For many, compliance courses (sexual harassment, diversity training, loss prevention, etc.) are the equivalent of mandatory updates to the home.  Sure, you have to ensure the attic is properly insulated, but isn’t it a lot more fun to renovate the kitchen or install that new surround-sound system in the family room?  Often, these training courses are approached with a mindset of “we’re only developing this training because we have to.” This attitude is reflected in the training, and the learners can sense it, causing the training to immediately lose credibility.  How can you expect your audience to take the training seriously when you don’t?  It’s reminiscent of when we speed through a red light at an intersection and turn to our children and say, “Don’t do that when you drive.”  Do we really think we’re teaching them to not run red lights?

So how do you create engaging compliance training?  First, decide what to ditch.

To Ditch:

How often in compliance training have you come across a sophomoric scenario or question where the correct answer is glaringly obvious? Read this scenario that I’ve paraphrased from a real online sensitivity training course:

A team member tells you he’s offended by comments made by coworkers regarding his nationality.  What do you say?

A. “We take this very seriously, and we will fully investigate this matter.  To respect your privacy, we will keep this as confidential as we can.

B. “Well, since they’re just kidding, let’s just keep this conversation between you and me.  We wouldn’t want to get anybody in trouble.”

The correct answer is so laughably obvious, I’m certain my 8-year-old niece would answer it correctly.  In real life, how often are the scenarios we encounter this obvious?

Scenarios like this are flawed for a few reasons.  First, they don’t demonstrate any learning other than a generic agreement that “ethnic insensitivity is bad.”  That’s something we can all agree on without a training course.  Second, learners going through this scenario experience what I call the “Duh Effect.” During the Duh Effect, learners roll their eyes, groan, and immediately lose any faith they had in the training.  They finish with glossy eyes and limited attention.

To Do:

Instead of insulting your learners’ intelligence, give them some credit and present them with authentic situations that will challenge their thoughts and provoke discussion.  The Pepsi Diversity training is one of the best examples of compliance training I’ve seen. The introduction to the course is below.


First Demo

What are your initial reactions? If you’re anything like us, we immediately began discussing who was right, who was wrong, if an infraction been made, and to what extent.  This led to a conclusion through first-hand experience that the Duh example described earlier couldn’t possibly do:  Everybody has different viewpoints!

But that’s not all this training gets right.

You can tell that a lot of care went into the video.  It’s well filmed, well acted, and well produced. The fact that Pepsi takes the course seriously demonstrates that they take the subject matter seriously and that learners should as well.

Also, the video is interesting. The learner is immediately placed into the action, creating a sense of “What will happen next?” and motivating the learner to continue the course.  Talk about engaging!

Finally, and perhaps most important, the learner is asked to reflect on the situation.  There is no obvious right and wrong.  Instead, the situation is genuine and thought-provoking ― just like these situations generally are when we encounter them in real life.  Because of this, the training comes across as much more authentic.

As the learner continues through the course, the story unfolds and the characters develop.  Throughout this process, learners are asked to reflect on their thoughts and feelings.

pepsi-2Note that this demo has two pages, you can view the second page by clicking the ‘Next’ button after completing the activity on the first page.

Second Demo

The course is incredibly authentic in that it acknowledges that biases do exist.  Rather than sweeping them under the rug, it forces the learner to confront and subsequently think about those biases. Through experience, the learner realizes that we all have varying biases and comfort levels ― and that’s okay ― but we can’t let it affect the way we approach our jobs.

The Pepsi Diversity course is engaging and credible.  It promotes discussion and encourages self-reflection.  And isn’t that significantly more powerful than asking the learner to sit through a series of mind-numbing Duhs?

The course isn’t “compliance” training at all ― it’s just training, and that’s what makes it great.

Related Content:

Follow Colby on Twitter @brandColby

February 18, 2011


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