Training Industry

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  • When it Really Matters, Show the Leadership Flag: In-Person and Online Compliance Training

We all know the challenges of in-person training. Time out of the office, travel costs and scheduling nightmares, not to mention the cost of the training itself, make it pricey and, these days, one of the first line items cut when budgets are tight. New research from the Ethics & Compliance Initiative (ECI) shows that live, in-person training is more effective than self-directed training for certain content and that the visible presence of senior leaders at any type of training significantly increases effectiveness. So, when should you fly the global team to headquarters, and when should you ask leaders to come along? Research can answer both of these questions.

How to Choose Self-Directed versus In-Person Training

Research from the Advanced Distributed Learning Workforce Co-Lab in 2006 found that online training is a better tool for learning facts, while in-person training is better for learning how to do something. We don’t send employees halfway around the world to learn that the gift policy limit has increased from $50 to $75. Online modules are cost-effective, and we should continue to use them for this kind of factual learning.

Today’s technology also allows online training to be highly interactive, which has led many companies to use it exclusively for employee learning. That said, ECI’s research shows that live, in-person training still results in far better outcomes when using the same interactive activities as online training. This in-person format is linked to significant improvements in four out of 10 measures of training success, including being useful in guiding employees’ decisions at work. When you are trying to change behaviors, which is often the case in ethics and compliance training, spring for the plane ticket. You will not regret it.

When it Matters, Leaders Need to Be Visible

The most significant finding from this research is that in any type of training, when senior leaders (members of the C-suite) are visible, outcomes are significantly better. Those whose survey results indicated their leaders are involved in training responded significantly more positively on eight of the 10 measures of training success, including believing that work decisions involve ethics or compliance issues and being more likely to report misconduct when they observe it, both of which are important goals for ethics and compliance training.

During self-directed training, the presence of senior leaders is also linked to significantly lower rates of multitasking among participants. In companies that value effective training, it is possible that this value is the driver of better outcomes and leaders’ participation, but these findings suggest that senior leader involvement is one common component of the highest-quality training programs. Given senior leaders’ schedules, it’s important to prioritize training for the year and pick the one or two programs where you want leaders visible to obtain the best outcomes in those areas.

Ways to Involve Leaders

How many of your senior leaders are calling to ask if they can participate in your next employee training session? Show them why it is a priority, and help them become involved. In ethics and compliance training, if senior leaders are reluctant to engage, use data to help show how training is an essential part of risk mitigation. Once you convince them, give them options:

  • Delivering a portion of the training in person
  • Joining the training as a room coach or participant
  • Providing a recorded message to be played during the training

When you are rolling out training with the goal of changing behaviors, such as ethical decision-making, and you want great outcomes, opt for live, in-person training with senior leaders in the room. This is the most powerful and effective training you can provide your employees and solidifies the importance of the content.

Rebecca Rehm is the director of member education and certification at the Ethics & Compliance Initiative (ECI), a non-profit organization that empowers its members to build and sustain high-quality ethics and compliance programs (HQPs).

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