In terms of compliance, ignorance is anything but bliss. High turnover, lawsuits, regulatory violations, toxic office cultures, tarnished reputations—all of these problems (and more) typically don’t stem from bad actors, but lackluster workforce training efforts.
Training is the first step to any effective compliance program. Employees who aren’t trained make expensive mistakes, not necessarily because they want to do the wrong thing, but because they just don’t have the information or the knowledge necessary to perform their duties consistent with their employers’ values and legal obligations.
Sounds like a simple enough problem to solve, right? Invest more in training and you’ll reduce the probability of an uninformed mistake.
Not so fast. The truth is that over the last few decades, technology has changed how we store and process information. Humans don’t learn like we used to. To truly reach your employees—to ensure they retain critical compliance training materials—you need to understand how and why that change has taken place.
Today’s learners are a cross-generational workforce.
In some cases, you could be in an organization right now that has up to 5 generations working side by side. But, that doesn’t mean that every generation learns differently. Let’s explore some cool brain science and a few surprising truths behind the kind of compliance training that truly sticks and resonates with employees.
3 Ways in Which Workforce Training Needs to Catch Up With Learners’ Brains
1. Shortened Attention Spans
According to a revealing Bersin by Deloitte study of organizations across the globe, the advancements of the digital age—sometimes referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution—have fundamentally transformed the way that people of all ages learn. In other words, this isn’t only a millennial phenomenon or a case of stubborn baby boomers; we’ve all been altered by the interconnected world of digital devices.
The study found that today’s employees are able to dedicate only about 1% of their time to learning and development. That equates to 24 minutes per week, if not less. You already know the primary reasons why: email, phone messages, and other technological distractions. As a result, organizations have just 10 seconds to capture an average learner’s attention.
And once you have captured someone’s attention, the clock starts ticking. Training needs to be not only immediately engaging, but relatively short: about four minutes long at maximum, according to the aforementioned study. Therefore, organizations need to deliver workforce education in short, easily digestible bursts that eventually all consolidate into a larger program or a larger topic.
2. Diverse Learning Styles
Not everyone learns the same way. There are 3 general kinds of learners—visual learners, auditory learners, and kinesthetic learners—each with their own strengths, limitations, and needs.
Visual learners, for instance, respond to color-coded charts and diagrams far better than auditory learners do, but may not be able process the same information as well through a group discussion. Kinesthetic learners, meanwhile, may learn better by acting out a skit rather than watching or listening to other people explain the topic.
The style, tone, and sequence of information matters as much as the medium in which it is presented. An auditory learner may think in a linear fashion, while a kinesthetic learner may only understand the same topic by working backwards through it.
3. Accessibility and Relevance
Regardless of how your workforce learns, emphasize accessibility and relevance. Employees should understand from the get-go how training content supports their everyday job functions and improves their ability to do their job. If that’s not obvious, it may be time to overhaul your program.
Every workforce training module needs to cover what a learner needs to learn at the exact moment of training. Think of it like search engine results: your employees need actionable information—not abstract, discursive analysis. A bite-sized delivery format not only accounts for short attention spans, but allows learners to zero in on the topic or lesson that bears on their job responsibilities in the moment.
Shorter, hyper-focused training modules also improve rates of retention. It’s easier to go back and review a 2- to 4-minute lesson about single rule or regulation than it is to watch a 45-minute video all over again.
Finally, technological accessibility is just as important as the cognitive equation. Workforce training should be accessible on the smartphones, tablets, and other personal devices we use every day.
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