June 17, 2019

You Can’t Afford to Be Boring: 3 Best Practices for Bridging Engagement and Compliance


With unemployment rates at historic lows and employees willing to quit their jobs for better opportunities, it’s no wonder employee engagement has become a major talking point for executives. While engagement is at its highest level since Gallup started tracking it in 2000, there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Employee engagement is heavily influenced by both specific perks like flex time and intangible factors like positive relationships with coworkers and bosses. However, few people realize that engagement can also be affected by those workplace processes often considered rote and uninteresting, such as compliance training.

At first glance, it’s hard to see how compliance and engagement line up. Traditionally, companies have simply used compliance training to cover themselves against lawsuits and operational interruptions. For example, federally regulated airlines can have their planes grounded unless everyone — from mechanics to forklift operators — has the proper certifications. Because compliance is seen as little more than a legal necessity, compliance training is often delivered via sessions full of dull, jargon-filled content. It’s no wonder PwC’s “2018 State of Compliance” study found that just 17 percent of risk and compliance executives were “very satisfied” with their compliance programs.

It doesn’t have to be this way. These days, interactivity and microlearning can transform compliance training from something akin to a dentist visit into an eagerly anticipated, engagement-driving activity. You don’t want to risk losing your top employees simply because your compliance training was too boring.

3 Ways to Engaging Employees Through Compliance

When it comes to compliance, organizations can do so much more than just check off a box. It’s time to start viewing compliance training as a prime opportunity to support the growth, development, and engagement of your employees. Here are some good places to start:

1. Assess Your Baseline and Adjust as Needed

What are you doing today for compliance and employee engagement? Answering this questions starts with a full assessment of your current practices. The aforementioned PwC study found that 50 percent of companies use technology to monitor compliance, and 56 percent say they have gained insight from using it. If you don’t already have a similar system in place, consider implementing one.

Assessing your baseline should help you understand two things about your current compliance efforts: whether your training methods are working, and whether you are effectively tracking expiring certifications.

In terms of training methods, it is important to understand that using varied training formats can be a powerful way to engage employees in the compliance process. For example, PwC notes that Science Applications International Corporation uses shorter, more frequent trainings to make content more digestible, while another organization uses brief TED talk-style videos to deliver messages to employees in an engaging way.

As for whether you are effectively tracking expiring certifications: If you are doing this process manually, you could be missing out on important information about your employees’ compliance statuses. Any missed compliance is a problem, which is all the more reason to invest in a system to assist with compliance tracking.

On a final note, setting a baseline and tracking it also allows you to watch trends in your compliance process over time. You can see whether it has improved, whether breakdowns have occurred, and where you may need to intervene.

2. Train for the Present and the Future

Don’t simply focus on getting employees the certifications they need for their current roles; also pay attention to the new skills your employees want to learn and the roles they hope to attain in the future.

A Randstad Workmonitor survey found that employees want to upskill, and they believe employers should help them do so by providing them with relevant training. Furthermore, studies repeatedly show that organizational support of career development is a strong driver of job satisfaction.

In light of this information, compliance training offers a great opportunity to support employee development and promote engagement. For example, an IT technician needs to become certified in Microsoft Azure in order to work with sensitive data, but they might also want to move to a more senior IT role. The organization can fit the certification in as part of the employee’s personal development plan, blending what is required for the employee’s current role with the skills the employee will need to get where they want to go.

3. Align Employee Aspirations With Certifications

Compliance doesn’t always have to be about hard skills, nor does it have to even be focused on the organization’s internal needs.

For example, after conducting its “Workforce Preparedness Study” in 2018, McDonald’s found that teamwork, customer service, and responsibility are in high demand but low supply. As a result, the restaurant chain launched its “Where You Want to Be” campaign to help employees connect job skills with greater career goals. The campaign aims to show employees how the skills they learn at McDonald’s will propel them forward in their careers, regardless of whether or not they stay with the company.

Over the years, your employees might have learned to moan and groan when the subject of compliance training comes up. In a market like this, you can’t afford to take compliance for granted. If you want your employees to feel enthusiasm instead of dread at the prospect of compliance training, you need to use it as a chance to help employees strive for their own goals. If you treat compliance training as an opportunity instead of an obstacle, so will they.

Linda Ginac is the chairman, president, and CEO of TalentGuard.

Read more in Compliance

Linda Ginac is the chairman, president, and CEO of TalentGuard. Prior to TalentGuard, she founded a successful career development franchise, The Ginac Group, serving clients across the US and Canada since 1999. Prior to this, Linda was vice president of product strategy at Cofiniti, where she was instrumental in pioneering Cofiniti's global entry into collaborative financial planning using cloud-based technology and preparing the company for a successful exit. Linda also served as marketing executive at pcOrder, where she collaborated with the team that led the company from a startup to a NASDAQ-listed public corporation. In prior leadership roles, Linda served as vice president of marketing at EPSIAA, where she led global expansion of the brand through acquisition by Fiserv; vice president of business development at Computer People; and numerous leadership roles at Digital Equipment Corporation.