Workplace compliance is more than just following the office rules. In fact, used in a business context, it usually refers to requirements, conditions or restrictions imposed and enforced by various external regulatory bodies, e.g., public organisations or government agencies.
Examples of regulatory bodies in the UK include the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
It's important to know that all organisations have a legal obligation to manage regulatory risk. As such, it's up to them to ensure they're aware of, and have taken steps to comply with, all relevant laws and regulations – from data protection to health and safety, and any other industry-specific policies and standards.
In practice, then, not only must organisations comply with numerous regulations, but they must also know (and communicate with their staff) how to comply and what to do to maintain this compliance throughout the organisation – and that's where compliance training comes in.
Compliance training is the way organisations educate employees about relevant laws and regulations which apply to them, and which affect their day-to-day job activities.
Why is compliance training so important?
As above, the main reason for compliance training is to ensure employees have the necessary knowledge to comply with the company's legal obligations. Ensuring this is the case has many business benefits (it's not just a matter of avoiding the consequences and penalties of non-compliance!), including protecting individuals and stakeholders and helping the business succeed.
For example, compliance training makes our workplaces safer. It ensures that every team-member is made aware of potential hazards (e.g., the risk of a fire or of an injury) and that everybody knows what to do to mitigate these risks and what happens in the event an incident occurs.
Compliance training helps us to complete thorough risk assessments which seek to identify and eliminate/manage hazards; it sets the standards for what is considered an acceptable or unacceptable risk to workers' rights, health, and safety and can prevent (or punish) cases of misconduct or negligence on our behalf.
Compliance training also makes for more productive workplaces. It can serve as a powerful tool for long-term behavioural change, driving values such as fairness, consistency and vigilance - characteristics which can be leveraged in the business setting and applied elsewhere to create high-performing, motivated, and ethical teams.
Additionally, compliance training is essential when it comes to building and maintaining trust. It lays out a set of standards that everybody in the organisation agrees to adhere to, from the CEO to the intern and third-party contractors. It lets us know that our employer has a duty of care towards us and towards its customers, and means we know where to go if we feel we might be in danger (or suspect someone else may be).
Furthermore, the significance of compliance training is underlined by the kinds of topics covered – think codes of conduct, modern slavery, or equality and diversity, for example. These types of subjects lay the groundwork for the company's culture, the way it will grow, and its decision-making processes.
A summary of the benefits of compliance training
Safer work environment
Improved business operations
Drives behavioural change
Promotes a productive, empowered workforce
Protection from reputational damage
Helps to build trust
Reduced risk of legal action
Keeps the market competitive
Offers customers protection and security
Promotes good business ethics
Provides means to detect and report violations
Helps to shape the company's culture
Helps secure business insurance
Common workplace compliance training
Compliance training refers to a huge umbrella of learning and regulation materials, some of which are specialised and very industry-specific (for example, the financial industry and food industry are both highly regulated, for obvious reasons) and others which draw upon a wider audience and are beneficial to all types of organisations (say, certain types of health and safety training).
The location, sector, and day-to-day activities of any given organisation all affect what type of compliance training needs to be administered by the company.
Below we'll take a look at some common types of compliance training and the ways they benefit businesses:
Fire safety training is often included in new recruits' company induction and perhaps the reason why is obvious: this type of training is designed to save lives, reduce injury, prevent company loss, and ensure everyone knows how to act safely in the event of a fire. Additionally, understanding basic fire-fighting techniques (e.g., choosing and operating the right fire extinguisher) can help prevent small fires spreading and becoming more problematic and dangerous.
Of course, fire safety training involves more than knowing what to do in the event of a blaze; it's also about fire prevention techniques and best working practices. Preventing a fire from starting in the first place involves educating employees about safe use of workplace equipment and being aware of their environment. It also requires refresher training, particularly in the event something in your building changes and new fire risks are identified.
Information Security/Data Protection
Information security – and data protection in particular – became more of a hot topic than ever for businesses following the EU's enforcement of GDPR in May 2018 (The Data Protection Act 2018 is the UK's implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Compliance training in this area focuses on the process of safeguarding information from corruption, compromise, or loss – all areas of particular concern for companies since both businesses and consumers increasingly turn to the internet for services (and the amount of data produced continues to increase exponentially).
Whilst not complying with data protection laws and neglecting to follow information security best practice can lead to data breaches and harsh penalties for organisations, compliance training in this area is about so much more than this. Rather, the training focuses on raising awareness about each person's fundamental rights and freedoms relating to their data, and the processes organisations need to put in place to ensure they aren't violating these rights.
Equality and Diversity
Equality and diversity are important factors that organisations need to prioritise in order to thrive and be successful. Compliance training in this area usually focuses on the employer's responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010, what employees can expect from their employer in terms of equal opportunities, and training on what constitutes discrimination and harassment in the workplace. It may also include awareness training about unconscious bias and other forms of workplace bias employees need to know about, particularly those responsible for promotions and recruitment.
Promoting equality and diversity is good for business since, along with these components, come strength and innovation. Tapping into the power of a diverse workforce can help organisations build a competitive edge since doing so brings different perspectives, communication-styles, and problem-solving skills to the table.
It's also very likely that your target market is made up of a diverse, non-homogenous, range of people. Employees from different cultures and backgrounds can help organisations access a wider range of consumers, ensuring their message is appropriate and appealing to all types of people with different backgrounds and beliefs.
More than this, however, who wouldn't want to work with and for a company that promotes values such as fairness, respect, and tolerance? In this way, equality and diversity help organisations attract new and gifted talent, as well as retaining their top staff with a thriving, employee-focused company culture.
Slips and Trips
Part of health and safety compliance, training about workplace slips and trips is designed to minimise injury by mitigating the risk of falls, slips and trips whilst we're at work. It's true that some workplaces are more at risk for this type of injury (say, for employees working inside a busy kitchen or manufacturing plant), however, slips and trips remain among the most common causes of workplace injury for all types of industries.
This type of compliance training is popular because almost all slips and trips at work are avoidable and raising awareness about our surroundings and safety at work can help reduce the likelihood of slips and trips occurring. In turn, this helps to prevent injury, sickness leave, and possible legal action.
Compliance training is this area may focus on common causes of slips and trips, particular workplace hazards that can cause slips and trips, and best practice for cleaning floors safely.
Code of Conduct
It's true that most of us already know right from wrong, but a code of conduct exists to spell out specific behaviours that are either required, acceptable, or prohibited within the workplace setting. As such, your code of conduct has value both as an internal compliance guideline and as an external statement of corporate values and commitments.
Every organisation can benefit from having a code of conduct because it removes any confusion that may exist around one very complex area: employee misconduct. Your code establishes standards of behaviour and lays out, in no uncertain terms, what the consequences will be for any compliance breaches. In this way, codes of conduct also provide legal protections in the case of unfair dismissal claims.
By being transparent this way – and by all members of staff adhering to the standards and processes laid out within it – your code of conduct can help build an environment of trust, and this is one of the most important characteristics of true organisational compliance. So, for businesses looking to improve or even build their compliance culture, think of your code of conduct as the very first step.
Who needs compliance training?
Everyone who is employed or who employs!
Compliance training is important for each and every member of staff. It ensures that everybody in the organisation is working from the same company roadmap and has been given the guidance and awareness training they need to work in accordance with the law and any other industry-specific regulations.
Compliance training helps organisations ensure that employees know what to do and how to do it to keep everybody safe, but it also focuses on educating employees about why doing so is important and what employees can expect from their employer under the law and company code of conduct.
Compliance training is also a useful way for employers to check that employees understand what is required of them and the ways these requirements affect their job. It helps members of staff to flourish and be productive at work by clarifying their responsibilities and boundaries, empowering them with the knowledge to work unsupervised, and reducing liability and risks for everyone in the company.
The trick, of course, is to make compliance training interesting enough so that everyone pays attention and retains what they've learnt, which means …
Making compliance training engaging
We can all agree that force-feeding your employees dull, legislatively focused learning-content for the sake of ticking a compliance training box is not conducive to learning, compliance, or even consciousness in some cases!
The good news is that, whilst still content-led, many digital forms of compliance training (which just so happens to be our specialty!) are now more focused on UX and design-techniques meant to enhance learner engagement and motivation, and, therefore, to instigate real behavioural change.
For example, what's known in the industry as 'immersive eLearning', is actually a way of contextualising and adding relevance to compliance modules to bring them to life. In simple terms, immersive eLearning experiences place individuals into virtual, interactive learning environments that simulate real work-place scenarios. It's a safe, inexpensive way for users to learn from their mistakes and for organisations to check their employee's understanding of certain compliance measures.
Furthermore, scenario-led learning (also known as problem-based learning) combines online training with story-telling techniques, independent-thought, and analysis to encourage learners to use information and apply it to their decision-making process. As well as its obvious benefits for compliance training, scenario-led learning helps employees to cultivate critical thinking and problem-solving skills by weaving complex narratives into a media-rich, highly-visual environment.
eLearning also offers organisations the option to introduce gamified elements to compliance training, such as those found in video-games. Far from a way to dumb-down or somehow make compliance issues less-serious, gamification is a purposeful step away from the chore-like reputation that mandated training has always been stuck with.
Microlearning can also hugely reduce the amount of unnecessary content learners have to deal with when completing compliance training by offering short 'bursts' of knowledge about key compliance topics or to refresh prior knowledge.
Taking this concept further still, using a technique called 'adaptive learning' AI can be introduced to compliance training to help streamline it, presenting users with individually customised learning programs which focus on their particular compliance knowledge gaps.
Adaptive compliance training
Adaptive learning works by gathering data before, during, and after the learning process and using this mined information intelligently to create optimised learning paths for each user.
Therefore, as the user continues to complete more training and take more assessments, the platform is able to identify and feed back only the content that is relevant to them, based on their performance and confidence levels.
In doing so, it will also address their unique requirements and learning preferences, presenting the type of compliance content (e.g., gamified courses, immersive learning, and so on.) that best appeals to the user, that they have engaged with well in the past, and that addresses any identified compliance knowledge gaps.
What's more, adaptive learning can be rolled out quickly, with minimum hassle, and in direct response to any key-risk areas identified – so it's useful for organisations that want to remain agile and responsive.
Compliance training has huge benefits for organisations, from managing regulatory risk, to improving performance, and nurturing trust. We hope this article has helped our readers understand the necessity of compliance training and its place within the modern workplace. If there's anything we can help you with, please do get in touch via email or phone. We're a friendly bunch and would be more than happy help.