Compliance Training: Avoiding Death by Documentation

Sarah Dodds, instructional designer at eWorks

Sarah Dodds is an award-winning instructional designer. She transforms ideas, content, information and problems into meaningful learning experiences that engage and involve learners. Here Sarah offers clever strategies for cutting out the drivel and sticking to your key messages when designing compliance training. Perhaps not as difficult as you think?

Avoiding compliance training—no can do

That we operate in a compliance-driven world cannot be news to anyone but the freest of spirits. To find out more please see:

  • Our Work Instruction
  • Our Policy (Parts I, III and IV)
  • Our Procedure
  • The Act 2004.

A familiar list that makes you sit a little lower? Maybe even groan internally? Process and procedure documents are overwhelmingly unavoidable. Most, if not all, work practices are governed by some degree of predetermined process that, most likely, supports an overarching policy, which may, or may not, be driven by state or federal law (or perhaps industry best practice). This is not to say that process is a bad thing—on a fundamental level, process keeps us safe and fair. But for the e-learner, process can spell a near death experience of clicking and scrolling and swiping through endless lists of policy, procedure, checklists, flowcharts and decision trees.

So, what to do?

Beyond writing a short summary of the most critical documents (more about this horribly difficult task in another post) how can we, the instructional designer and writer, add meaning to lists of processes in the e-learning format?

Process and procedures are essentially rules that govern our decision making and for this reason it pays to look at the work of Nobel Prize-winning author and psychologist, Daniel Kahneman. In his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman presents years of research relating to cognitive biases (judgement and decision making). Early in the piece, he states that “errors of intuitive thought are difficult to overcome”, and that “the best we can do is a compromise; learn to recognize situations in which mistakes are likely and try harder to avoid significant mistakes when the stakes are high.”

So, where lists of process documents are concerned we might try to:

  • Illustrate situations “in which mistakes are likely”. This can be done with real or fictional case studies.
  • Look closely at policy and procedures documents “when stakes are high”. That is, provide greater explanation of policy documentation when consequences are grave.

Most importantly, Kahneman also states the premise of his book; “it is easier to recognize other people’s mistakes than our own.” Permission granted! What we have always known but found difficult to justify—it pays to use other people’s horror stories as vehicles for learning.

Where to next?

For more information and some thought-provoking ideas, have a read of Kahneman’s revealing book. And never forget that while it might not be possible to make all compliance training super fun, with a little thought and creativity it can be engaging and effective. Good luck!

Need a hand designing your compliance training? Simply contact eWorks.