Compliance Training IVI conclude my four-part series on ethics and compliance training today by looking where effective training is going. One of the criticisms leveled by L. V. Anderson, in her Slate article, entitled “Ethics Trainings Are Even Dumber Than You Think”, was the stalid nature of the experience for the student. I think the answer to this conundrum is to look to the world of gaming for insight into how to make the listener experience more enjoyable and effective training in communicating the concepts.

Kyle Turco, in a Technological Advice article, entitled “How Gamification Can Improve Employee Training”, wrote “Gamification, or the use of game dynamics in a non-game context, will yield powerful results for employee training. One of the most beneficial aspects of gamified training is that it adds fun and excitement to a previously boring procedure. While arduous training programs can discourage incoming employees, game dynamics can increase engagement and morale.” Moreover, “By increasing interest and engagement during training, trainees are able to better understand the nature of the company.”

Turco went on to explain that it is the dynamics of gaming, which brings increased effectiveness to such employee training. These dynamics not only increase the communication component to training but also add to its effectiveness through a more complete user experience. Turco said one way to do this is “to add points and badges as prizes for completed courses. Adding incentives is a simple way to encourage participation. In addition to rewarding completion, there is an advantage to taking it further and rewarding mastery and knowledge. If the training program requires, assigning performance based status or rewards will encourage trainees to perform at a higher level.”

Even a concept as simple as competition can improve the experience by adding a “social dynamic to training.” Turco wrote, “By publicly rewarding completion or mastery, trainees will feel driven to compete. This is specifically powerful in the training process because incoming employees may feel especially driven to show their capabilities. Furthermore, it can foster positive social interactions among new employees. Instead of losing productivity because new workers are alone or intimidated, a gamified training process can get them accustomed to the company culture and feeling comfortable right out of the gate. Additionally, it can put them directly in-touch with existing employees and tasks.”

He pointed to the example of SAP, which “added gamification to their college recruitment process. SAP implemented a MindTickle platform that included badges, points and leaderboards. When the newly-gamified hires were compared to their predecessors, SAP noticed a 75% increase in awareness about the company and related products. The MindTickle platform helped remove four classroom training sessions and created 70% savings in senior management coaching time and a 60% reduction in administration costs.”

Tying these concepts directly to ethics and compliance training, OCEG President Carole Switzer, in an article entitled “Playing the Game of Risk in Workplace Education”, noted, “Well-designed games encourage engagement, and more engagement means more reinforcement, and that leads to better recollection and application of the information. Situational decision-making drives the player to think, not just act. Making wrong choices and seeing the consequences leads to desire to act the right way and gain rewards, be it advancing to the next level of the game, earning a prize for success, or understanding that in the real workplace world the reward may be achievement of personal and organizational objectives.”

I recently had the chance to chat with Sam Claxton, Product Manager over Training and Education Products for the Red Flag Group (RFG, who sponsor this blog). Claxton came from the world of gaming before he joined RFG and continues to actively participate in that sport. He explained that through this gaming concept of dynamics you are bringing to your ethics and compliance training the concept of scoring. Employees will consider how their “scores compete with other people’s score in a leaderboard or if you do a certain number of clicks or wrong answers, right answers you get a reward or a score or a star. I think that’s actually not as effective as other gaming mechanic because are 2 people going to sit down and really look at, “Oh I completed my compliance training at this time and with this score. What was your score? What was your time?””

Another concept from gaming is that of viewer engagement, which means engaging the ethics and compliance training so that users want to do compliance training and spend their time engaged with the content. He provided two examples on how such engagement can be accomplished. The first is through story telling. Any engaging training should have a large amount of focus on creating characters and creating a world to fit the compliance training so that people are engaged. This is because people care about the characters. Engaging ethics and compliance training will provide each character with a back-story so you pick up those nuances as you go through the training. This entices the employee in training to want to go “to the next bit to see how these characters interact with each other. When one character finds out a secret about another character, you want to know how the other character will react but at the same time, not dramatizing it because content must always be king.”

The second major lesson from gaming is the quality of the visual experience or the animation. Claxton said, “by using 3d Pixar animation, which is a high quality visual, “the user can be a lot more immersed in the world because it’s not just text on a slide. They’re not just surrounded by text. We live in a colorful, vibrant world, that should be reflected in the training so that they’re immersed and see the content in a real life example.”

The next step past these lessons learned from the world of gaming is to create a platform that will provide adaptive training to clients. This means that each user will have their own individual course so, based on the risk profile of that user, they will get a course tailored to their risk areas. Indeed it can be specific to a potential situation that might have a higher risk for bribery and corruption. This can be accomplished through short and impactful mini-trainings. For instance, if a high-risk employee is going to a location, such as one with a high propensity for corruption, dealing with a foreign government official or third party sales representative, they can select a succinct 2 to 3 minute training to enhance their knowledge. This can certainly be effective for their ongoing development and awareness of compliance. Finally, through a technological solution, there will be an audit trail so that you can Document, Document, and Document.

I hope that you have enjoyed this series on ethics and compliance training and that it responds to Anderson’s original assert that ‘ethics trainings are even dumber than you think.’ Never forget that the US government considers training important, as reflected in the US Sentencing Guidelines and the Ten Hallmarks of an Effective Compliance Program. There are mechanisms in place that allow you to provide a more focused, effective training through risk ranking and design. You can evaluate the value of your training through estimating your return on investment (ROI). And finally, one should never lose sight that training is another way to communicate your company’s values. If you say it enough, tied to a culture of compliance, people will do the right thing.


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© Thomas R. Fox, 2016