SOX and Other Compliance Training Bugaboos!

Compliance training gets no respect.  Training managers view it as something of a bugaboo.  Most trainees greet it with about as much enthusiasm as they would a parallel parking contest.  So what is it, why do we need it, and how can we best go about it?

Well, government regulations and business best practices dictate that you not only conduct certain courses but also maintain records to show that they have been taken and understood by all concerned.  Not offering such training can jeopardize the health and safety of your workers, earn the ire of your shareholders, and/or get you on the wrong side of the regulatory authorities.


Here are some examples of compliance training:

  • Human resource issues:  Such as equal opportunity, workforce diversity, and sexual harassment.
  • Business ethics:  A large organization will have need for courses that deal with general business ethics as well as the more specialized needs of those in sales and marketing, accounting/finance, information and document management, and corporate governance (Serbanes Oxley or SOX compliance requirements).  Moreover, certain industries, such as real-estate and lending, will have additional requirements specific to their business.
  • Occupational safety:  US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations on both general occupational health and safety and the special needs of industries such as construction, food service, and healthcare.
  • Industrial safety:  OSHA and other standards that seek to prevent injuries, accidents, chemical spills, fires, and explosions.
  • Driver safety education:  For those who operate vehicles that are part of corporate fleets.
  • HIPAA training:  For healthcare workers on how to use and share patient information in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

What’s the ideal platform for such training?

To answer that question, we need to examine the characteristics of compliance training, which are:

  • It’s required by large numbers of people, often within a short timeframe.
  • It’s often repetitive.
  • The course content, once developed, is fairly stable (though subject to adjustment as regulations get fine-tuned).
  • Even locations that have only one or two employees must undergo this training.
  • And, of course, it demands good record keeping.
  • Except for the needs of specialized industries, the course content – once developed – can be sold to a very large national, sometimes international, customer base.

What we have just listed are the exact situations in which e-learning is both appropriate and cost effective.  E-learning has the ability to perform volume training quickly and relatively inexpensively, even when there are one or two participants per location.  It’s also just-in-time and self-paced, allowing it to be more easily squeezed into a crowded work schedule.  All those make e-learning the ideal vehicle for compliance training.  What about the records?  When e-learning is delivered from an LMS, record-keeping is automatic and effortless!

Now, what’s this LMS?

A Learning Management System is software that allows you to display on your corporate intranet all of your training offerings, whether instructor-led or self-paced, as well as track the progress of everyone taking these courses – anywhere at any time in your company.  LMSs, while quite useful, can be pricey, ranging in cost from many thousands to over a million dollars.  They can also be hard to select, customize, install, and operate.

Does it ever make sense to offer instructor-led training (ILT) classes on compliance issues?  There’s no better training than an ILT class taught well!  There are topics related to people issues, for instance cultural diversity and sexual harassment and perhaps some aspects of SOX compliance training, which can be taught with much greater impact in an ILT setting.

So how do you implement compliance e-learning and an LMS without going broke?

Here are some tips and ideas that will make the job easier:

  • You can buy compliance e-learning from a vendor specializing in a particular type of compliance training, for example, just human resource, occupational safety, or SOX training.  (SOX training has become an industry by itself.)  If the need of the hour is to address a particular compliance issue quickly, this may do.  You can also buy it from an e-learning vendor that provides a variety of compliance and general e-learning.  If you’re looking for a comprehensive solution addressing several compliance and/or general training requirements, this is the way to go.  I should add here that there are sources of compliance training that are often overlooked, e.g., trade associations and nonprofits such as the National Safety Council.
  • Most large sellers of e-learning offer courses produced by the same old producers of quality e-learning courses.  Given that, it may make sense to buy your e-learning from a smaller, low-overhead discount vendor than a large name-brand vendor – service and everything else being equal, of course.   Doing your homework can help you stretch your training dollar.
  • There are e-learning vendors who will allow you to run any e-learning courses bought from them off of their servers, using their LMS, saving you the expense and trouble of acquiring/operating both an LMS and the information technology infrastructure needed to host and support the e-learning libraries.  If you have any third-parry e-learning courses, you will not be able to run them off of this vendor-provided “gratis” LMS, but if your objective was to track your compliance training for free, that objective has been achieved.
  • There are vendors that offer both e-learning and ILT solutions.  Some of them offer knowledgeable “blended learning” consultants who can help you take the best of the e-learning and ILT worlds and put it all together into packages that score high on the quality/effectiveness scale but are easy on your budget.  A blended learning package might, for instance, combine e-learning courses on “mass market” compliance topics with high-impact ILT courses on sensitive human resource needs, especially if such courses require customization to your company’s culture or processes.

Finally, ask questions; insist on answers.  Take the e-learning courses out for a test drive before you buy them.  Make sure the courses are interactive and fun.  Find out if the vendor has blended learning consultant who can help you combine e-learning with ILT in just the right way.  Compliance training needs to be effective, or it hasn’t met your basic goals.  It needs to be affordable.  And it needs to draw and hold the audience attention.  After all, you don’t want to be known as the impresario of parallel parking events!

Editor’s Note: KK Arora is President of Eogogics Inc., a one-stop source of all training (technical and non-technical, e-learning and ILT), former Vice President of Human Capital Management of LCC International, and Founder and Managing Director of Wireless Institute. A scientist turned educator/trainer, he’s equally at ease in the world of high-tech and high-touch.  His twenty five year career includes pioneering work in adult education and computer based training and distinguished contributions to the development and retention of high-tech human capital.  For his bio:   For information on Eogogics Inc.:

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