Need to make your compliance training more agile? Microlearning can help!

This is the top finding from the course authoring software company Elucidat’s 2022 Training Trends Report.

EVERYONE who produces content these days is feeling the heat.

Corporate learning designers (including compliance teams) are under pressure to get more agile. They’re expected to respond more quickly to rapidly-changing conditions. And yet just getting training out the door isn’t good enough anymore.

Frequency alone can’t help you reach and connect with the modern learner. As the report puts it: “[T]here’s no point delivering lots of training solutions at speed if they’re not effective.”

So what does move the needle? Quality — delivered efficiently:

“Faced with employee burnout, the need for shorter, sharper and more relevant learning experiences is greater than ever. It’s about hitting that sweet spot: reducing learning time, while delivering better business performance impact.”

Shorter, sharper, and more relevant — with more business impact? That sounds a lot like the DOJ’s compliance program guidance from last summer.

No surprise, the report describes a strong shift towards microlearning — on all topics:

“Bite-sized, easy to digest learning content can fit around schedules, so it’s no wonder this approach was widespread during the pandemic.

In fact, our survey saw both leaders and learners calling out for even shorter learning experiences. Average learning session times are now just 8 minutes!”

These training trends, based on data drawn from a widespread survey, track with our anecdotal experience of what clients are asking for. Given what we know about the modern, digital learner and the demands on the average employee’s time, they also just make sense.

In fact, back when we set out to develop the Rethink library, we focused on creating great short pieces first.

By then, the compliance training market had matured. There were already hundreds of 45-minute compliance training courses available (including more than 500 that I wrote, earlier in my career).

But there were far fewer great short products available — and we wanted to change that. Today, we have more than 100 videos in our library, most 90 seconds to two minutes long, plus several dozen 5-8 minute training courses, and we’re building more all the time.

Here are some things we learned in the process of creating our microlearning library:

1. Shorter is harder — but it’s worth it.

Maybe you’ve heard the Mark Twain quote “I’m sorry to write you such a long letter. I didn’t have time to write a short one.”

Done well, explainer videos, well, explain a topic, quickly sketching the core concepts and reinforcing them with memorable visuals to underscore the overall message.

They’re easy to watch and easy to understand. They make complicated concepts stick.

Take “Life Happens,” a 75-second video we created about conflicts of interest.

In under two minutes, employees get a clear explanation of what a conflict of interest is and how it can show up in their daily lives, all in plain, simple, relatable language. No complicated legalese here!

Even better, a great two-minute video can often replace many pages of text in a course  — streamlining everything from stakeholder review time to translation costs.

2. Emotional power is your secret weapon for culture change.

Video gives you an opportunity to bring emotional power to a topic — using words, music, and a carefully-honed message to influence and persuade.

Take this Personal Pride video, which reminds me of a Super Bowl commercial.

Doesn’t it make you WANT to share the company’s quality standards? It’s a “who we are” message that really resonates.

Or this brand new Code video, called “Look Through the Right Lens.”

Yes, the video provides information about the Code — why we have one, how to use it. But it goes beyond that.

First, it puts the Code into a meaningful context for the average employee, one who might not understand exactly why they’re being handed a list of rules — taking the same plain language, relatable, relevant approach of “Life Happens.”

But, more than that, the video elements come together to create an emotional experience — cultivating an optimistic, uplifting feeling about working together as a team to do what’s right, make good decisions, and act together as a certain kind of company.

This kind of persuasion doesn’t just feel good — it’s critical to laying the groundwork for actual change, as this Harvard Business Review article outlines. It says: For change to stick, leaders must design and run an effective persuasion campaign, an insight that’s as true for compliance officers as it is for CEOs.

3. Many compliance topics can be covered — and covered well — in eight minutes or less.

I’m going to make a bold statement: Unless you need to meet a specific seat time requirement, ANY compliance topic you’ve trained on before can be refreshed in eight minutes or less.

I get asked all the time about making training shorter, and there are some first-order tricks that I outline in my book, Creating Great Compliance Training in a Digital World, like: 1) identify the key behaviors and core concepts, 2) screen out distracting details, and 3) use copywriting tricks.

No joke, those three steps can cut 30-40% of content from the average compliance course right off the bat.

Yes, compliance topics can be complex. Yes, some topics or situations definitely require more airtime than others. But once your audience has basic literacy in a subject, reminders don’t need to re-teach everything. They just need to keep the topic top-of-mind.

But what about when you’re training for the first time?

We’ve been running micro courses for several years now, and you might be surprised at just how many topics can be adequately covered — even for the first time — in a short time.

Again, unless you have to meet a seat time requirement, these topics are a no brainer for a short approach:

  • Insider trading
  • Gifts and entertainment
  • Speak up
  • Confidentiality
  • Records management
  • Human trafficking/human rights
  • New Code of Conduct launch (especially if you’re going to ask them to read the whole Code)

The short approach is also great for a (micro) deep dive into a single aspect of a larger topic, like:

  • What is a bribe?
  • Who is a foreign public official?
  • Due diligence and third parties
  • Our rules on contact with competitors
  • Giving gifts at the holidays
  • Transparency and the Sunshine Act

And you can probably think of many more!

If you’re interested in trying more microlearning, let us help you think through your plans! We’re here to brainstorm the perfect “micro solutions” for your program — keeping it simple, effective, and real.

To get started, reach out to us at!