4 Ways to Motivate and Engage Learners During Compliance Training

Mandatory training can be a daunting experience. Many of us are reluctant to take time away from our daily work activities to attend a training session or complete an e-learning module. Perceptions abound that training is a waste of time, especially mandatory compliance training.

Measuring the effectiveness of training can be difficult to do, particularly when mandatory compliance training is involved. But a related part of this conversation involves learner motivation. The challenge for learning and development professionals is to motivate staff so that learners not only complete their training but view it positively, retain and apply their knowledge to their workplaces, develop confidence in their ability to use this newfound knowledge, and find satisfaction in their practical skills.

This article interprets aspects of John Keller’s ARCS Model of Motivational Design in relation to compliance training. It discusses four main areas to focus on and provides simple tips to help motivate staff so that they participate in and complete mandatory compliance training.

1.  Gain their attention

Adult learners first and foremost need to know “what’s in it for me?” and “how will it make my role better?”. When writing learning outcomes, make sure they are clearly relevant to a staff member’s specific job role, so that they can see from the outset how the training will benefit them and help to improve their work.

Real-world scenarios

Begin by posing a pertinent question to arouse curiosity then follow through with a relevant scenario. The scenario could be based on a real-life incident and explain the consequences, especially in relation to an issue of non-compliance. Scenarios should relate to the learner’s specific job role and involve a “real world” incident. A learner must be able to relate to the scenario and appreciate the consequences of non-compliance it poses. Example: many learners worldwide are either working from home or returning to the office after spending months working from home, or a combination of both. Providing health and safety training to these different demographics of the workforce would need to take into consideration the differences in their workplace environments and the potential breaches they could encounter.

Interactive design

Interactivity can aid in grabbing one’s attention and curiosity. But be careful: overusing interactive elements – for instance over-relying on the “bells and whistles” of imagery or animation – can become monotonous and interfere with learners’ knowledge retention.

2.  Make sure training is relevant

Customise your training

One size does not fit all. We are all unique individuals. Delivering a training session whose content is irrelevant to learners’ workplaces and work practices is not going to motivate anyone to complete their training. In fact, it will often leave them with a very negative impression of training in general. It will almost certainly fail to ensure knowledge retention and to achieve any aim of cultivating positive changes in workplace behaviour.

International standard ISO 19600:2014 Compliance Management Systems states that “[p]roperly designed and executed training can provide an effective way for employees to communicate previously unidentified compliance risks.”

Similarly, Principle 7 of the equivalent Australian Standard, AS3806 Standard on Compliance Programs, states the following:

“Education and training of employees should be:

(a) Practical and readily understood by employees.

(b) Relevant to the day-to-day work of employees and illustrative of the industry, organisation or sector concerned.

(c) Sufficiently flexible to account for a range of techniques to accommodate the differing needs of organisations and employees.”

Adaptive learning

Learners often protest about how they have to complete training on topics that they are already proficient in. This is a justified complaint, especially when mandatory compliance training is legally required every year or two. It is very possible that learners will resit the same training, year in year out.

Provide learners with the flexibility to utilise their own pre-existing knowledge. This can be done by utilising adaptive learning. Prior to commencing a course, present the learner with a series of questions. If they answer a question incorrectly, they must complete the relevant section/topic; if they answer correctly, they may skip that topic.

Identify different job roles and responsibilities

When planning a training program, ensure that you identify different job roles and responsibilities. Create user profiles, or user groups, so that a course can be “sliced and diced”, or modularised, to allow relevant parts of the training to be allocated appropriately.

Example: a training module on competition and consumer law relating to sales staff should be allocated to a staff member who is involved in sales; allocating it to all staff, including office-bound non-sales staff, is likely to be a waste of time and will be perceived negatively.

3.  Instil confidence

A lack of confidence in the subject matter or ability to complete the training can prevent or postpone learners from undertaking or completing required training.

Set expectations for success

At the beginning of the course, clearly outline its objectives and measures for successful completion, for example, by stating that an assessment will be provided in which the learner must achieve a mark of 80% to pass.

Ability to re-do a course and/or quiz

After providing instant feedback, ensure that learners can re-attempt a knowledge check. Ideally, the questions and answers may vary slightly depending on the initial response.

Social learning

Provide learners with the ability to interact with their peers. This can be in the form of a group activity or a discussion forum where peers can share knowledge or ask questions.

Incorporate activities

Training activities which are relevant to the day-to-day activities of staff are an effective way of increasing engagement.

Example: a group-based activity based around fraud where staff investigate red flags with a job-related scenario.

4.  Create a feeling of satisfaction

Successful completion of a course should be a satisfying experience. Learners need to feel a sense of accomplishment.

Provide instant feedback

Provide learners with instant feedback throughout the course. Giving feedback throughout the course, especially in response to “knowledge check” questions, can help to increase satisfaction, build confidence, and aid knowledge retention.

Training should not just end once an e-learning course is complete. Retained knowledge should be transferable to the workplace.


Microlearning, also known as “learnlets” or “micro courses”, consist of “bite-sized” chunks of information designed to assist in periodically reinforcing information.

Example: schedule microlearning courses into the yearly compliance program to act as reminders.

Practical tips

·        Identify user profiles and assign modules specific to learners’ job roles

·        Use adaptive learning to recognise prior knowledge

·        Incorporate real-world scenarios into the training

·        Provide instant feedback throughout the course

·        Use interactivity and animation/graphical elements carefully

·        Follow up training with smaller microlearning courses as part of an overall training program


Despite their initial reluctance, staff can be motivated to complete mandatory compliance training with confidence and satisfaction. When planning an overall training program, consider the ARCS Model of Motivational Design: Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction.

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