What is compliance training?

Compliance training is employee training relating to external legislation and regulation. This training can also relate to internal company policies. These policies may be in place to meet regulatory/legislation obligations. Employees must meet these company compliance standards (set out in the training). That is, to not ‘comply’ may be a breach of an individual’s employee contract. Employee’s compliance plays a part in the organization’s ability to meet its external obligations.

The importance of corporate compliance training

 The extent to which your L&D team may have to roll-out compliance training could vary enormously. Your organization’s sector can have a large influence in this. Some of you may work in highly-regulated industries. Examples might include Legal, Pharma, Health, Financial Services and Energy. These sectors (and others) may well have extra regulatory obligations to meet. Often, compliance training must be repeated at least annually. New compliance training courses may need to be introduced throughout the year, in line with Regulatory changes. Ultimately, compliance training supports your business to operate, without fear of censure.

Let’s take a look at some examples of possible subjects and areas of compliance training.

Financial services

A scant look at the UK’s ‘Training and Competence’ Handbook for financial services firms, provides an idea of the vast amount of training obligations for employees and L&D teams operating in that jurisdiction and sector.  Technavio research report places the amount spent on compliance training in financial services (in the US alone) at USD 1.02 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach USD 2.02 billion by 2024.”. Considering these facts, what are the implications of not having appropriate training in place? What are the consequences of having employees who haven’t understood or met compliance rules and internal policies?

Why is compliance training important?

Fines for breaching regulatory rules for financial services firms can be immense. Fines can actually run into US$ billions. We can see evidence of the sizeable penalties for non-compliance in this round-up by Planet Compliance.  The list ranks the highest 10 global fines over a decade. The top spot is taken by a US$16 billion fine issued by the US Department of Justice.

Pharma and Healthcare

Those in the Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare sector will know that their industry requires a lot of compliance training. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) can impose fines for infringements on organizations with a ‘Marketing Authorization’ (MA) “of up to 5% of their annual EU-wide turnover”.

In the US, fines to date have reached as much as US$360 million for compliance failings.  An overview is set out here by Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP.

Cross-sectoral regulations

 Other types of regulations can affect all types of organizations, whether in the private or public sector.

Data Protection

For instance, a relatively recent regulation that most will have heard of, is the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This came into force in 2018. At the outset, there was a misconception (by business units located outside the EU) that GDPR only affects European operations. You should be aware of this misunderstanding. As the EU states:

Even if an organization is not connected to the EU itself, if it processes the personal data of people in the EU (via tracking on its website, for instance), it must comply.”

This enforcement tracker lists each fine by country, size and breach to date. You will see from the list that fines affect many different jurisdictions and sectors. A glance will demonstrate fines imposed on those in Tech, Retail, Hospitality, Telecoms, Financial Services, etc.

 Other compliance issues

There are many other types of subject-specific compliance training. Let’s look at some important regulations and legislations below.

I. Employment law/Labor law changes, eg, age, race, and other types of discrimination rules. More recently, training on the issue of ‘unconscious bias’  has been popular, in order to support discrimination training.

II. Bribery Rules in the UK and related laws such as in the US the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

III. Health and Safety training, which may be tailored to a workplace or role (or not).

This is not an exhaustive list. However, this brief look at some key rules suggests that the amount of compliance training to be delivered can substantially add up.

All this provides evidence that insufficient or ineffective compliance training can be extremely costly in the long-run. It could be costly not just for individuals but, ultimately, for your organization.

So, how can you keep on top of delivering essential learning to all of your employees in a timely manner? There are a number of hurdles that you must meet.

  I. L&D and Compliance teams need to ensure that good, effective, training is delivered to all of your employees. Training needs to be frequent. Regular training might ensure that you meet the timings of external legislative and regulatory changes.

 II. You need to track multiple course completions across your learning population. Alongside this, you need to keep evidence that all of the core compliance learning has taken place.

The answer? Your organization should have learning technology in place to reach all of your employees. Learning technology enables you to train employees regardless of where they are working.

How can technology help you meet your compliance training obligations?

This is particularly pertinent in 2020, when many have been forced to work remotely. Learning technology allows you to ensure that all employees can be reached. This applies regardless of location and regardless of the device that individuals may have access to.

You could be currently using a Learning Content Management System (LCMS), with its own authoring tool or a Learning Management System (LMS) with a third party authoring system. Either way, technology should support you in the need to make changes to existing documents and content relatively quickly.

For example, the functionality offered by a LCMS allows you to quickly retrieve existing content from a digital repository (DR). The DR will store any legacy course material, allowing you to re-purpose, re-format and/or update any content. This speeds up the production process. Accordingly, the quicker you can produce the content, then the quicker you can deliver it.

How to prove you are taking compliance seriously

Many regulators may want to see evidence that your organization is complying with rules. Additionally, you may have regulatory obligations to provide evidence that your employees have received appropriate training. The beauty of learning technology is that you can provide a trail of evidence. Your evidence comes in the form of compliance courses and learning records via the technology. You may be able to detail overall course completion dates, pass/fail rates and re-takes on pertinent compliance content.

Dealing with internal objections

Sometimes, you may have to emphasise that failure to complete courses and follow compliance procedures may breach an individual’s employee contract.

How to ensure your teams comply

In some sectors, there are many stories from compliance officers of how certain ‘star’  members of the team have been reluctant to take compliance training. Stories are often heard about how individuals have read a newspaper during face-to-face training or paid an assistant to take the training for them.

So, as a L&D professional or member of the compliance team, how can learning technology help you solve problems such as this? The answer may be in Biometrics.


 The Biometrics Institute defines Biometrics as:

 “Automated recognition of individuals based on their biological and behavioural characteristics.”.

So, how is Biometrics relevant to compliance training? Consider the problem with dealing with reluctant learners, who may eventually, expose you to regulatory risk. How can you ensure that they do pay attention to the training (and even take it themselves – as outlined in the anecdote above)?

Biometrics provides you with the means to ‘authenticate’ a learner. That is, it allows you to prove the learner actually is who they are meant to be. Not only this, but Biometrics can ensure that a learner is present during the whole compliance module or course. You might choose to authenticate learners via a variety of means. The methods might include fingerprint authentication, face or speaker recognition or video recording. Naturally, you will need to examine your company policies on Privacy in regard to using Biometrics in this way.


 So, we have explored what compliance training is. We took a look at how substantial the amount (and frequency) of compliance training can be for L&D teams. Then, we discussed how learning technology can support you in your efforts to deliver that immense amount of learning. Lastly, we have discussed a potential solution to ensure that reluctant learners take the training and that you can prove this to your Regulators, wherever they are.

If you have any questions about this topic, or if you would like to know more about how eXact learning supports organizations, including the sectors mentioned in this piece (and others),  with our award-winning, scalable, Learning Content Management System (LCMS) then do get in touch.