If you’re struggling with your compliance training, it might not be the content—it might be how you’re delivering it.

That is, you can have the fanciest and smartest training in the world, but if you deliver it in a way that communicates it’s a check-the-box activity, that’s what employees will take away.

That’s because *how* we communicate information to people does a lot of heavy lifting in telling them what it is and what they’re expected to do about it. And when you have a problem with that—a problem with delivery—you can’t fix it by buying snazzier content.

Here’s an analogy to explain.


“Please call me immediately.”

Imagine that one day you find a lump on your neck. It’s hard and doesn’t move, and you’ve never seen it before. You call your doctor and she tells you to come in immediately.

After taking a look, she seems less concerned, but schedules a biopsy anyway.

“Look, it’s probably nothing,” she says, “although it’s of course better to be safe than sorry with something like this. But I wouldn’t worry about it.”

It’ll take two days for the biopsy to come back. You know that your doctor normally posts test results to a secure patient site, and on the second day you keep refreshing the site to see if your results have been posted, but nothing comes through.

Then you realize that you were so focused on the website that you didn’t hear your cell phone buzzing. You have a voicemail—and it’s your doctor, asking you to call her right away.

What are you thinking at that moment?

Be honest: you’re probably thinking that you have cancer.

But why? No one has told you that. Your doctor might just be calling because she’s having a slow day and wants you to tell you good news.

It’s because we don’t consume information in a vacuum; we take cues from how it is communicated to process what it might mean and whether it requires us to do anything. And in this context, we take the cue that “the doctor is calling me instead of just posting my results” likely means “this is going to be bad news and I’ll need to take action.”


“This training is so important we waited two years to give it to you.”

Likewise, the way you train your people communicates to them whether compliance is part of their job or some kind of external, check-the-box-type activity. No matter how you do it, you are giving them cues as to how to process and understand the training you are giving them.

And here’s the sad part: the more “mature” your program is, the harder you’ll struggle with this.

That’s because the dominant model of established compliance training—annual training and a three-year plan of compliance "courses"—communicates that compliance is an external, check-the-box, bolt-on activity.

Why? Because doing something once a year, every year, is inherently a check-the-box activity. You’re doing it for the sake of saying you did it every year. (If you want more on that, we’ve covered why annual training is counterproductive at length here.)

And similarly, a three-year training plan communicates that none of the compliance stuff is really that important to your job, because otherwise it’d be a little more urgent.

After all, if you could be doing your job for over two years without being trained on something, it’s either not relevant to your job or your company is OK with you doing your job the wrong way for two years—and both of those are bad.

The messed-up part is that the people who do these scheduled training programs are usually working really hard and really believe in what they are doing. These are true believers: this stuff is a ton of work, so it’s not the type of thing you do if you’re just trying to phone it in.

And so these folks keep buying into every training fad—games! interactive stuff! virtual reality!—on the promise that this will be what really “engages” their employees, because they sincerely want to make a difference.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with trying new things or any of those formats, but you can’t fix a delivery problem with better content. You can have the slickest, most expensive training in the world, but if you’re delivering it in a way that flags that it’s a check-the-box activity, that’s what you’re going to get.

So, here’s the deal: if you want your employees to view compliance as part of their job, make their training part of their job. You have to address the delivery problem, not just endlessly refresh your content.

Make your training available it in the moment, when they need it, such that they don’t even understand it to be “compliance training”—it’s just guidance on how to do their job ethically and compliantly.

Of course, there’s a lot of “how” there:

How do you design training that breaks down compliance risks into job duties?

How do you implement training into normal workflows?

How do you measure if it's working or not?

Good news, though: That’s what we do for our customers, so you should probably work with us.

Broadcat mascot peeking out of Clubhouse door with sign saying "Join the Club!"

We've done the work for you and created tools that solve the problem of delivery.
Check out Compliance Design Club!

Join the Club!
But just remember this: if you feel like you keep cycling through training vendors and nothing works, the problem probably isn't the vendors—it's how it's being delivered.
The most amazing training in the world won't work if the way it's being delivered communicates that it's a check-the-box activity.


Obligatory footnote: Yes, I know that some folks have regulatory requirements to do X hours of training or get Y certifications each year. Those requirements are clumsy and misguided—because the way you measure whether a company is committed to compliance and whether training worked is through monitoring what their people do, not just checking the box of doing X hours of training. You may have to make your employees suffer through that stuff, but don’t add insult to injury by using it as a template for how you tackle the rest of your training.

Don't miss out!

Get compliance tips and resources delivered straight to your inbox.