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Apr 2014

How To Stop Drowning in Boring Compliance Courses? Go Gray!

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Cammy Bean

Cammy Bean

Senior Solutions Consultant at Kineo US

Compliance eLearning programs can be so, well, boring. Policies are boring. Procedures are boring. Ticking off boxes is—oh, here’s that word again—boring!

Courses locked in your company’s LMS may have a reputation for being real snore-fests. Have you asked around to find out what people really think about your company’s eLearning? You may not have to go very far to find your answers. Have you ever had to take those courses? What did you think?

We created a course for a client recently and the senior stakeholder said: “I hate LMS courses, can’t stand them to death. I like this one. It’s short and to the point.” While we were delighted that we had hit a home run, her comment about dreadful “LMS courses” speaks volumes about the typical compliance eLearning that most organizations produce.

As one of our favorite clients says, “Our people are already drowning in boring. We need to find a better way!” And we couldn’t agree more. Creating boring compliance courses isn’t just boring for the learner—it’s boring for the design and development teams that have to build those boring courses.

So what can you do to liven things up? How about you let your gray show? What? Hair color? No, no, no. We mean the gray and messy nature of life itself.

Go Gray

Compliance topics are often not pure black and white situations, but get into fuzzy gray areas like ethics and doing the right thing. The most interesting courses are the ones that maximize that gray, wrapping the content itself around a powerful story that illustrates the risk, the consequence, and the downfall of not complying. As JC Kinnamon tells us, you can make Sarbanes Oxley sexy.

By wrapping the right story around the topic to pull the learner in, you can capitalize on that innate human desire to find out what’s going to happen next, making people want to stick around to the very end of what could have been a really dry financial policy course.

Create scenarios that highlight those gray areas, get people reflecting on them, and don’t hide from the fact that life is sometimes a bit messy. Even a lot messy.

Show that you don’t just want rote rule following. You want people to exercise judgment. Work their own gray matter. Sometimes there’s no obvious answer and nobody’s been here before. Now we’re in the moral maze – and that’s a whole lot more interesting than your average tick box.

So What Can It Look Like?

How about a behavior in the workplace course that tells the story of Screaming Ruth. This Ruth character is a rather tough business woman, with a reputation for being a little bit of a hothead. When she brings the junior, Bobby, onto her team, her frustration level skyrockets, causing some public displays of outrage that leave some of her team members shaking their heads and calling Human Resources to intervene.

But screaming is just part of the culture at this high pressure organization, so what’s the problem? Ruth’s just doing what everyone does, right? In this topic, we explore those gray areas and leave the learner seeing that the company’s policy may have some answers.

What about a new policy rollout at a large global organization? The policy itself is a six page document—the kind that makes most humans’ eyelids begin to droop around page two. You could create a really boring eLearning course that essentially replicates the entire policy, or you could find ways to show why the policy really matters through a series of short vignettes that show the real human impact this policy has.

For instance, take a look at how Maria and her marketing team got into a big mess when it turned out their local policy didn’t have the correct definition of a “speaker event”, leading to the unfortunate distribution of sensitive materials to the public that should have gone through regulatory review.

Got a social media policy at your company that could have a real impact to your bottom line if it’s not followed? Turn it into a film noir style mystery, enlisting the learner to identify the culprit in a series of case files where someone unwittingly shared information they shouldn’t have.

By exposing stories of mishap—where unsuspecting individuals broke the policy without meaning to—you get the learner involved, highlighting the policy and raising awareness about those gray areas.

Stories are the next best thing to a real experience, and by putting the learner into the story, you create a memorable experience that will ensure more lasting retention—and more compliance with that policy.

Get Excited About Compliance For a Change!

At Kineo, we don’t find compliance training boring at all. In fact, we get excited about it! So much that we write about it. A lot. 

Find out how we can help you with compliance training

Browse our off the shelf courses designed to help you be compliant

Get our guide to blends that work for compliance


Cammy Bean

Cammy Bean

Senior Solutions Consultant at Kineo US

Cammy has been collaborating with organizations to design online learning programs since 1996. An active speaker and blogger, Cammy gets fired up about instructional design, avoiding the trap of clicky-clicky bling-bling, and ways to use technology to create real behavior change.

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