No Completely Right Answer in Training?

How boring is taking a test when you already know all the answers? It’s rote. It’s annoying. It can feel like a waste of time.

Guess what? Your employees feel the same way when they’re spoon-fed easy compliance training that doesn’t reflect the dilemmas they’ll face.

Worse yet? They will lose interest quickly and resent the compliance team for forcing them to take time away from what they think is the most important thing – their working day.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

As E&C professionals, our job is, in large part, to win the hearts and minds of our colleagues. If they think we’ve wasted their time, they are less likely to take our advice seriously.

Solving the boring-training problem requires a recognition of the issue, a keen understanding of what you actually need to communicate, and a willingness to take a creative, non-traditional approach to getting your message across.

This is part II of our blog series on using adult learning best practices in training. This blog focuses on a contentious topic – not including a completely right answer in training. It works.

Don’t Give Your Employees The Right Answer Right Away

The trick is to make sure that the questions you ask during training are as complicated as the scenarios you’ve presented. 

It is likely that the vast majority of employees you train could identify “call ethics and compliance” or “report the issue immediately” as appropriate responses to an at-work ethical dilemma. However, the Everlasting Gobstopper of corporate scandals shows that, despite our best efforts, many employees are still making poor choices.

To make training more impactful, consider making your questions more difficult. Don’t give trainees an easy right option. You may even consider not presenting a correct answer at all.

Instead, show employees the gray area. Give them several answers, all of which are slightly problematic, and ask them to choose the “least worst option.”

“But won’t that teach them to do the wrong thing?” you might be asking. To the contrary, asking employees to think deeply and then describing or discussing the proper course of action is more likely to leave a lasting impression about how to behave. By weighing different choices, employees will engage more deeply with not just your rules and regulations but the reasons why they exist resulting in a deeper understanding of their compliance obligations. 

When we’ve taken this approach during Competitor games, we’ve seen the results clearly. Rather than regurgitating an easy answer, trainees are deeply engaged with the material, trying to reason-out the best choice from a slate of mediocre answers. Almost inevitably, they are aware that the answers are imperfect and are highly likely to tell the trainers so.

Choose Training that Require Critical Thinking

The Experiential Learning Theory, developed by psychologist and educational theorist David Kolb, holds that adults learn best by applying skills and knowledge to realistic scenarios.

Asking learners to use critical thinking skills in training capitalizes on adult learners’ preference for active learning rather than the passive approach taken by so many training programs. Think less lecture, more interaction; fewer easy-to-spot right answers, more gray areas.

Training using hypothetical scenarios that are “ripped from the headlines” (an approach many Americans might recognize from the hit television series Law & Order) is an impactful way to provide experiential training.

For example, to build the scenarios we use in our training game, Compliance Competitor, we start with fact patterns found in actual settlement papers, company press releases, and articles published by investigative journalists. Using the real world as inspiration ensures that scenarios are complex enough to keep adults engaged and has the added bonus of driving home the message that compliance risk is real.

Create Training Magic

Failing to provide a “right answer” often ends with an employee from outside the ethics and compliance department speaking passionately about how to do the right thing. It is, truly, the stuff of training legend.

If our goal as ethics and compliance professionals is to spread our message far and wide, this act of creating authentic ethics ambassadors is one of the greatest results we could hope for. To get there, all you have to do is be willing to set aside traditional ideas about what “has” to be presented during compliance training and how it “should’ be communicated. If you need help making the leap, the Spark Compliance and Compliance Competitor teams are always here to help.

Need some help making the leap?

Let’s talk about how we can bring fun, facilitated customized compliance training to your business using the Compliance Competitor game today.

Get in touch through and we’ll reach out to discuss the ways we can tailor training scenarios to your needs.