Remote work, information security, the health and safety of employees … these issues are all ones that organizations had to quickly address and manage in 2020. But did organizations forget about their training? Many are probably running the same training that they put out in 2019, but the question is whether that training make sense in a remote workplace.

Most companies have some type of compliance training, such as data privacy or code of conduct training. Historically, organizations have conducted these training programs as mandatory face-to-face courses or as eLearning modules for learners to read through the necessary information. A lot of employees consider these programs to be “check-the-box” trainings because, while mandatory, they do not seem relevant. This type of training almost never drives the message home, because learners fail to understand its relevance to their day-to-day operations. Organizations should focus on how to make these programs more impactful, especially in the remote environment, where face-to-face training has taken on a “new normal.”

Meeting Individual and Business Needs

A critical question that organizations should be asking themselves is whether their current compliance training meets the needs of their current remote work model and is relevant to their employees. Take, for example, standard cybersecurity or data privacy training programs that many companies offer. Undoubtedly, those programs have included information on the physical controls implemented to protect data privacy, like being in a secure building or secure suite or having 24/7 security cameras. However, for organizations that are operating entirely remotely, data privacy training takes on a new focus, because those physical controls may have been completely eliminated.

While the majority of regulations have not changed because of the pandemic, the way organizations must apply them has. Organizations must review their compliance obligations and ensure that their training meets the current needs of the business. For example, standard Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) training module that an organization rolled out in 2019 is likely not specific on securing protected health information (PHI) in a remote setting (i.e., an employee’s home). The old training probably did not account for the fact that family members, who are not privy to PHI, would be in the same home as an employee.

Take, as another example, call center associates. Normally, they would not need to think about who is near them when they answer a phone call within a secure suite inside of a secure facility (the call center). However, now that they are working from home, they need training to understand how preexisting regulations impact them in the new environment.

Enabling Culture Change

As organizations continue to adapt to the changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, they have a great opportunity for businesses to look within and update their training to meet their employees’ needs. The shift to a predominantly remote workplace is a seismic cultural change for a lot of organizations — so why not use compliance training as a way to build the new culture of remote work? To make the remote culture and training relevant to employees, there should be an open dialogue between the training and legal/compliance teams. There is a tremendous amount of knowledge that each group can gain. This combined effort can transform compliance training into something new that will strengthen the remote culture of the organization.

A strong remote work culture requires engagement and appropriate training. In his book “The Virtual Manager,” Kevin Sheridan wrote that “managers need to consider ways to tie remote workers to the culture of an organization. In doing so, they can expect better business outcomes and a more effective virtual workforce.” An organization can efficiently and effectively use its mandatory compliance training to bolster its remote work culture and, in turn, strengthen its remote workforce.

Remote employees need more training and engagement than just how to log on to their workstation. The organization’s remote culture determines the effectiveness of its employees and, in turn, the employees help drive the culture. It’s also important to consider how remote employees are engaging with the organization and whether they feel part of the culture.

Engaging and Impactful Remote Compliance Training

Compliance training should focus on employees’ remote work experience to be relevant and impactful. Gamification is one way to help employees understand compliance issues when working from home. For example, employees could play a game that requires them to identify areas of data security risk in a home office. This type of activity will help employees think about their own environment and help build a common remote workplace culture.

Organizations must continue to ensure that their training aligns with the changes that occurred this year to keep it relevant. Previous approaches may not cut it in the new remote environment. By reviewing their compliance training programs, organizations can ensure that they are effective in a remote workplace and help build their culture within the remote environment.