In this episode of Excellence in Training, Shawn Rogers provides some thoughts on how training frequency and the amount of training can positively or negatively impact an overall training strategy.

In our previous podcast, we talked about how compliance training is like a car’s windshield wiper system. That podcast was about measuring training effectiveness. In this episode, we extend the analogy of the windshield wipers and discuss how frequently compliance training should be administered. Often, companies have been conditioned to think that compliance training needs to be conducted very frequently, even if it means repeating the same training courses every year.

Today, we challenge that mindset, starting with the windshield wipers. Typically, you only turn on your windshield wipers when it is actually raining. Anytime you drive the vehicle, you know that the wiper system is in place. It’s always ready to be used if needed.

It would not make any sense to run your wipers constantly, even when it is not raining. First, it would be extremely annoying to the passengers if the wipers were always running. And second, eventually it would wear out both the wiper blades and the wiper motor. It would simply be nonsensical. Compliance training should be applied in a similar way. It should be available and ready to be used when the risks are present, and it should be applied in such a way so that it directly addresses those risks. In other words, before a company deploys its compliance training, it needs to know what the risks are, and the training program should be designed (“tailored”) to mitigate those specific risks (“risk-based”).

Requiring overly repetitive training is like running your windshield wipers in clear weather. The learners are going to be annoyed (rightfully), the training will be viewed as a waste of time and energy (which it would be), and the learners won’t take training as seriously when it is really needed to address a specific situation (because it is viewed as a check-the-box exercise).

There is a situation when you use your wipers during clear weather. This is when you want to clean — or “refresh” — your windshield. Over time, dirt can accumulate on the windshield and a little squirt of wiper fluid and a few swipes of the wipers will instantly clean the windshield and clear the driver’s view.

It be fantastic if we viewed compliance training in the same way instead of giving an hour-long course on a topic they have heard before, what if instead employees received a 10-minute “refresher” training just to maintain their awareness and get the message that they should constantly be vigilant?

There are some compliance topics that are so important to a company that training needs to be required fairly regularly, maybe even annually. For instance, at GM, we have decided that it is important to provide reminder training annually on a few topics:

  • The importance of our Code of Conduct;
  • The importance of speaking up when a concern is observed, and how to report the concern;
  • An understanding of the company’s non-retaliation policy;
  • The importance of workplace and vehicle safety; and
  • The requirement to disclose conflicts of interest.

At GM, we are moving towards a less frequent repetition of lengthy training courses for our current employees, and more frequent “refresher” or “reminder” training modules that keep the risk top-of-mind without assuming that lengthy courses need to be repeated every year. It is a very common sense and defensible approach to compliance training.

New GM employees are required to take more detailed courses during their first year so that they are exposed to the key risks in detail. After that, full-length courses are staggered in a three-year interval so we can keep the courses updated and to avoid over-training.

Disclaimer-As a company, GM uses many training vendors. GM’s compliance function primarily uses two vendors. Rogers has worked with other good vendors that currently do not work with GM. Rogers is not promoting any specific vendors, nor is he disparaging any specific vendors in this podcast. And, of course, these opinions are Roger’s alone and opinions that  developed over almost 15 years. He is not speaking on behalf of GM in any way.