4 Key Elements An Effective Compliance Training Strategy Should Have

What Elements An Effective Compliance Training Strategy Must Present

Businesses succeed by overcoming all kinds of challenges: competitors, natural disasters, market unpredictability, and more. But in certain sectors, there’s another big challenge. Businesses in finance, pharmaceuticals, and other heavily regulated industries must keep in compliance with a dizzying array of guidelines and regulations [1], risking serious consequences if they don’t. The best tool for this job is a thorough, effective compliance training strategy.

An effective compliance training strategy works like a story: it has a beginning, a middle, and an end (a happy one, of course). It should look something like this:

Fabulous Pharmaceutical—FabPharma for short—was having problems with manufacturing. Technicians weren’t following data security guidelines well enough to meet health authority standards and, after an audit, restrictions were imposed on their ability to sell in certain markets. If the problem continued, the company would have been slapped with more restrictions and heavy fines. Management recognized the need to bring data security compliance by up to 100%.

FabPharma outlined specific goals for each division and role, from senior scientists to shipping clerks. They contracted with a compliance training vendor to develop an engaging, memorable and targeted curriculum. After a brief series of team meetings, all employees understood the critical nature of regulatory compliance.

After finishing the new training, internal monitoring showed that data security was dramatically improved. The next health authority audit found near-perfect adherence to regulations, and many of the restrictions were lifted. The health authority agreed to lift all restrictions if FabPharma researchers continued to practice full data security compliance.

Let’s break down 4 key elements of an effective compliance training strategy:

1. Well-Defined Goals

What behavior do you want to change? The ultimate goal of compliance training is full adherence to all regulations that apply to the business; but to get there, employee behavior must change. So, all smaller goals that support the big one must be defined.

For example, a restaurant might fail a health inspection due to unclean food prep surfaces, but the root cause of the issue is the failure of employees to follow proper cleaning procedures. Clear goals, like cleaning surfaces properly and on schedule, will help employees achieve measurable improvements in performance and contribute to the overall goal of full compliance.

2. Good Communication

Without a clear view of the ultimate goal, compliance training can feel like trying to walk through a forest and getting lost deep in the weeds. The little details are important, but if employees are only concerned with memorizing them, they risk losing motivation and may consider the training a painful experience.

This is why communicating the overall purpose is critical to any compliance training strategy. Good training includes communication as a key element, and good managers make sure their employees fully grasp the importance of compliance, as well as the consequences of non-compliance.

3. Focused Instructional Design

In many industries, the regulatory environment can be very complex, and guidelines can be wide-ranging. It can be tempting for training managers to "cover all the bases" and give employees more training then they really need—but this can be catastrophically overwhelming.

When training is customized for each person and their specific responsibilities, critical information is emphasized, and understanding is verified, while "good-to-know" content only plays a supporting role. Partnering with a designer experienced at custom content development is an effective way to do this.

4. Monitoring To Verify Results

Any business expense must be measured against its effect on the bottom line. In the case of compliance training, that means adherence to the regulations must be verified. Government agencies [2] perform this task periodically, but if they discover further violations, compliance training will look like a waste of money.

A proactive monitoring program should include procedures that verify the training was properly absorbed. For example, checklists completed before critical business activities would verify employees are following the procedures they were trained on. Or, internal audits would help managers correct potential problems before they develop into real ones.

A fully comprehensive compliance training strategy can have many elements. Depending on the complexity of the business and its regulatory environment, it might have quite a few more than these four. But at a basic level, the timeless principles of clear goal setting, good communication, focused design, and verification are the four corners of a solid foundation.


  1. Electronic Code of Federal Regulations
  2. Compliance Monitoring Programs
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