Compliance training leads to docility

What does the word ”compliant” mean? A quick look at Merriam-Webster’s dictionary gives the following explanation:

  1. ready or disposed to comply: SUBMISSIVE <a corrupt regime aided by a compliant press>
  2. conforming to requirements <compliant software>

Submissive, huh? A look at synonyms gives the following suggestions:

  • Amenable: Answerable, capable of submission, readily brought to yield
  • Biddable: Easily led, taught, or controlled
  • Obedient: Willing to obey
  • Conformable: Consistent in form or character
  • Docile: Easily led or managed
  • Law-Abiding: Obedient to the law
  • Submissive: Submitting to others <submissive employees>
  • Tractable: Capable of being easily led, taught, or controlled: docile <a tractable horse>

Well that makes you excited to create or take some compliance training, doesn’t it?

While I can stand behind the synonyms Amenable, Conformable and Law-Abiding (you know we don’t want to break the law here) the others are just scary and really set off an alarm.

In Towards Maturity’s report “Reinvigorating Compliance Training” Iain McLeod, Regional Director (EMEA) of SAI Global Compliance, states the following:

If you are (…) blinding the learner with irrelevant detail about what the law says rather than what it means to them or failing to engage your line managers in the process, then the chances are you are potentially turning off the very people whose buy-in you need to effectively mitigate your compliance risks.

“But mr McLeod, we just want them to do what they’re told! If we know that they’ve taken a class, doesn’t that solve our compliance risk?” Eh, no. You’re kidding, right?

McLeod continues his reasoning:

In our experience, you have to use techniques, interactions and scenarios that challenge existing attitudes and give employees the opportunity to ‘practice’ online so they understand how a risky situation could present itself, how it could evolve and see the consequences of a poor decision in a safe environment.

The question for me is: Why would you want your employees to be biddable, docile and tractable if you know they and your company could be facing legal issues if they misbehave? Also, is a record of a document read any indication at all that an employee won’t do the opposite of what’s stated in the text?

Since companies of today can “get away with” a record showing that an employee did in fact read the required document and still broke the law, I guess it isn’t strange that much regulatory stuff still looks this way. I just wonder how corporate compliance training would look if this weren’t the case. If the courts would say: “Hey, it’s your employee so it’s your fault”, then companies maybe wouldn’t be complacent in only pushing what the law says and instead start explaining what it really means.

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