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Hitting the Number: How to Reach Your Compliance Training Completion Goals

By Suzan McGinnis and Ann Allsopp

· training,testing,behavavioral psych

“How do I get employees to actually take our compliance training?”

This question has always been a part of the struggle in compliance. Boards and legal requirements put a lot of pressure on compliance teams to meet set completion rates, and reaching those goals can be a challenge under normal circumstances. Now, with more employees working from home and dealing with new distractions, many employees are more reluctant than ever to take time to complete compliance training.

Let’s face it — even in this strange time, training must go on. So, how do you drive high completion rates in this environment?

Chances are you’ve already got some basic strategies in place, like prioritizing training for different employee groups based on their key risk areas, and setting deadlines for each course you roll out. If your completion rates still aren’t where you want them to be, there are likely other factors beyond rollout holding you back.

Here are four tips to help you reach your compliance training completion goals.

1. Take an honest look at your content.

If you’re consistently sending out threatening emails after the deadline to a large portion of your employee population, it’s time to take a look at the training itself.

When your training is concise and engaging, it shows in your completion rates. Why? Employees talk. If those who complete the training are saying, “Hey, that wasn’t bad at all,” other employees are more inclined to take the training right away.

The reverse is also true. Employees who hear a coworker complain about a course being boring or tedious are more likely to put off their own training as long as they can.

If you’re consistently sending out threatening emails after the deadline to a large portion of your employee population, it’s time to take a look at the training itself.

Your competition for attention is fierce right now. If your training doesn’t engage the audience you’re targeting, chasing the completions will be even more difficult. Here’s a simple test: Does it keep your attention? Are you sharing practical guidance and scenarios that feel relevant to employees, or are you rehashing rules and policies and getting caught up in legal concepts? Is your course unnecessarily long for the amount of information covered?

2. Make sure the training actually works.

This one might seem obvious, but we’ve heard too many horror stories about companies rolling out training without thorough testing. Technical issues frustrate employees, making them less likely to complete future training as well.

Before you roll out the course to the whole company, ask a beta group to test the learner experience from different devices and locations. Do the instructions make sense? Are there any broken links? Does the course work in your LMS the way you expected? What about on mobile devices? Think about your remote employees — are they able to access the course on their home networks?

Make sure your testing group includes people who have never seen the training before. Testers who weren’t involved in the development of the course will give you a more accurate understanding of whether the course’s instructions are clear, or if the final step to log completion is confusing, or if there are any other usability issues that may affect completion rates.

3. Focus on positive incentives instead of punishment.

Many companies tie training completion to compensation or bonuses. Some go even further. We recently heard a story about a company that went so far as to fire employees who didn’t complete their training within the allotted time frame. Our reaction: “Crikey. Don’t they have any other tools in their toolbox?”

Punitive threats may work, but they feel draconian to employees. There are better ways to drive completion rates that won’t generate ill will toward your compliance team or the company.

Punitive threats may work, but they feel draconian to employees. There are better ways to drive completion rates that won’t generate ill will toward your compliance team or the company.

Instead of focusing on punishment, think about any positive incentives you could offer employees. Some companies offer lunch or gift cards to the team who completes their training first. 

But company culture and social rewards can also be powerful motivators. For example, you could encourage managers to give employees who have completed their training special shout-outs during team meetings or Zoom calls. Leaders of the company can also “keep score” and take pride in their team’s completion rates if you foster such an atmosphere.

4. Drive completions with social influence.

Social proof is a term coined by behavioral psychologist Robert Cialdini to describe our tendency as humans to copy the actions of those around us.

Conformity gets a bad rap, but it’s a natural instinct for social creatures — and a powerful tool in the compliance toolbox. If employees know that almost everyone else on their team has completed the training, they’ll feel compelled to complete theirs too.

So think about ways to make that information more visible. Publish your completion rate in a place employees will see it, like your intranet site or the company-wide Slack channel. In your reminder email, include a pie chart that shows your 85% completion rate, so that anyone in the 15% who sees that chart will feel compelled to complete their training to stick with the pack.

Low completion rates usually signal a bigger problem with the training itself or missed opportunities with your communications. Spending the time up front to develop engaging training and a thoughtful rollout strategy will save you a lot of effort in chasing down completions later.

If you’re ready to drive higher completion rates with modern, engaging training, we can help. Schedule a free consultation with the Rethink Compliance experts. We’ll even work with you to develop the right communications strategy for your audience.

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