8 Crucial Topics To Cover In COI Online Training

8 Crucial Topics To Cover In COI Online Training
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Summary: Conflict of interest (COI) is a term that gets thrown around a lot in the legal dramas on TV. Back in the real world, is there a realistic way to teach it to corporate employees?

COI Online Training: Essential Topics To Include

Conflict of interest online training is a compliance matter, but it’s a tricky one to navigate. First, it’s a relative term, and the accusation requires a burden of proof. Unfortunately, (dis)proving such allegations is costly, so you’d rather avoid them altogether. It begins with your online training program. You want your corporate learners to understand and adopt your interpretation of conflict of interest. They need the ability to recognize it, and the tools to evade it. Here are 8 essential topics to include in COI online training.

8 Essential COI Training Topics To Cover

1. Ethics

Personal ethics can seem pretty straightforward. They basically revolve around how you were brought up, and what you were taught is right or wrong. In the corporate space, ethics are a little different. For example, if you were trained in pharmaceuticals, you will likely apply to different chemical companies. However, sending an application to competing brands may be seen as an ethical problem. It’s even more hazy when you work at one company and send an application to their rival. COI online training courses need to cover ethics as specific to your industry, and your company.

2. Violation

Similarly, the definition of contravention differs. Should you apply to other jobs when you notice your colleagues are leaving? Ordinarily, it’s natural to job-hunt in related industries. However, the fine print on your work contract may contain a non-compete clause. Part of COI online training should dig into the legal sections of employees’ contracts. Those are technical bits they often skip past when they sign. Now that they work for you and could be a liability, it’s in your best interests to demystify the jargon.

3. Identification

This is closely related to violation. To know whether you’ve broken any terms, you have to know what the terms are. Include specific instances of this in your COI online training. They could be case studies, infographics, or simulations. Culture can come into it, because habits that may be acceptable in one place are frowned upon in others. For example, in certain societies, it’s expected to exchange gifts when visiting someone. This includes both social and business situations. In other cultures, that same gesture could be taken as a bribe.

4. Penalties

Some businesses avoid stating their price up front. They feel it’s crass to discuss money so openly, even though it’s the goal of a successful business. Along the same lines, COI compliance online training developers may be unwilling to state penalties clearly, especially cash amounts. This is a key part of COI online training, though, because it shows the true cost of violation. It makes an effective deterrent and can be useful for employees who underestimate the damage they’re doing. It’s a good idea to have an appendix that itemizes specific violations and their effects. As well as online training simulations and real-world examples that illustrate the negative consequences.

5. Personal Gain

By definition, conflict of interest ties into personal profit. That said, the gain isn’t always discernible. Say a family member owns a salon or bakery. Telling colleagues about it could be seen as supporting a loved one. Telling clients about it could be seen as marketing and could get you in trouble with an ethics board. Some organizations take a more didactic approach in their COI online training. They might measure personal gain in terms of direct financial reward. Or they might put a price cap on it. You can refer to your sister’s catering business but not her car, or her realtor business. Their differentiator here is in the number of funds involved. They see no problem with a free cake or two, but are uneasy with house sales commissions.

6. Individual Bias

This is a sensitive topic, which is why your COI online training course requires it. Personal bias could arise from upbringing, religion, or individual life philosophies. So, for example, a practicing Hindu may select a bid from a vegetarian caterer. Another F&B supplier may opt for a gluten-free baker. Both these choices may be price-based, but they leave your organization open to accusations of COI. During COI online training, train your team to recognize their personal preferences and to realize when they interfere with their corporate decisions.

7. Extraction

Once your corporate learners identify a problem, they need help getting out of it. They may have to negotiate, bargain, or butter up the other party. They need tools to undo the infringement without ruining the business relationship. With the right training, extricating themselves from this COI could end up strengthening your corporate entanglement. But only if you train them right, so be sure the online training content is well covered.

8. Client/Customer Bribes

Your sales staff, in particular, may be open to bribery from customers or clients. For example, they attend a meeting in hopes of making a sale, only to have to defend the honor of your organization by refusing a ‘gift.’ Employees must know what constitutes a bribe and how to politely decline it without causing offense. You don’t want to diminish the credibility of your company. But you also don’t want to lose a valued client on account of an honest mistake. For instance, they didn’t even realize that the gift was unethical. Your COI online training should offer your employees some pointer on how to turn down the gift and why accepting one might put you in an awkward position.


Labelling conflicts of interest is only the first step to compliance. Ideally, you want corporate learners to name and implement COI the same way that you do. Train them on general ethics, listing individual violations that could cause problems. Teach them to identify COI in hazy situations and explain the penalties that come with it. Dig into potentially grey areas, such as personal gain and individual bias. Finally, teach how to gracefully get themselves out of compromising situations, while retaining their dignity, and the integrity of the brand.

COI is just one piece of the compliance puzzle. Read 8 Compliance Issues Solved With Immersive Learning And Simulation Training to discover how to address pain points with the help of learning technologies.