For organizations across industries, workplace safety is more crucial than ever. However, many companies still approach compliance with a “check-the-box” attitude and use generic, trite training that is ineffective. The U.S. National Safety Council’s National Safety Month reminds us that compliance is more than policies and regulations; it is about equipping employees with the skills and training to be safe and manage risks.

When it comes to compliance training, companies struggle to engage learners and eliminate their preconceived notions about compliance. Engaging learners is the foundation of an effective compliance strategy and must be top of mind when developing content. Key characteristics of a successful compliance program include engagement, personalization, blended learning and a risk-based approach to engage employees and, ultimately, bolster workplace safety.

Employee Engagement

Training and evaluation can engage employees to develop a mature safety culture through several phases of maturity:

  1. In the reactive phase, “check-the-box” training prevails, and management is uninterested in safety training.
  2. The dependent phase includes direct manager involvement in a rules-based approach enforced by fear and discipline.
  3. In the independent phase, employees behave based on their personal values and have begun to internalize the safety culture.
  4. Finally, in the interdependent phase, employees help each other conform to and embrace the safety culture.

Employee engagement in a mature safety culture is vital to reducing injury rates. Effective training, surveys and opportunities for employees to provide feedback are all important components of this culture.


Training that includes organization-specific information and is personalized allows managers to be strategic with training and communicate the importance and relevance of training to employees. Incorporating a company’s brand and voice confers authenticity and reminds employees that the training is not a check-the-box exercise but an integral part of the company’s identity.

To go deeper, training content should incorporate images or scenarios that depict real events or scenes from the company. When employees see that training is not just an off-the-shelf solution, they know that the company has invested time and money to develop and tailor relevant content, illustrating the purpose of the training and, as a result, enhancing the learning experience.

Blended Learning

Blended learning uses several content delivery methods to engage each learner’s preferred learning method. Multimodal learning, such as a mix of videos, questionnaires and books, allows organizations to combine traditional training with modern technology and, most importantly, ensure that the content resonates.

From recent brain science research, we know that learners need three things for an optimal learning experience: relevance, meaning and emotion. When content is provided in different forms and uses learner-centric instructional design, it creates memory “hooks” for learners by engaging both sides of the brain and fostering connections between cognition and emotion. Moreover, courses that use real-world scenarios to reinforce content help generate emotional engagement, which fosters cognition. This approach strengthens learning by maximizing retention and encouraging the behavioral changes needed to support a lawful and ethical environment.

Tailored Content With a Risk-based Approach

It is common for legal departments to focus on the regulatory need for compliance. When organizations focus on regulations over the benefits of creating an ethical, safe, people-centric culture, “over-programming” may occur, with compliance training happening just for the sake of meeting obligations.

There is no one-size-fits all approach to compliance training. It should vary from employee to employee, customized to address the most pressing threats that employees face based on their job role and responsibilities, geography, and work environment. Once the organization identifies risks and divides them into high- and low-risk categories, it should focus training largely on the high-risk issues.

Training that emphasizes day-to-day threats for a defined audience is more impactful because it is relevant. Employees will be more engaged, because training addresses potential risks that threaten their safety each day on the job. To obtain the best results, training should be embedded in employees’ daily routine and practiced on the job.

Compliance is often reduced to a check-the-box mentality in which behavior is dictated by fear of consequence and punishment rather than a desire to use compliance as a means of achieving desired business outcomes. To see real organizational change and establish a compliance and safety mindset, design content to engage and teach employees, and ensure that training is directly transferred to the learner and the job.