Well-crafted policies are always broadly understood, accepted and followed, right? Wrong! Just like when a tree falls in the forest, someone must be aware and care for a policy message to be heard. And in the case of policies, everyone affected must comply for it to count.
Compliance training is a powerful way to ensure smooth policy implementation. Increasing staff participation in the rollout increases awareness, understanding and commitment.
Still skeptical? Here are five reasons why compliance training is critical to policy implementation.
More learning modes increase understanding
The whole reasons for documenting and distributing policies is to ensure that employees understand them. But how do you know that you have achieved full understanding?
At a very basic level, you can ask recipients to check a box that they understood the policy. However, that action is meaningless if they actually misunderstood. Unless the policy is very simple and there is no room for misinterpretation, you need to do more.
Build a test at the same time you develop the policy. Think about how to check for real comprehension, not just memorization. Consider ways that the policy could be misunderstood or misinterpreted. As a side benefit, this process can also improve the policy statement itself.
Make the test as simple or detailed as needed to test for understanding. Use a mix of question types—multiple choice, fill-in, yes/no, rating—to keep it interesting. Combine narrative and questions as exercises that show how the policy is applied in various scenarios. For example, describe a situation covered by the policy and then ask questions to probe for understanding. This requires the recipient to apply the policy and can identify gaps in comprehension.
Sometimes it makes sense to develop training modules that cover one or more of your policies. However, try not to cover too many subjects, as this dilutes overall attention and comprehension.
Remember, some people learn best by reading, others by seeing or doing. Include visuals and provide examples that illustrate key points to broaden the comprehension of your overall audience.
Training trainers increases ownership
The old adage for medical interns is ‘learn, do, teach’. Leverage your organization to deliver training as part of new policy implementation. This compliance training process will both personalize policy delivery for those trained and reinforce policy understanding for the trainer. The trainer learns the policy and applies the policy through testing before moving on to teaching.
Be sure to include tests with the training to verify understanding. These tests can themselves be tested during policy and training development, and during train the trainer sessions. Any ambiguities, gaps or other issues can be addressed prior to policy implementation, improving overall results.
Involving the organization in compliance training delivery creates a broader sense of ownership. Trainers will ask tough questions to prepare themselves, improving the policy in the process. Trainers will also naturally feel responsible for compliance from the people they train.
Compliance Training Builds Better Buy-in
Effective policy implementation is a smooth process. Compliance training and testing help take potential bumps out of the road.
There are two critical junctures where you can gain buy-in to your policy. The first is as you develop the policy and associated training/testing. Include representatives from the affected parts of the organization during this development phase. Give them a voice and urge them to speak up if they see problems or want to suggest changes.
The second juncture is during policy distribution and compliance training. Build in a feedback mechanism. This is a win-win, as employees feel empowered and you get valuable insights into both potential policy improvements and employee concerns.
Auditors expect more
It is no longer enough to say that you created and distributed a policy. Regulators expect you to have substantial proof. You must be able to show what changes were made to which policy when and by whom. You must be able to show who received what policy when and how. And that is just the beginning. You also need to show in a convincing manner that employees understood and complied with all policies.
Auditors will ask to see your records. They will want to see metrics on distribution, acceptance and testing. They will want to see your policy review and retraining schedule.
Increasingly auditors will also want to talk to your employees. What will employees say if an auditor checks for understanding? Will employees help you prove compliance? This is not a rhetorical question. I is one you need to answer proactively.
Cost of non-compliance is high
Policies exist for a reason. Once the need for a policy is identified, all effort should be made to create and deliver it in a way that ensures compliance. The specifics may vary between policies but the goal should not—full compliance to every policy.
Non-compliance can be very costly. State and federal agencies regularly assess steep fines and penalties for compliance issues. Civil penalties can be even more dramatic.
On top of this, in some jurisdictions individuals can be held personally liable for non-compliance with penalties that can include jail time.
Perhaps the most compelling argument for compliance training as part of policy implementation is that it supports the health, safety and well-being of the organization. Achieving 100% compliance with all policies can improve business effectiveness and avert catastrophes big and small.