Long-time readers will know we are fairly critical of compliance training videos, a fact that puts us squarely on the side of everyone in the entire world who is not in the business of selling compliance training videos. It’s like one of the safest things to make fun of ever. In fact, one of our most popular posts is this one, which gets in some pretty solid digs.
But I’ve also said that video can be done well and makes sense in certain contexts, and that’s true, but I haven’t unpacked that much.
Let’s fix that today by looking at…
The best compliance training video ever made
Thanks to the LA Metro, who apparently has a very cool safety or marketing person, I present to you: the best compliance training video ever made.
This is part of the Metro Manners series made by director Mike Diva.
I’ve followed his work on YouTube for years and was psyched to realize he’d made these too; I’ve been meaning to write about it for a while, especially since I knew I had to do a follow-up to that old post. (More of Diva’s stuff will be linked at the end of this post, so you can officially watch it as work-related YOU’RE WELCOME.)
Anyway: this is the best compliance training video I’ve ever seen. And production values and mechanics of filmmaking aside, which are both obviously amazing, it works as a compliance training video because it does two things really, really well.
It focuses on one behavior
This video focuses on one single behavior: don’t block the aisle. It doesn’t talk about eating on the metro, or blocking the door, or listening to loud music—just DON’T BLOCK THE AISLE. Those other behaviors are important, and they each get their own video in this series, which is super smart; putting them all in one video would be information overload. (And overload is a particular problem with a format like video since the viewer cannot control the pacing.)
Contrast this with your average corporate compliance training video, which tries to cover something like “corruption” or “privacy” in one sitting. Since each of those concepts covers dozens of behaviors, these compliance videos tend to be punishingly long, conveying far more information than anyone can remember.
Or alternatively, and honestly way more often, they just ignore the behaviors entirely and focus on the high-level concept of “corruption” or “privacy,” which doesn’t help much—it would be like if this LA Metro video just said “hey guys be nice” and left it to everyone to figure out what that meant.
Which brings us to the second reason…
It tells you what to do
This video actually tells you what to do, as well as shows you the contrasting example of doing it wrong in Rude Dude (and the "showing" is important since film is a visual medium).
Substantively, this is very basic training stuff: tell people what you want them to do. Like, Goofus-and-Gallant-from-Highlights-for-Children-in-your-dentist’s-waiting-room-circa-1994 basic.
But again, contrast this with the average compliance training video: they tend to focus on high-level concepts or take a scare-tactics approach of listing all the horrible things that can happen—headlines of criminal stuff, disaster scenarios, whatever—without giving you any guidance on what to actually do.
The scare-tactics approach is kinda like the D.A.R.E. program we used to keep kids off of drugs in the '80s and is about as effective, which is to say not at all since those programs made kids more likely to do drugs.
And yes, that means that, by the transitive property, bad compliance training videos make kids do drugs. QED.
For compliance and ethics, think "awareness" instead of "training."
In short, video makes sense for compliance training when you do two basic things with it: (1) you focus on a single behavior and (2) you actually tell someone what to do.
This is why the health and safety field—like the Metro Manners PSA—is usually a really good fit for this medium because health and safety is good at breaking things down into granular behaviors like "don't block the aisle" and "don't listen to loud music on the bus" and "don't put your hand in this machine because it eats hands."
But when we talk about corporate compliance and ethics, this gets complicated because of the sheer volume of behaviors involved in a legal framework like "anti-money laundering" or "anti-corruption;" there are fewer than a half-dozen Super Kind PSAs, for example, but you'd be looking at dozens and dozens of company-specific videos to tackle a concept like "anti-corruption" at the behavior level.
And so when we look at the video work that's been done in the corporate compliance and ethics space, we find that they generally tend to go high-level. This is understandable, but it also means they don't actually tell you how to do anything specific.
Does that mean those videos are not valuable?
No! It just means they're not training.
That is, the vast majority of what we call “corporate compliance training videos” are better-understood as corporate compliance awareness or branding efforts. They are more advertising for compliance and ethics than compliance and ethics training.
And that's OK: you need that too!
In fact, when we think about things this way, the record is much better: I've seen many examples of how powerful and useful this medium can be for corporate compliance awareness and branding. There are people doing cool stuff in that space, both in-house and as vendors.
You just have to recognize it for what it is, because if you do a bunch of awareness and branding stuff and think it’s training—and therefore don't do actual training—you’ll end up with a slick-looking program that doesn’t help employees understand what to do. Your employees will very justifiably write that off as window dressing.
So, here's my advice: don't fight it! If you want to use video, do it for awareness and branding of your compliance efforts. You should be doing that stuff too as part of your overall strategy.
Leaning into this will let you do cool stuff with video without having to worry about the constraints of "training." It is better to have a great awareness video that builds a strong internal brand than one that tries to also be "training" and just ends up accomplishing nothing.
And yes, you will have to do actual "training" separately, but that's fine. You can do "training" way more efficiently and cost-effectively using other formats, especially when you’re trying to tailor it to your business operations.
(For example, like through Compliance Design Club!)
Want a cost-effective way to get tailored compliance guidance for your employees? Join Compliance Design Club!
OK, here are some of my favorite Mike Diva videos, in no specific order but still with numbers for some reason.
#1: Sandwich Dad: Fall of the Trapper Keeper.
The Lisa Frankiverse! Work caution: swears.
#2: Halo Top: Eat The Ice Cream.
An actual commercial for Halo Top, the ice cream brand that meets your needs for protein and ennui.
#3: Metro Manners: No Loud Music.
Babymetal is doing a US tour this year. Like maybe 1 person who reads this will get why I’m saying that and if that's you then email me, new best friend.
#4: Tokyo Stomp.
Diva and Anna Akana (Super Kind from Metro Manners) stomping through Tokyo to a Dev remix with like a million match cuts.
This is actually the first thing I ever watched of his; it's a horror short so kind of a different tone than everything else. I love that genre and the big reveal in this is rad, but your mileage may vary if it's not your thing.