In this episode of Excellence in Training, Shawn Rogers and I consider how you should envision your training.

Shawn begins his journey with the famous book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, where Stephen R. Covey said, “All things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation to all things. Take the construction of a home, for example. You create it in every detail before you ever hammer the first nail into place. . . Then you reduce it to blueprint and develop construction plans. . . Begin with the end in mind. ” 

This principle applies to creating a compliance training program. A common mistake is jumping right to the question if which courses you want and how to deploy them. However, there are several things you need to think about before you start building the program.

Here are the steps we followed at GM as we envisioned what our compliance training should look like:

  1. Decide on the program’s guiding principles
  2. Establish program design objectives
  3. Develop a style guide or set of course standards
  4. Determine the exact risks that will be addressed by the training program
  5. Set up a governance process to ensure stakeholder alignment, approve the program design, approve the budget, and monitor effectiveness.

In Covey’s terms, these activities resulted in the blueprint — or the  “first creation” —  of our compliance training program. We did all of these before we selected our vendor and started building our training courses.

Three Principles of Highly Effective Training Program

Like Cover’s “Seven Habits” book, I’ve come up with “Three Principles of Highly Effective Training Programs.”

As we put together our compliance training program at GM, we came up with three foundational principles that guided our efforts for our compliance training program: Trust, Respect, and Accountability. These principles guided many of the decisions we had to make as we developed the program. We relied on these principles when we select our vendors, when we decide how many courses should be required each year, when we pick the languages for translations, when we set training completion deadlines, when we send out reminders, when we could grant exceptions, and so on.

Trust:We trust our employees to take their compliance training seriously. We trust that they already have a fundamental commitment to “Winning with Integrity” (which is the name of our Code of Conduct). We trust that once they have received proper training, they will conduct business and make decisions with integrity and in strict compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and company policies. The opposite of trust is obviously distrust. A compliance training program can inadvertently send a message that “we don’t trust you to do the right thing.” In fact, it can almost become punitive by having so many courses or repeating courses over and over again. There’s that old t-shirt slogan that says, “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” You can almost rephrase that to say “the long and boring trainings will continue until the company culture improves.” If you don’t implement your training program strategically, your learners will view ethics and compliance training as a miserable task that they have to do just to satisfy the lawyers. Trust goes hand-in-hand with the second guiding principle, Respect.

Respect:The compliance training program will respect the employees’ time and the company’s time. We will not require employees to take courses that are not relevant to their role. We will respect their intelligence by assuming that they understand the principles without needing to take the exact same courses repeatedly. We will respect their time by keeping the courses short and to the point. We will set standards for the courses so employees don’t have to learn a new method for navigating the different courses. We will respect our company by following the company’s branding guidelines and by using images that reflect company standards and reflect the company’s business activities.

Accountability: And finally, the training program will not be effective without accountability. Accountability applies to our employee/learners, our people leaders, and our vendors. Employees will be held accountable for taking their training seriously and within the established time frame. They will also be held accountable for internalizing the training content, and then acting with integrity and in compliance with the principles taught in the training program. Managers will be held accountable for ensuring that their staff complete the courses within the established deadlines. Our vendors will be held accountable to delivering quality content and according to the development deadlines established by the program. These three principles become the measuring stick for our compliance training program. We always think about whether our program-level decisions reflected our core design principles of trust, respect, and accountability. With these principles in place, we were ready to take the next step: Developing a set of design objectives for the program. [The topic of the next podcast.]