I recently had an interesting conversation with a business owner who was seeking my advisory services to develop a customized compliance training for a small group of his restaurant operators. His purpose in offering the training, which was as a value add for his operators, was solely to keep the “target” (federal, state and local employment and safety laws and regulations) off their backs. It was clear he saw the employees as a potential threat instead of a valuable asset.

This business owner is not alone. Most of the owners, CEOs and entrepreneurs I work with start with the same perception and question: What is the bare minimum I need to do to keep the “target” off my back?

If business leaders continue to perpetuate this mindset of protection of themselves rather than protection of the group, our compliance training programs will continue to return little to no positive results. Recent research on the actual impact of anti-sexual harassment training programs found, not surprisingly, that traditional compliance-based anti-harassment programs resulted in no positive impact or behavior change. A deep, wide and perpetual gap exists between intent and impact.

Reversing the psychology behind our purpose for compliance training is essential if we want to close the gap between intent and impact. Doing so means that first, we must change our intent, which will alter our approach and drive results.

Try using this approach next time you design a compliance training program: Offer compliance training because your employees are valuable assets and, more simply, because they are humans. By altering your intent from managing a threat to valuing the human, everything changes. When you value an individual by caring for him or her, your perspective shifts from, “How do I tell them what not to do” to, “How do I get my team (or company of employees) to look out for (and protect) one another?”

This approach works partly because it enlists people in the solution — but I believe there is a more intrinsic and meaningful reason it is effective. When we approach and conduct compliance training with commonality of purpose and respect for people and their strengths and uniqueness, we naturally feel compassion, empathy and equality for the group. Hence, we start to care for our colleagues on a new level.

When we go to work, our needs and behaviors do not change from when we are at home. We remain human, and we need to be treated as such.

Reverse the psychology in your approach to compliance training, and promote a mindset shift. Encourage your executive leadership teams and business owners to view their employees as valuable assets, not as threats. Your training programs, and their outcomes, will be exponentially more effective.

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