For decades, compliance training has been no more than an annual endeavor at many organizations. Typically, employees attend training once a year and forget about it until a year has passed and they would be reminded to take the course again.

In the 2020s, this strategy doesn’t work. The days of a “paper program” in which an employee participates in some sort of standard training and the organization checks a box that it was completed are over. Today, regulators demand something more interactive and impactful.

A compliance training calendar provides a big-picture view, evolving learning from a one-and-done requirement to something continual and more effective. Organizations have already been moving in this direction, recognizing the value of a compliance drip that facilitates employees who are smarter — and more empowered — about the compliance rules that affect them most.

This isn’t your grandmother’s calendar hanging from a pushpin in the kitchen.

The Importance of a Compliance Training Calendar

Your organization hires people to do many different and valuable things. What most of them don’t live and breathe, however, is compliance. Organizations and their compliance teams must find a way to disseminate complex laws and regulations to employees in a meaningful way that helps them do their jobs the right way.

A training calendar gives compliance practitioners flexibility and versatility to facilitate learning throughout the year via multiple modalities and channels. Training can be planned based on operational data, year-over-year behavioral insights from training and lessons learned from helpline, audit or legal information in alignment with the latest Department of Justice Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs (ECCP). This means that not all employees receive the same guidance. Compliance teams should focus on the roles and functions that are performing the riskiest activities at your company. So, while it’s great to remind everyone that “bribery is bad,” there should be tailored training and reinforcement to those on the front lines interfacing with third parties or government officials.

While eLearning is common in 2021, that doesn’t mean it’s the only training you can use — particularly if you are building a compliance calendar. Online learning, in-person and virtual events, webinars and even job aids that send updated guidance to employees’ inboxes are “training” modalities that shake up the learning experience and keep compliance top of mind all year. Remember, not all modalities work for everyone. What “hits” with one employee may fall flat with another, so don’t be afraid to try new ways of delivering guidance.

Buy-in Challenges

Beyond satisfying regulatory requirements, showing the value of compliance training to the C-suite can be difficult. With compliance as a cost center, your priorities might lack importance in the eyes of business leaders who are more concerned about operations and the bottom line. Expanding training from a once-a-year event to an entire calendar of multimodal training may be viewed as detrimental to that bottom line.

Moreover, when leadership doesn’t buy into a compliance training program and doesn’t set an example on why it’s important, rank-and-file employees — who stand the most to gain from training — are less likely to see value as well.

Modern compliance training is all about intelligent experience and learning by doing — a far cry from 20th-century approaches that lecture employees and expect them to learn. Showing that training can be automated to save employees time while strengthening their knowledge, and thus, reducing risk is key to delivering ROI and securing buy-in from leadership.

Training technology that gets smarter year after year saves employees time by employing artificial intelligence to look at each individual’s prior learning to serve up short, focused training on the concepts where they need additional coaching. It may seem like a futuristic concept, but this approach is in practice at organizations today.

Organizations exist in a world that expects personalized services, and eLearning should not be viewed any differently. When your executives embrace a more modern approach, a compliance training calendar moves far beyond an administrative burden and toward an evolved program that is core to the business and its values of operating ethically.

Common Pitfalls

Building a compliance training calendar involves more than just scheduling training events. Compliance departments often make these mistakes when setting a compliance training calendar:

  • The set-it-and-forget-it approach: Training that doesn’t change year after year and ignores evolving risks that the organization faces is ineffective. When the calendar goes on autopilot, employees may also tune out because they’re getting the same training they got last year, and the year before.
  • The kitchen sink approach: All training is sent to all employees, and the responsibility is on them to learn with this strategy. Far too often, most employees learn nothing because they have no idea how it relates to the job they were hired to do or they’re too overwhelmed to absorb the copious material presented to them.
  • The defensibility approach: Like the kitchen sink approach, organizations overload employees with training — with most of it being irrelevant — so that if a compliance violation does occur, they can claim they provided the information as required by law.
  • The set-in-stone approach: When compliance teams aren’t flexible, they can’t easily react to shifting training needs. For example, as the COVID-19 pandemic picked up steam in 2020, employees needed to hear less about in-office compliance and more about how to work safely and compliantly in a hybrid work environment.

These mistakes are solvable but may require a shift in how the organization as a whole views compliance training.

The Next Steps

A compliance training calendar should keep the employee as the central focus in the training ecosystem. The first place to start is to thoroughly understand your training needs. Ask yourself:

  • How often is training deployed?
  • Who is it going to?
  • Does training cover risky behaviors or abstract concepts and legal definitions?
  • Does data suggest a need for targeted reinforcement?
  • Has the risk rating for this topic changed in the last year?
  • Are you seeing patterns in helpline and investigations data?
  • What has changed in your business? What no longer applies?

After answering these questions and creating a plan for your calendar, tie the plan to your business objectives. Properly and effectively trained employees are more efficient and productive — and compliance is no exception. Create goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) for your training calendar beyond how many people participated.

Finally, show the ROI of your calendar. Proving a return on compliance initiatives can be tricky because when training is effective, it’s mostly silent and can’t be tied to specific training events. Still, there are operational and transactional metrics that can be analyzed to measure efficacy and whether you’re driving a culture of compliance. Common examples include evaluating whether year-over-year financial transactions show a decrease in improper/incorrect payments, reduction in the number of high-risk deals/total deals, and helpline reporting rates/substantiated cases.

Ultimately, you want employees instinctively reacting to compliance situations and choosing the right course of action. A consistent and dynamic training plan helps with that by reinforcing to workers that compliance is not only a once-a-year responsibility but rather an ongoing opportunity.