Best Practices For A Successful Compliance Training Program: The 5 Ws

Best Practices For A Successful Compliance Training Program: The 5 Ws
Konstantin Chagin/
Summary: To build successful compliance training, ask yourself: WHO needs to know about compliance? WHO should create training? WHAT should be in it? WHEN do employees need to know about compliance? WHERE will employees apply this information? And WHY are they learning it?

 Answer 5 Questions And Enjoy A Successful Compliance Training Program

Compliance training can feel like a moving target. Evolving regulatory environments mean that compliance continues to grow in importance [1]—which means an increasing role for effective compliance training. Designing a successful compliance training program is more important now than it ever has been.

There are many resources for creating effective and exciting [2] compliance training, including incorporating gamification and techniques from the entertainment industry [3]. All of these are valuable tips that can help as you develop engaging and useful training.

But before you even begin to design a compliance training program, take a step back. Put on your fedora, slip a "Press" card into the hatband, and make like an old-fashioned reporter, as you ask yourself the 5 Ws for creating successful compliance training:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?

1. Who Needs To Know About Compliance?

This falls into the category of "know your audience". [4] Much of compliance training is mandated—people in certain jobs need safety training related to their jobs; most employees need to know about HR issues such as preventing discrimination or sexual harassment; ethics training is especially important in certain positions.

Once you’re sure your mandatory bases are covered, think about creative ways to do compliance training. After all, ethics or HR training isn’t just for managers, and safety training isn’t just for people who work with machinery.

Who, Part 2: Who Develops Your Training?

There are a lot of excellent compliance training programs available off the shelf for issues such as sexual harassment, safety, discrimination, or industry-specific issues. Rather than reinventing the wheel, you might want to consider using one of these. However, don’t just assemble employees in a room, start up a video, and hope for the best!

If you use off-the-shelf training, be sure to wrap it in activities that are specific to your workplace and your culture. Consider doing some role plays or scenarios [5] that address specific issues your audience might face. Design your own assessments so you can be sure you’re measuring the attitudes and behaviors that are important to your company.

2. What Should Be In Compliance Training?

Once again, regulations determine a lot of the content of compliance training. You must cover—and should test for—certain content. However, be sure to focus on the absolutely most important takeaways, rather than trying to cover every possible situation with a tsunami of information that can drown your learners.

Learners should find out right away what they are going to learn. How does this information apply to their job? Give them specifics that they can use when they go back to work.

3. When Do Employees Need To Know About Compliance?

Compliance training is typically a part of onboarding. The danger with this is that employees are being given a lot of information during the onboarding process, and it’s easy for compliance training to get lost in the shuffle.

2 possible solutions to this problem (and it’s best to use both of them):

  • Instead of trying to teach new hires everything they need to know about compliance, focus on awareness. They should know the key issues of compliance, and where they can go for more information when they need it.
  • Make compliance training a continuous process, rather than a one-off. Consider creating short, entertaining compliance modules—either online or Instructor-Led—that you can give periodically as refreshers.

4. Where Will Employees Apply What They Learn In Compliance Training?

Compliance isn’t just a training room issue. When you create a compliance training program—whether you build the whole thing from scratch or use off-the-shelf products as an integral part of your training—build in job-specific scenarios, role plays [6], and assessments. Make the training as specific as possible. Follow up later with refreshers and retraining. If possible, do the training on the job, rather than in the training room.

5. Why Are Employees Learning About Compliance?

Too often, compliance training is viewed by everyone—from top management to training teams to employees themselves—as something they need to get through in order to satisfy some regulatory agency.

While a lot of compliance training is mandatory, it doesn’t have to be grim and boring. Put it into context: what does it mean for a specific employee’s job? How can people benefit if they incorporate the principles into their lives at work?

Okay, sometimes compliance topics can be boring. But you can incorporate humor, rewards, games, and other techniques to help employees get through it with a sense of humor and motivation.

Putting It All Together

After you answer the 5 Ws, remember to include dashboarding [7] and reporting as you create your compliance training. Periodically, assess the impact of the training and reshape it to be even more effective.

Throughout this process, think about how to create a compliance culture at your workplace. Companies that build their culture around ethics, safety, and good business practices are generally more successful and better places to work. Your training should reflect the positive aspects of compliance [8], and how it can improve the environment where you work.


  1. The Evolving Role of Compliance
  2. 7 Tips to Make Online Compliance Training Exciting and Entertaining
  3. Creating Engaging Compliance Training: Lessons From the Entertainment Industry
  4. Know Your Audience
  5. A 5 Step-Plan to Create Your Own Scenario-based eLearning Course
  6. Creating Effective Scenarios, Case Studies, and Role Plays
  7. Dashboards & Dashboarding
  8. 4 Steps for Creating a Culture of Compliance