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How to Measure the Success of Your Compliance Training Program?

Updated: Apr 11, 2024 | Published Apr 11, 2024

In today’s harsh reality, in which regulations and laws are constantly changing, compliance is no longer simply a box to check. 

Rather, it’s now a critical foundation for any business’s survival, with non-compliance bringing potentially devastating rippling effects:

  • Hefty Fines: Regulatory bodies don’t hesitate to impose crippling financial penalties for breaches, impacting your bottom line and financial stability.
  • Reputational Harm: Compliance missteps erode trust with customers, partners, and investors. Rebuilding that trust can be a lengthy and costly process.
  • Legal Battles: In severe cases, non-compliance can trigger lawsuits, criminal investigations, and even the suspension of business operations.

With that being said, compliance training has shifted from being a “nice-to-have” luxury thing to a strategic necessity. Investing in a robust compliance training program allows you to ensure compliance with relevant regulations, protect your organization’s reputation, ensure smooth day-to-day operations, and gain a competitive edge.

However, simply having a compliance training program is not enough. To stay relevant in the ever-evolving regulatory environment, it’s crucial to also constantly update the training content. We need to actively measure the real-world effectiveness of your compliance training efforts and update it accordingly.

In this article, we’ll delve deeper into the nuances of measuring compliance training success. We’ll explore key metrics to measure, best practices to follow, and share actionable strategies for continuous improvement.

Let’s embark on this journey together to unlock the secrets to ensuring your compliance training meets regulatory requirements and facilitates success for your business. 

We’ll begin with the basics: Why is compliance training important?

The Importance of Compliance Training

Before we delve further into how to measure compliance training performance, let us first explore the benefits and importance of your compliance training program.

In today’s complex regulatory landscape, compliance training is your organization’s first line of defense. It safeguards your organization from the myriad risks associated with non-compliance by ensuring your employees have the knowledge and skills to avoid these costly missteps. 

Proper compliance training will provide a solid foundation for your employees so they are less likely to make decisions that jeopardize the organization’s compliance. Yet, the benefits of compliance training can extend far beyond simply avoiding costly legal issues. 

Let’s dive into the reasons why compliance training deserves top priority: 

  1. Protect against risks: Compliance training prepares your employees so they understand the potential consequences of non-compliance and their responsibilities. Companies without proper compliance will simply spend more on violations, leaving the business more exposed to fines, regulatory scrutiny, legal settlements, and even operational shutdowns. Compliance training offers a proactive shield against these risks. 
  2. Enhances company culture: Compliance training creates a culture of awareness where rules aren’t simply imposed but deeply understood. Employees who receive comprehensive compliance training via case studies, open discussions, and scenarios learn not just the ‘what’ of compliance but the ‘why.’ By making compliance training engaging and relevant to the employees’ work lives, compliance becomes a mindset and integral part of your organization’s culture. 
  3. Boosts employee confidence: Inadequate understanding and awareness of regulations may leave employees feeling vulnerable and confused. Compliance training replaces this confusion and anxiety with clarity, allowing employees to make informed decisions with their knowledge, and confidently stand behind their actions. 
  4. Attracts and retains talents: Today’s prospective employees are savvy, and they actively research company records seeking an environment commmited to transparency and ethical practices. Showcasing your robust compliance program sends a signal – you’re an organization that cares about doing the right thing.  This dedication not only attracts ethical workers but boosts morale and loyalty among existing staff.
  5. Improves customer and investor trust: In today’s hyper-connected world, news of compliance issues spreads like wildfire.  Customers prioritize partners they trust, and investors are quick to distance themselves from those with compliance skeletons in their closets. Proactive compliance training reassures the market, strengthens stakeholder loyalty, and ensures your reputation remains your most valuable asset.

Think of investing in compliance training like purchasing insurance for your business, safeguarding you from costly pitfalls while fostering an ethical culture that attracts the best tales and nustures long-term success. 

Challenges of Measuring Training Success

While as we’ve learned, compliance training is both important and beneficial, its effectiveness isn’t as simple as counting how many employees completed each course. 

Measuring true success of your compliance training program gets deeper, and that’s where things can get challenging. Before we delve into how to accurately measure your training program’s success, let’s first look at some key challenges:

  1. Going Beyond Check-the-Box Compliance

Unfortunately, it’s easy to fall into the trap of simply counting how many clicked ‘complete’ on the training course without actually verifying knowledge absorption, shift in understanding, and behavioral change. 

It’s important to recognize the fact that employees can power through modules easily (sometimes, while daydreaming), and didn’t really learn anything from the course. Then, they may quickly revert to old behaviors when the quiz is done. 

True compliance relies on genuine internalization of regulations and rules, as well as their underlying reasons.

  1. The Complexity of Compliance

The definition of “compliance” can differ radically between industries and even between businesses. For example, a healthcare provider has stricter regulations on patient privacy than a manufacturing company. Further, specific roles within a company may necessitate tailored compliance training. 

A one-size-fits-all approach to training program may miss this nuance, failing to drive relevant changes in employee behavior. On the other hand, this complexity will also translate into complexity in measurement. 

  1. Difficulties of Capturing Behavior Change

Measuring employees’ behavioral change is the holy grail of evaluating compliance training effectiveness. Did that training about handling sensitive data change how employees treat company documents? Did customer service employees improve their conflict resolution skills after their training?

This behavioral impact is naturally harder to pinpoint than simply keeping track of completion rate or test scores. You’ll need to commit to conduct careful observation, incident tracking, and feedback loops over time. 

Failure to address these challenges can create the following problems: 

  1. Wasted resources: A focus on shallow and/or vanity metrics creates the illusion of success while actually you are wasting investment in both time and money.
  2. False sense of security: By measuring the wrong metrics, companies could lull themselves into believing they are ready and protected, while in reality they are still at risk due to poor knowledge retention, bad/unethical practices, and other compliance issues. 
  3. Missed opportunities: Failure to effectively measure your training means your business never identifies gaps or opportunities to refine your approach, which may cause your organization to fall behind in the ever-changing compliance requirements. 

Acknowledging these difficulties is the first step toward overcoming them, and in the upcoming sections, we’ll explore the practical strategies and tools that let you tackle these challenges.

Essential Metrics for Measuring Compliance Outcomes

Now that we’ve learned the importance of measuring compliance training performance, and the common challenges of doing so, in this section we’ll get practical.

Here’s a comprehensive look at the metrics that provide those deeper insights into your compliance training success: 

  1. Training Completion Rates

The basic metric, but it’s still important to measure. 

Depending on role criticality, you may want to set a high completion percentage target (90%+ or even 95%+). Low completion rates signify that your employees aren’t engaging with the training content, and may be rooted in a fundamental awareness and communication issue.

This metric should be fairly easy to track, especially if you are using a LMS (Learning Management System) but here are additional things to consider:

  • Timeliness: Track not only the completion of the training, but how quickly the employees complete the modules. Procrastination could indicate a lake of perceived importance regarding compliance or low confidence in being able to understand the training content. 
  • Retakes: Some LMSs will show if employees needed multiple attempts to pass a test. This may hint at areas where your content could be revised for clarity.
  • Groupings: Slice completion data by job role, department, or geographic location to spot potentially systemic gaps in accessibility or awareness.
  1. Knowledge Assessments

Below are some approaches you can take to go beyond simple box ticking:

  • Pre- and post-training quizzes: Compare scores to evaluate knowledge gain during the training and identify areas where understanding lags behind. 
  • Scenario-based tests: Assess how employees apply knowledge in real-world situations, measuring decision-making ability.
  • Simulations: Utilize these, especially in industries with high procedural compliance requirements, to track application of skills under pressure.

Some additional tips to make your assessment robust enough to reveal true comprehension:

  • Vary question formats: Utilize multiple-choice, open-ended questions, and even ‘hotspot’ scenarios where employees click on images to demonstrate their understanding of policies applied in context.
  • Calibrated difficulty: Include some challenging questions, not just ‘pass or fail’. This gives insight into top performers who could act as champions within their teams.
  • Regular updates: As regulations evolve, update the assessments to match, preventing a false sense of confidence in outdated knowledge.
  1. Employee Feedback

Don’t overlook the voices of your participants, and here are a few approaches you can use:

  • Surveys: Use both quantitative (ratings) and qualitative (open questions) feedback to gauge perception of relevance, usefulness, and clarity of training.
  • Focus Groups: Facilitation creates in-depth conversations, uncovering pain points employees might not mention individually.
  • One-on-One Discussions: Managers’ conversations with team members are a font of information about perceived shortcomings or successes of the program.

Think strategically about when and how you gather feedback:

  1. Immediate vs. Delayed: A direct ‘course satisfaction’ survey allows quick fixes but tapping employees weeks later gives insight into retained knowledge.
  2. Anonymity vs. Open Dialogue: Allow anonymous feedback (ideally with comments allowed) for brutally honest input. Facilitate focus groups if you want to unpack ideas openly.
  3. Targeted Questions: Instead of a generic “rate the training”, ask specific questions related to clarity, usefulness to their role, and suggested changes.
  1. Incident Reporting

Look for trends related to the frequency and type of non-compliance occurrences (i.e., policy breaches.) A decrease after rolling out new training indicates your training program is performing well. 

Here are some tips:

  • Open reporting environment: it’s crucial to have an open reporting climate, so problems aren’t hidden.
  • Robust Investigation: When issues arise, probe with “did this person receive the relevant training?”, “Was it clear and understandable?”.
  • Data over time: This is not an immediate impact check. Compare reporting data after a year; a trend is more powerful than isolated incidents.
  • Detailed Tracking: Don’t just log ‘an incident’; categorize the nature of the issue for correlation to specific training.
  • “Near miss” reporting: Encourage a culture where reporting close calls (that were averted) is celebrated. This gives a broader picture of risky habits.
  • Root Cause Analysis: Every incident demands probing of root causes, often identifying training-related shortcomings before harm occurs.
  1. Changes in Employee Behavior

This is the holy grail of metrics to measure, but it’s difficult to quantify behavioral change in a quantitive manner.

Consider:

  • Manager Observation: Front-line managers can provide specific examples of positive shifts in employee behavior following training.
  • Peer feedback: Mechanisms where colleagues identify instances of good, compliant practice to reinforce desired actions and spread positive impact.
  • Customer Satisfaction: Improved employee knowledge may manifest in fewer complaints or a better customer experience.
  • Celebrating Wins: When great, compliant behavior is observed, publicly recognize it. This is far more potent than focusing on the negatives.
  • Long-Term Tracking: Behavioral shifts take time. Regularly remind all involved of what constitutes “success” to drive long-term observation.
  1. External Benchmarks

These are some miscellaneous metrics that can be tricky to keep track of, but potentially powerful:

  • Industry Standards: Some industries have standardized compliance tests allowing you to gauge performance externally.
  • Regulatory Trends: Staying up-to-date on known enforcement focus areas highlights if your training needs adjustment to match increased scrutiny.
  • Collaboration with Peers: Cautiously explore anonymized, non-competitive data sharing across your sector to identify strengths and weaknesses.
  • Competitive Risk: Understanding prevalent violations in your sector lets you proactively adjust your training to avoid landmines your competitors face.
  • Shifting Regulatory Focus: Track new enforcement concerns as training programs could quickly lag behind changing priorities.
  • The Power of Networking: Building trust-based collaboration across your industry offers invaluable data-sharing possibilities.

When considering all these different metrics, it’s important to understand that these metrics work best when considered collectively. Context is key, and you need to build a complete story to continually improve when building your training success. For example, an employee may ace the compliance test yet display risky behaviors on the job – signifying failure. 

Combining knowledge assessment, observational data, and incident tracking allows you to have a holistic and realistic picture of the true impact of your compliance training. Use the available data iteratively and historically to transform your compliance training from simply a formality into a true guardian for your organization.

Leveraging Technology to Power Your Measurement

Fortunately, today, we have various tools and technologies that can help you streamline the effectiveness of your compliance training program. For example, with the right tools, you can avoid the hassle of manually keeping track of survey answers or manual spreadsheets. 

Let’s explore how technology tools can give you clear, actionable insights: 

  1. Learning Management System (LMS)

Consider investing in an LMS to function as the cornerstone of compliance measures. 

When considering between different LMSs, look for the following features:

  • Robust Assessment Tools: Go beyond quizzes. An LMS should offer versatile exam question types (scenarios, video simulations) to keep employees engaged while accurately testing their knowledge.
  • Automated Reporting: Dashboards that summarize training completion, scores, time spent, and even trends over time save hours of manual effort.
  • Customization: Ensure your LMS allows you to build courses with your branding, policies, and unique case studies for greater contextualization.

As your organization grows, consider compliance training platforms like iTacit that offer compliance-specific features, such as:

  • Centralized Policy Hub: Ensure employees always have the latest regulatory and internal policies at their fingertips, boosting accuracy.
  • Incident Case Management: Streamline incident reporting and root cause analysis with standardized and searchable records.
  • Risk Assessment Templates: Identify high-risk areas within your business, prioritizing training resources where they’ll have maximum impact.
  1. Data Analytics Tools

Leveraging analytics tools or platforms like Qlik, Tableau, as well as survey analysis platforms like Google Forms or Survey Monkeys, on top of your LMS data can help you unleash further insights:

  • Correlation Discovery: Look for patterns. Does low performance on a certain training correspond to higher incidents related to that regulation? This identifies weak spots.
  • Predictive Models: Advanced analytics may reveal risk categories. Perhaps you notice that new hires within a specific division struggle with particular modules – this allows for targeted support.
  • Return on Investment (ROI): Tie your training data to incident numbers, costs of remediation, and even time spent per course. It demonstrates the financial value of well-designed training.

iTacit seamlessly integrates powerful analytics for data-driven decision-making and optimization of your compliance training initiatives. iTacit ensures all the pieces play together to give you the real-time insights you need to enhance your compliance programs and reduce potential risks.

Beyond the Numbers: Measuring the Qualitative Side

Compliance effectiveness isn’t simply measured in a quantitative way, but we also have to consider the human element – one that shapes your company’s overall culture and determines whether training sticks.

In this section, we’ll explore the qualitative side of measuring compliance training:

Measuring Employee Engagement

Passive and non-engaged participants quickly forget what they learn. A training program is truly effective and impactful if it sparks curiosity and active participation.

While measuring these aspects can be difficult, you can look for the following signs: 

  • Questions go beyond the basics: Does Q&A focus on clarification or demonstrate employees trying to apply the rules to real-life scenarios?
  • Vigorous discussions: Robust debate indicates the material is thought-provoking. Be on the lookout for employees advocating the ‘right’ thing.
  • Proactive problem-solving: If employees suggest policy solutions based on what they learned, compliance has become ingrained in their thinking.

Measuring Communication Openness and Transparency

If people in your organization fear speaking up, even the most robust compliance system can break. Measure how receptive and transparent your company culture is by establishing:

  • Honest feedback mechanisms: If negative feedback on training quality exists without backlash, you’re on the right track.
  • Comfort levels: Employees should feel able to ask for clarification even after training with both management and compliance officers.
  • “No wrong questions” policy: Emphasize from the top down that there’s never shame in asking about regulations or clarifying a nuance.

Measuring Manager-Employee Partnership

Measure your managers’ performance in upholding compliance standards and their relationship with employees by:

  • Reinforcement, not punishment: They need to model desired behavior and coach employees, not use policy breaches as a disciplinary stick.
  • Manager-led debriefs: Hold sessions where managers review key policies and real-life challenges arising from training.
  • Open two-way dialogue: Allow them to offer insights into where their teams experience friction, prompting revisions to training content.

Measuring Alignment with Company Values

The highest level of success is when compliance becomes inextricably linked to what your business stands for. Measure this by

  • Values-driven messaging: Evaluate whether compliance topics are properly linked with core company values such as integrity, responsibility, or client trust. Review your training materials explicitly for values-based language, case studies, and ethical decision-making scenarios. Does the training connect compliance to real-world implications for upholding your values?
  • Survey Alignment: Include questions in your post-training surveys that directly relate to your values. Example: “After this training, do you feel better equipped to uphold our company’s commitment to [value x]?” Track scores over time to assess improvement.
  • Values-Based Assessments: Create assessment questions linked to values. Example: “A coworker proposes a shortcut that violates regulations but could achieve faster results. How do you respond in a way that aligns with our company’s value of integrity?”
  • Manager Observations: Do managers report their teams making decisions with values in mind? Can they cite examples of employees justifying specific actions by saying, “This aligns with our commitment to [value]”?
  • External Stakeholder Feedback: Customer comments, community interactions, and investor perceptions indicate if external parties have recognized the congruence between your company’s values and behavior.

Qualitative Measurement Techniques

So, how can we measure the different qualitative aspects discussed above in practice? Below are some of the most effective measurement techniques you can use: 

  1. Focus Groups: Small group discussions, facilitated by the organizations, where training participants (employees) can share their understanding of the training content, feelings about the training, areas where they have confusion, etc. Focus groups can yield rich insights about perception and knowledge retention.
  2. Interviews: One-on-one interviews can allow you to go deeper with probing questions to identify individual strengths and weaknesses and how well the participants connect the knowledge acquired from the training to their daily work.
  3. Direct Observations: Manual observations of employees in their work environment after training. This method is useful for measuring the natural integration of concepts, rather than explicit testing, for example, to assess whether they demonstrate proper procedures and adherence to compliance guidelines. 
  4. Scenario-Based Assessment: Develop realistic scenarios relevant to employee job functions. Ask them how they would respond and justify their choices. This measures decision-making ability and application of compliance principles.
  5. Open-Ended Questionnaires: Include questions beyond simple “yes/no” responses in surveys. Encourage employees to articulate their understanding, provide examples, and offer suggestions for improvement

Additional Tips

  • Baseline is key: Start qualitative measurement even before training rollout to gauge pre-existing perceptions and attitudes toward compliance.
  • Triangulate your data: Don’t rely on one method. Combine interviews, surveys, and observations for a holistic picture.
  • Storytelling matters: Gather inspiring success stories of employees embodying compliance principles in their actions. These are powerful drivers of change.

Conclusion

In today’s ever-changing regulatory landscape, compliance training isn’t simply another formality, a box to check, but a critical investment to ensure your organization’s integrity and resilience. 

To do so, continuous measurement and improvement of the compliance training program is essential. It’s not enough to merely deliver the training content; you need to understand how that content is being absorbed, processed, and translated into real-world actions in your employees’ day-to-day work.

To accurately measure the success of your compliance training program, you’ll need to measure two different types of metrics: 

  • Quantitative Metrics: These provide essential baselines. Track elements like training completion rates, knowledge assessment scores, and the number of reported compliance concerns.
  • Qualitative Metrics: Delve deeper through focus groups, interviews, direct observation, scenario-based assessments, and open-ended questionnaires. These yield invaluable insights into employee understanding, attitude shifts, and real-world application of compliance knowledge.

Last but not least, remember that the goal of effective compliance training extends far beyond simply avoiding legal fines and penalties. Remember that your reputation, daily decision-making processes, and workplace culture are also at risk. A strong compliance culture promotes integrity, respect, and a sense of shared responsibility for upholding the highest ethical standards.

Want to strengthen your compliance training efforts further?  Consider exploring how iTacit’s employee engagement software solutions can streamline training delivery, track qualitative and quantitative metrics, and foster a truly engaged and compliant workforce.

Teri Maltais
Teri Maltais

Specializing in digital marketing programs for industrial and commercial technology solutions.

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