This week the Australian Institute of Training Development (AITD) invited me to be one of the panel members to the Equal Opportunity Employment Network (EEON) held at the Landers & Rogers law firm in Melbourne. The discussion was on “Compliance in the Age of Online and Social Learning” centred around lessons learned from a high profile case of Richardson vs Oracle Corporation Australia.
You can read the transcript on the Federal Court of Australia website.
I accepted the invitation because it was an opportunity to see another view on compliance training – the legal side. But I was also intrigued if they were going to propose whether certain methods and media were best to train compliance over others.
A lawyer from the firm opened the proceedings and presented on equality and discrimination in the workplace along with Oracle’s code of practice and obligations.
She said that Oracle argued that they had taken “all reasonable steps” to prevent sexual harassment. She stated the evidence they provided to make this claim which was an online sexual harassment training package every two years; the lack of references to the legislative foundation in Australia for the prohibition; no clear statements that this conduct was against the law; nor any statement that the employer was vicariously liable for its employee actions.
The inappropriateness of the medium in which training was conducted was mentioned and questions were asked whether “facilitator-led training may have been more appropriate”.
As the second speaker, I deliberately made my presentation non-specific to the training medium. In fact my opening slide was on “Compliance and Learning” making no reference to the type of learning. I stated, “to me, how the learning is conducted – whether it’s online, virtual, mobile or social – is irrelevant as it’s the performance and behaviours demonstrated that matter”. I saw many people nod their heads in agreement.
My key message through my short presentation was the paradox between the words, “Compliance” and “Learning”. Where one is about acquiring knowledge, skills and demonstrating behaviours and values through experiences with others where they have an opportunity to express autonomy and mastery for their own interpretation and applications to their own work context, the other is about following rules, orders and requests underlined by fear and consequences.
They simply just don’t “fit” in my mind. (Hence my fascination hearing it from a lawyer’s perspective!)
I recounted my experience as an instructional designer years ago when I was actively involved in the design of mandatory compliance training. In many of my projects, the discussion was never about behaviour and performance on the job. We didn’t openly discuss organisational values and culture as being the main driver and motivator for the need of this training. Instead, it was about the need to be compliant and meet our regulatory obligations should the organisation be audited in the future.
So from the outset, we focussed on the wrong aspect – on fear of consequence rather than trust in our people.
I also showed a video I created last year on the “Typical Reaction of Online Compliance Training”. The idea came about when I received a phone call from my manager asking me to complete my mandatory compliance training. At the time, I had been ill and away from the office so I missed the notifications that were emailed to me to complete my training within a certain time frame. I found out that if I did not complete this training in time, not only would it affect my performance (there would be consequences) – but it would also unfortunately reflect negatively on my manager’s performance!
Of course, I have to put up my hand and say that I am at fault here too. I began to wonder whether I had played an active role in perpetuating this myth over the years that the asynchronous, “click-next” type of online learning would be an effective solution and in so doing, “make a rod in my back” on the perception of value of the Learning and Development department. When clients cite lack of time, budget, resources and alternative blended learning approaches in the “too hard, too long, too expensive, just give us the course with some test questions at the end please,” the best you can do is offer them alternatives and influence them to consider all impacts of their decision.
The third speaker was from an online learning content development company who provided examples of how they have used story telling and blended learning approaches for compliance training. Her focus was on providing an example where social media (the tools) and social learning are blended to create content that is delivered in a way similar to how we consume content on the internet now.
There were many questions from the audience but one that stood out for me was “how do we get our employers to value organisational learning?” and in hindsight I may have been too passionate in my response.
My answer is that enabling our people to learn and helping them grow is critical for any organisation – even more so nowadays. I admitted openly that I am overwhelmed with information. I learn something one day, it’s changed the next. The words I used were, “I simply can’t keep up anymore” and one of the ways that I re-engaged with my work was through the conversations and knowledge sharing. This allowed me to appreciate and make sense of the small part I played in the organisation. If anything, these conversations made me an advocate for the organisation and its culture and values because I believed in them.
Unfortunately in hindsight I should have left it there to make a memorable mark with the audience. For whatever reason, I continued with, “Learning and Development have a critical role to play but unfortunately I think many of them are behind the eight ball here” without qualifying the statement. Then we ran out of time! I had a bit of a panic attack thinking that I had left them with a negative perception of this function.
Next time, I’ll make sure my mouth does not run ahead of my brain…
A positive aspect of this event is that it got people talking and seeing the situation from both sides. There was agreement that typical “one-off” online learning is not a key driver for behaviour change unless it is incorporated into a bigger campaign or blended learning approaches that are personalised or customised to suit the audience but also aligned to the organisational culture and values.
What do you think?
- IT Executive Rebecca Richardson’s Sexual Harassment Win To ‘Rock Employers’
- Is this the Beginning of the End for Mega Sexual Harassment Claims?
- What Are “All Reasonable Steps” to Prevent Harassment?