At GM, we came up with ten design objectives that we felt were important for our training program:
1. Aligned to GM’s top compliance risks. In various guidance documents, you see the term “risk-based.” It’s critical that you design your program to directly address the risks your company faces. We’ll talk more about having a risk-based training program in future podcasts.
2.Professionally designed. Face it, compliance training is not pleasant. But it can be even worse if its quality is substandard. Unfortunately, in my career, I’ve had to take some pretty ugly courses. I’m sure many of us can relate. We’ve seen courses that are nothing more than a PowerPoint presentation with some stock images. If we’re lucky, we might have some narration. We wanted more than that with our online courses. We wanted our courses to be visually appealing. We wanted them to be very organized. We wanted them to be professionally narrated. We wanted them to be interactive.
3. Applicable to adult learners. There is a lot of debate about “adult learning theory” and strategies that appeal to various demographics. We wanted the courses to speak intelligently to a sophisticated and experience professional audience. Companies have different cultures, different styles, and different tastes. At GM, we wanted to be formal, but conversational. We wanted to be serious, but not stuffy. We didn’t want our learners to feel like we were talking down to them or treating them like children.
4. Standardized. There are some things that really irritate learners. One of those is a lack of standards between course offerings. Learners don’t want to have to learn how to use different navigation techniques in different courses. This is as simple as standardizing on look-and-feel, location of forward and back buttons, location of resources, types of test questions. One of the advantages of using a training vendor is that it promotes standardization between courses. This is a quick win. If all your courses have a standard look-and-feel, similar learning exercises, and similar kinds of knowledge checks, they spend the time learning rather than trying to figure out how to move through the course. We also wanted to come up with a set of standard languages, and we wanted the courses to reflect GM’s branding guidelines.
5. Strategically Planned. A company the size of GM has many risks that could be covered in a compliance training program. In our online training portfolio we have dozens of topics that we need to cover. But you just can’t require dozens of courses each year. There is such thing as training overload. So we decided to map out or risk coverage strategically over a three-year timeframe. Some stakeholders feel like their specific risk is so important that it has to be required every year. We had to get past that and reassume them that they weren’t going to be ignored, but that they needed to accept the fact that their specific topic would be fairly represented in the program over time.
6. Engaging. By engaging, I mean that we wanted the courses to hold the audience’s attention. We want them to be interesting. We want the courses to be relevant to the audience’s situations. We want them to make the learner think.
7. Frequently updated. One of my personal pet peeves, both as a training professional and as a learner, is being required to take the EXACT same course over and over again. I agree that some topics are so important that they have to be repeated. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t keep the courses fresh with different scenarios, different approaches to the risks, different videos, different learning checks. This became one of my cardinal rules. If you are going to repeat a topic in the training program, you’re going to refresh the course. I personally think it’s insulting when I’m asked to take a course twice. To me, nothing screams “check the box” program than requiring the identical course year over year.
8. Non Legalistic. How many times have you been in a training session where the instructor starts out by saying something like, “The five elements of the FCPA are…” The only people that kind of an approach appeals to are the lawyers in the room. I always say that I don’t care if my learners know how to spell FCPA. We aren’t trying to create mini-lawyers. (Do you really want your audience to be making legal decisions?) We are trying to help businesspeople understand how to perform their jobs ethically and within the bounds of company policies and the laws. We try to make sure that our courses speak the language of the business, not the language of the lawyers. (It’s a constant struggle.)
9. Optimized to Eliminate Redundancy. When you require multiple courses in the same year, there’s bound to be some redundancy. As important as a non-retaliation policy is, do you really need to cover it as a learning objective in every single course? Perhaps you can cover non-retaliation in your Code courses, and then just do a short pop-out reminder that we don’t retaliate in the other courses. Your overall goal is to cover the topics adequately while minimizing seat time to respect the employee’s time and company resources.
Finally, we wanted our program to be designed for flexibility. For example, it’s very possible that you will get an unexpected requirement to address a risk in year that you had not planned for that risk. A three-year plan can be designed to be flexible and adaptable to a changing risk environment.
Your company might value other things besides those I’ve talked about in this podcast. But if you think about your design objectives early in the planning phase, it will make your program implementation easier. It is also helpful to have these design objectives in hand before you start talking to the vendors who want your training business. You’ll be more likely to find a vendor that will meet your requirements if you go into the discussions with a vision of what you want them to provide.