5 Tips To Use SMART Goals To Improve Your Compliance Online Training Program

Improve Your Compliance Training With SMART Goals
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Summary: SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely. How can you set your online training targets to fit this matrix?

5 Ways To Improve Your Compliance Training

The idea behind SMART goals isn’t just to sound “punny” and…smart. It’s to improve the entire goal-setting system. It takes training targets out of the realm of the perfunctory and into actual efficacy. You don’t just want training courses that use up the last-minute budget. And you don’t want your staff to force themselves through compliance courses just for the sake of it. You want them to actually learn something. More importantly, you need verifiable proof of knowledge transfer. How can SMART goals help you achieve this in compliance online training?

1. Specific: List General Compliance Objectives

For many trainees, the aim of a compliance course is to finish it. Their certificate of completion may assuage HR, but it won’t solve the problems compliance is intended to fix. Set the right foundation by stating exactly what those challenges are. For example, by the end of the course, trainees should know how to paraphrase compliance regulations. Reciting them by rote is fine, but it doesn’t prove they understand the words they’re saying. Paraphrasing, on the other hand, expresses comprehension. Another useful objective is the ability to draft compliance checklists for troubleshooting and compliance evaluation. You can even transform the objectives into an engaging infographic that appeals to different learning preferences and ups the engagement ante.

2. Measurable: Use Contextual Branching Scenarios

The error a lot of us make is to set up goals in a less-than-optimal manner. We make them broad and vague, so they sound elevated and intellectual. But their high-sounding quality makes them difficult to measure. Branching scenarios are a useful way of measuring how well your trainees have integrated their new compliance knowledge. In branching scenarios, the storyline changes according to learners’ responses. So, it’s a good way to gauge which parts of their compliance laws they haven’t understood. In situations where budget is an issue, you can develop text-based branching scenarios. Design them as a kind of animated flow chart. Analytics will show you the muddled areas, so you can elaborate and improve. Even if you don’t incorporate scenarios, you must have some way to measure employee performance and spot gaps. Let them know how they’ll be assessed and what’s expected of them beforehand.

3. Attainable: Develop Separate Training Modules

Reading compliance laws can be frustrating. They’re often written in dense legalese with clauses and subclauses that seem to contradict each other. Trainees might therefore understand one section and forget the rest. Thus, they’ll end up non-compliant due to those subsegments. To make sure they learn it comprehensively, dedicate units or chapters to every subclause. Metrics will show you which portions are unclear (because trainees take too long or repeatedly fail tests). It’s also helpful for revision and JIT scenarios because employees can zoom into the specific regulation they need to refresh. Breaking down compliance rules in this way makes your compliance knowledge more achievable. In addition, you can make compliance online training more attainable by inviting employees to set their own secondary goals.

4. Realistic: Simulate Compliance Situations

Another compliance barrier is translation. Trainees need the ability to convert theoretical rules into everyday life and work. For example, when does a birthday present or Christmas gift become a bribe? And (why) is it okay to receive an anniversary present but not a Valentine’s one? Because there are so many grey areas in compliance issues, it’s hard to know if your trainees really “get it.” Build in lots of simulations to broaden their scope. Also, whenever an employee or trainee asks for guidance on a compliance issue, take note. Maybe a client offered to drop them home and they don’t know if they’ll get in trouble. Or maybe they met an external partner at a social event and danced with them. They might now be worried they gave (or got) the wrong idea. Work these simulations into future modules to help them relate and better understand the compliance issue.

5. Timely: Offer A Study Template

Online training is lauded for its flexibility and self-driven quality. However, it sometimes means trainees take a year to finish a course that could take one week. As part of their study resources, offer a loose timeline they can follow. You could tell them a chapter takes two to four hours or two to four weeks. This gives you a scope to gauge their performance and maintain timeliness. You could even send them gentle reminders and phone notifications when they’ve spent too much time between sessions. Another approach is to develop training contracts they must follow, or even certification courses for each compliance topic. They’re able to dictate when and where they complete the course and earn their certificate. However, they need to get everything wrapped up by the deadline to ensure that you’re covered in the event of an audit.


The beauty of SMART goals is their principles can be applied to just about anything. Use these guidelines in your compliance online training program and you’ll assure a better result. The improvement extends to trainees themselves, the organization as a whole, and the relevant regulatory body. Set specific learning objectives. Branching scenarios are a good measure of successful knowledge transfer. Each training module should cover one element of compliance. Let them practice what they’ve learned through simulation exercises. Finally, build them an optional timetable, but make it loose to retain autonomy and flexibility. With these simple tips, you can make your compliance online training course better for everyone involved.

Mandatory online training is often dreaded by employees. However, you can use real-world activities to liven things up and give them valuable experience, such as task simulations that allow them to learn from their mistakes and apply knowledge in a practical context. This post features the most common mistakes to avoid when developing compliance online training simulations.