Back in October, the Rethink Compliance team gathered in York Harbor, Maine, for a company meeting.

It was a time to reflect on our growth, plan for the future, and celebrate six years as a company.

Six years!

Rethink has grown a lot since we first opened our doors in 2015, and we’re proud that we’ve stayed true to our vision as a next-generation compliance vendor who puts clients first.

This was a big year (We made the Inc. 5000! We added incredible new people! Kirsten, Andrea, and Patti were named to the EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women program!), and we don’t take our success for granted. We know the only way we’ll keep succeeding is if we keep offering something the market actually wants.

As we start a new year, I’ve been giving some thought to our six-year milestone and the realizations we’ve had along the way. Here are three things we’ve changed our minds about since Rethink was founded in 2015 — and one we haven’t.

1. Great creative quality and modern formats aren’t just a niche taste. They’re where the market is going.

Back in 2015, I knew there was a market for better compliance training. But I underestimated the hunger for it.

In fact, initially, we positioned Rethink as a custom vendor — the kind of shop you turn to once in a while, to supplement a more robust and routine library program.

But a big part of how we do business here is listening to the marketplace. And at company after company, the compliance team sat with us and talked about what they wanted — and weren’t getting — from their current provider.

They wanted a library of modern, polished courses that weren’t any longer than they needed to be. Course content that looked and sounded like their business. Videos that grabbed their audience. A new way to talk about harassment and respect after #metoo.

It had to be possible, people told us, to engineer a customization process that wasn’t painful and costly, that didn’t take nine months to produce a just-okay course. “Clunky would be an upgrade,” one person said, sighing.

Eventually, we realized two important things: First, “business as usual” in compliance training was on its way out. And, second, if we were up for it, Rethink could play a leading role in the next-generation compliance training market.

2. Technology can help inform employees and reduce risk — but it’s not the whole answer.

Compliance training has a bad reputation, and for good reason: Too much of it is outdated, bland, or irrelevant. And legacy vendors are still using 15-year-old course development technology, which keeps them stuck in old ways of doing things.

All this makes the industry ripe for tech outsiders who want to step in and “revolutionize” compliance. We’re hearing a lot these days about “performance support” and “learning in the flow of work”. This involves using technology to present risk-related information “just in time” (versus “just in case,” like annual compliance training).

(For instance: I buy a flight to China for work … and the system notices and sends me a list of export-related considerations for my trip.)

We don’t disagree with the concept — it’s based on solid insights about how humans use information in today’s modern world. And it’s in line with the DOJ’s guidance that companies provide resources and tools to supplement training.

But from what we’ve seen in the market so far, realizing the full promise of such capabilities is still a ways off — and companies looking to implement even what’s possible today face sizable technical and stakeholder buy-in hurdles. We do believe these tools (and approaches to integrating them into company systems) will mature and become more normalized in compliance programs in coming years. We just don’t see a path to a world where these individualized interventions can replace good compliance training in educating and inspiring employees and building and sustaining healthy corporate cultures.

After all, our clients routinely need to inform thousands of employees about dozens of risks and generate a robust audit trail to prove they did it. Each of those employees has individual, asynchronous workflows and they may or may not trigger the compliance-related message as they go about their work.

A software-style solution or calendar plug-in is great if employees already have a strong, foundational understanding of a risk. We’re just skeptical these can, on their own, create that knowledge in the first place.

3. Compliance practitioners need meaningful data about their programs — but that doesn’t necessarily require complex tools and dashboards.

We’re big believers in measurement. Data can be a powerful tool for identifying what gets results and evaluating where to focus your efforts.

So we were excited when we noticed some real buzz building around analytics in the compliance space. We watched as technology vendors began popping up at conferences, selling complex software solutions touting real-time data and insights from machine learning algorithms. We knew our clients were looking for ways to measure the effectiveness of their programs, and we were as hopeful as they were that the new tools in the space could help them get the insights they needed.

But soon our clients had dashboards or Excel sheets full of data that they didn’t have time to sift through, and still no real insights into what was working and what wasn’t.

When we developed an analytics service in 2020, we made it our primary goal to deliver meaningful and actionable insights for compliance training. Often, this meant less — not more — technology.

In keeping with our tradition of market-leading customer service, we developed a collaborative approach that combines effective technology with human intelligence and compliance expertise to deliver real insights to our clients.

We rolled out our Drive Analytics™ solution for courseware in 2020, and the response from clients was so strong we expanded the service to Codes of Conduct this year.

Our approach doesn’t involve big data. But what we collect is purpose-designed to deliver meaningful insights to drive and defend a program. Which means that our clients often get very powerful insights from data that can be summarized in a few slides — even written on an index card.

And the one thing we haven’t changed our minds on:

Compliance is ready for something new.

Over the years, I’ve been asked many times what my goal is for Rethink Compliance, and my answer hasn’t changed: To become the best compliance vendor in the market.

I’ve watched as other vendors in this space have lost touch with the customers they claim to be serving. They push one-size-fits-all solutions when their clients need expertise and individualized insights. They make it harder and harder to customize the content in their library just when clients need courses and communications tailored to their workplaces and brand.

We’ve seen first-hand that creative quality IS possible at scale. Premium service levels ARE possible at scale.

So as we grow, we’re working hard to bring on people who share this vision and care deeply about delivering the best solutions to our clients. People who make us great at what we do. And this has resulted in a pretty incredible team, if I do say so myself!

So thank you to everyone who helped us get here and made 2021 such a great year. We can’t wait to see what we do together in 2022!