The 5 pitfalls of mandatory training courses

Mandatory training courses are often seen as a necessary evil in organisations, both by L&D and the learners. The same courses are rolled out year after year and learners come to dread the moment when the email arrives inviting them to visit the LMS to take the course. Their mindset is already in the ‘get it over quickly’ space before they’ve even opened the course. There are 5 main pitfalls in our experience that can be avoided, resulting in more engaging courses that people want to take.

It makes people resent having to do it

The moment ‘mandatory’ training is mentioned, people start to switch off. They also start to think, ‘How can I get through this as quickly as possible and return to my day job?’ There is an expectation that mandatory training is going to be boring. To be fair, it often is, dealing with subjects such as compliance and regulation, so the content is difficult to start with. That doesn’t mean the end product has to be boring though. Learners will typically be directed to the LMS where the training has been assigned with a due date, which if not met, will result in weekly and then daily emails advising of an overdue learning course. This is the equivalent of saying, ‘You’ve been naughty and we’re going to admonish you about it every day.’ The result is going to be more animosity towards the training and less desire to take it.

It puts less pressure on the designer to make it interesting

This is not universal amongst designers so we’re not saying everyone does this, however, if you know the learner has to do the training, there is less incentive to make it truly engaging and interesting. This is especially the case where a course has been in place for a few years and each year, updates are made to bring it in line with the latest legislation. If this is the case then there probably isn’t time or the budget to redesign it from the ground up. What you have to consider if the training has been in place for a while is, was it ever fit for purpose in the first place? If you or your learning supplier are simply making updates to a terrible course then the engagement will drop further each year. You might be getting completions but this means nothing. People are likely to be skipping most of the content and guessing the answers to quizzes to pass the course.

It puts less emphasis on the change aspects

Mandatory courses by their nature encourage organisations to worry less about the change management aspects of launching the course. There is important context around compliance type courses that needs to be discussed in the organisation on a wider scale. Why is it important to take this training? What is the organisation trying to avoid? What might be the consequences of not adhering to the legislation? Telling the story is important for this type of training especially if the content is fairly dry. It’s all very well telling learners that they must comply with directive 54 section 8 paragraph 5, but the ‘why’ is as important as the regulation itself. A well-planned change and comms campaign leading up to the launch of the course is vital to create a buzz and some engagement amongst learners.

It often results in a box ticking exercise

There are generally good intentions behind compliance training and of course health and safety training is critical to keep people alive and healthy. The important thing is to design for your learners and not take on board the box ticking mentality. You should give your designers space to come up with a concept and a course that will work for your learners in their own context. Taking reams of legislation and cramming it into an eLearning wrapper is always a recipe for a boring course that people will skip through to end the misery.

It doesn’t achieve the required behavioural change

Underlying all training is the need to change behaviour. If you’re asking someone to be more careful when working alone, or to comply with anti-bribery legislation then it isn’t enough just to tell them what the law says. It has to be put in their context and done in an interesting and engaging way. The ‘what’ is important but the ‘why’ is more important to the learner. There are always benefits and consequences to any behaviour and these must be articulated in order for the learner to feel motivated to change their behaviour. At Lawford Knight, we believe that a blended approach can and should be applied to nearly all training interventions. A one-off, boring eLearning course that comes out of the blue is never going to achieve the same as a blended approach supported by robust change and communications activity. Using storytelling and properly thought out messaging, you can achieve great things and your learners will thank you for it. Not only will they engage with the content and actually want to take the learning seriously, but your learner satisfaction levels will increase and most importantly the required behaviours will be taken on board and demonstrated in the workplace.

About Lawford Knight

Lawford Knight is a training company with expertise in eLearning, classroom and blended learning. We understand how to design, develop and deliver training programmes that achieve real behavioural change. If you’re ready to work with a company that really understands how training works, please get in contact to discuss your next training requirement.

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