Let's start out with a little thought experiment.
Imagine you're in the kitchen, making a nice lasagna for your kids, spouse, and in-laws. (In this scenario, you have enough time in your day to actually make a lasagna.)
As you're about to pop it in the oven, your father-in-law walks in and says, "Oh! The oven is supposed to be at 375, not 300 degrees. Looks like we have some waiting to do. Glad I caught that."
Annoying, right? At this point it doesn't matter if you're using his Nonna's recipe that was passed down for generations. It's YOUR kitchen, darn it!
In this scenario, you also hate Mondays.
Now, imagine your spouse walks in and delivers the same news, but in a more understanding, "we're on the same team," "I've made this same lasagna mistake before; let me help" kinda way.
Better, right? Empathy makes a difference when you're faced with a challenge, which is one of the many reasons why manager-led, or discussion-based, training can make a positive impact on your company's compliance outcomes.
Wait, what's discussion-based training?
Good question! Let's give a quick definition:
Basically, folks hear compliance messages from a leader or peer within their own department, and the "lesson" is unpacked through a collaborative discussion.
Who leads it? The initiator could be a compliance champion, an ombuds network, or some other group of business-side employees. If it's a leader or manager, it's "manager-led training." And that's what makes this method particularly powerful—the discussion leader is someone the employees:
* have a trusting working relationship with, and
* potentially evaluates their performance and influences their career trajectory (if it's a manager).
What's the training? The discussion doesn't necessarily center on "training," although it could. It could also be things like communications, messaging, or discussion touch points.
Why do we care about it? Because it's incredibly powerful for your compliance program. 💪
Let's dig into four reasons why!
1. Discussion-based training complements your other training efforts.
We advocate picking the right tool for the task, so consider discussion-based training part of your well-stocked compliance toolbox. You'll likely still want to deploy e-learning and compliance-led efforts because they're so fantastic at managing recordkeeping and analytics, socializing the compliance team, and providing real-time feedback. But these methods have limitations. Manager-led training complements those other efforts because it escapes their limitations.
First: Rather than telegraphing that compliance is something "compliance does"—a limitation of both e-learning and compliance-led training—manager-led training signals that compliance and ethics is something that's grappled with as a team, driven by either someone in authority (a manager) or a peer with the same experience (a champion).
Second: You're literally responsible for making sure the ENTIRE company is acting compliantly, and it's near impossible to tailor your messages to Every. Single. Situation. With discussion-based training, however, enlisting managers or champions means that the conversations naturally involve situations specific to their teams. No more one-size-fits-all scenarios!
Third: You've got limited bandwidth. Discussion-based training distributes the workload: You're not hamstrung by the size of your compliance team for getting seriously specific in your comms and having in-depth conversations about important concepts—you've got extra headcount to help you do the work.
Fourth: It doesn't feel like "training." Some folks love school, others not so much. Discussion-based training can often be framed as mentoring or improving specific job skills, which can be a lot more palatable for those who have a visceral reaction to "training."
2. Discussion-based training gets the business to own compliance culture.
If you want your employees to prioritize and own their ethics and compliance responsibilities—you know, "compliance culture"—they need to be the ones driving the conversation among themselves. It has to originate within their own departments, otherwise it will always be considered a "compliance" initiative.
Discussion-based training allows compliance champions and managers to foster dialogue in a way where employees can feel comfy posing challenges and questions. And by engaging face-to-face with someone who understands the employees' perspectives and daily tasks, it avoids the feeling that compliance isn't "real world" or doesn't apply to them.
You also get a really fantastic side effect: managers and peers absorb the information much better when they're in the position of having to teach their teams. (It has a fun name, too: the protégé effect.) This helps solve those pesky "mood in the middle" and "buzz at the bottom" layers of your hierarchy—every level is invested in acting compliantly.
3. Discussion-based training encourages operationalization.
As long as training comes from your ethics and compliance team, adhering to these rules will seem like something your coworkers have to do in addition to their jobs, rather than something that's part of their jobs. Discussion-based training is a fantastic path to integrating compliance into work—you know, "operationalization" (and y'all know how much we love it!).
Using a discussion-based system allows a manager or champion to clarify expected outcomes for their teams—the back-and-forth helps the team understand how compliance fits into specific job duties. So rather than feeling like compliance is just another thing they have to do to check a box, it encourages them to make it a part of their day-to-day. It becomes as natural as checking email or putting on safety goggles.
It also sends a really important message to the business: by giving your managers and champions practical tools that help them do their work compliantly, you signal that compliance is a way of doing work—not something separate. This becomes a longer conversation with the business where you learn more about how to integrate compliance into business processes, all while getting buy-in from the folks who actually own those processes. Winning all around!
4. Discussion-based training is particularly effective when deploying content for remote employees.
This is especially important for all of us using a WFH model (even temporarily). Traditionally, the compliance team would generate awareness by hanging posters in the breakroom and hallways, and then companies would gather whole teams into a large conference room and go over high-level compliance concepts over the course of a few hours (or days!).
In the era of social distancing and remote workplaces, this simply doesn't work. What does work: integrating compliance training into conversations that are already happening on a daily basis, whether by phone, chat, or videoconference. By having managers and peers deliver compliance training, you're ensuring your teams get the training that is relevant to them from someone they trust and already interact with.
Okay, yes, but how do I actually DO this discussion-based training?
Glad you asked! You're about to recruit a bunch of folks to deliver compliance training for you, so you want to make this as easy as possible—for them and for you. This means you need to prepare three things for every manager/discussion toolkit:
Top-notch job aids.
Because manager-led training is all about your ethics and compliance initiatives, you want to make sure you're providing managers and champions with something that's quick to consume but will get repeated use as a resource. Simple one-pagers that help solve specific problems are the way to go.
Some awesome talking points.
These are short guides that help managers and champions deliver the job aid. It doesn't repeat what's in the job aid, but instead it explains its relevance and use. That way, instead of saying, "Hey, read this thing from compliance," managers can coherently frame an impactful discussion. Bonus for WFH sitches: these can easily be adapted to an email that can be blasted to the team.
Explainer delivery emails.
This email is the delivery vehicle for the job aid and talking points to your champions. It might not seem like a big deal, but we promise it is! A well-drafted email is key: it doesn't matter how great your job aid and talking points are if your managers or champions don't actually open the email that contains them.
And that's it! Discussion-based/manager-led training has incredible strengths that can up your compliance game, supplement your other efforts, and change how your employees view training. Want to find out more? Give us a shout!