Article Published in Training Magazine on May 12, 2014

Annual Compliance training is often viewed as a necessary evil. We tend to let the legal language and highly regulated nature of the content limit our creativity. The net effect is that compliance training is often too information-intensive, but not necessarily attention-grabbing or thought-provoking. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

There are ways to satisfy business leaders, and please both the learners and regulators. Impact Instruction’s recent work with Alliance Data on the topic of BSA Compliance (Bank Secrecy Act and Suspicious Activity Reporting) demonstrates a unique and engaging way to approach the topic.

Here are 5 practical and creative tips we can offer other organizations wishing to remove the “bore” from compliance training:

1. Be a supporter of creative ideas, and make that clear to the course designers. When Alliance Data shared with Impact Instruction Group that they wanted an unconventional, innovative, and yet purposeful BSA course, the firm took immediate action. Within days, Impact Instruction was able to channel the initial high-level concepts into specific actionable ideas aligned with Alliance Data’s needs and company culture. From there Impact Instruction developed a character and narrative approach designed to grab the audience’s attention in a fun, engaging way.

2. Step away from safe, traditional design. Impact Instruction’s character concept, “SAM” (a Suspicious Activity Miscreant) is the voice of the course and talks about how regulations work together with the learner’s vigilance to identify and stop financial crimes from occurring. SAM makes the course more accessible and engaging by talking to the learner in a conversational tone punctuated with pithy remarks and call-outs like you’d see in a comic book. This course demonstrates how Alliance Data’s willingness to embrace creative risk made a huge difference in learner attention and retention.

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3. Know your audience. In this case, Alliance Data’s audience included over 3,000 associates, along with a smaller population of employees who work in the various compliance groups. These front-line associates are in an excellent position to identify and report suspicious activity. Because there was such a large operational pay-off at stake, Impact Instruction knew that it was critical to tailor the design of this course to reach this audience and keep their attention. Understanding company culture and the target audience is crucial to successful design. Even seemingly small details cannot be overlooked – things like associate work schedules and environment can all have implications on design choices for things such as the use of audio/video, the length of the course, and the depth of the material being covered.

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4. Work smart. Work fast. Be committed to delivering the optimum solution. By fostering creativity and embracing commitment to deliver solutions, Impact Instruction created a fun course that educates learners on the serious nature of financial crime. They have achieved this in a way that speaks plainly and compellingly to the learner, thus keeping their interest throughout the course. The goal of this course was to help associates to better pinpoint and report suspicious activities; support daily decision making at the associate and leadership levels. In the end, all associates are responsible for ensuring Alliance Data is vigilant on this for both their customers and the organization. And ultimately, helping Alliance Data maintain overall regulatory and audit compliance.

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5. Scared of being different? Work through the challenges and be an internal champion. In this case, there were concerns that the casual, conversational tone our character “SAM” uses to communicate with the learner might be seen as too playful and not serious enough. Often we find ourselves proposing and backing strategies and solutions that are designed to appeal to the target audience, only to be met with resistance from stakeholders who are reluctant to break the mold and try something new.

This project demonstrates the positive pay-off for business leaders and learners when an organization consciously prioritizes its audience’s needs and supports calculated, creative risk-taking. Being able to step out of the box to take content that could feel tedious in a traditional instructional approach and turn it into something interesting and engaging can lead to big success with learners and business leaders alike.

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