How to Train My Employees on Legal Compliance

Your Required Employee Training and How to Improve it

Training on legal compliance. Nothing makes your employees’ hearts beat faster with delight. In all seriousness, this is a less-fascinating piece of required employee training. Train your employees on the laws, regulations, and rules affecting your business—no matter the business you’re in. Furthermore, these areas impact your operations, productivity, and success significantly.

Approximately 11 percent of an organization’s learning and development budgets are spent on compliance training. However, according to a recent survey, only a little over a third of businesses think their compliance training is“effective.” This is a low number. This is especially true for businesses in highly regulated industries like construction, healthcare, or finance.

Changing up Employee Training

If your employees don’t understand or abide by regulations–whether under the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970 or the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission–your business could go out of business. Effective training is essential. Here are seven tips for training your employees on legal compliance, in a way that won’t bore them. Or will at least lessen the boredom and improve the impact.

1.  Get Leadership Buy-In

With any training program, it’s essential to get leadership buy-in. Don’t assume you have support. Rather, ensure you have everyone equally on board for your required employee training. Just because it’s a requirement, doesn’t mean everyone will like it!

During your proposal to the company’s leaders, identify both the pros and cons of the program. Answer the following questions throughout your proposal.

  • How will establishing better compliance training benefit the company?
  • What, if any, are the drawbacks?
  • Are there risks if the program does not launch?
  • What are the costs associated with the program?
  • What is the return on investment (ROI)?
  • Do you have projections and other financials can you share as the program moves ahead?

Make sure you address the key decision-makers. Also, arrange an agreeable time for everyone. Pitch it to your audience. You want a verbal and a written commitment.

2.  Conduct an Internal Risk Assessment

Don’t launch into a training program until you know what you need. First, conduct an internal risk assessment. This will tell you which federal and state laws and regulations apply to your organization. What are your strong and weak points?

Risk analysis framework diagram

Here are some ways to help you identify where you may need additional training:

  • Check employee compliance complaints
  • Review any recent litigation, against you, your competitors, or in your industry
  • Discuss your audit results
  • Review any employee claims
  • Keep abreast of industry compliance trends
  • Ask or survey your employees on regulatory issues

By reviewing these areas, you can identify specific regulatory training issues. Then, you can document these issues and track your training. Training logs often come into play if you’re ever audited.

3.  Four Important Areas of Required Employee Training

Discrimination Laws:  Make sure your employees understand that discrimination will not be tolerated. This includes race, color, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), disability, age (40 or older), national origin, or genetic information (including family history). Not only is it not tolerated, it’s illegal. Next, provide examples and show employees where this language exists in your policies and procedures. Cover all bases.

Employee Rights at Work:  Employees should understand their rights at work. Including, for example, their right to receive equal pay for equal work performed; to receive reasonable accommodations because of a disability, medical condition, or religious belief; and to expect to report discrimination at work with no threat of retaliation.

A woman during a demonstration on Labor Day, holding a sign that says "support workers' rights"

Safety Training: Most private employers must comply with the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. Most employees have to train on the general aspects of OSHA. However, employees who have received specialized training, or who are certified or qualified, may require additional training. Additionally, some specialized training under OSHA includes protective equipment training, emergency action plan training, and first aid training.

Sexual Harassment Training: Eighteen states now have requirements for certain employers to provide sexual harassment training. For other employers, and the remainder of the states, training is recommended. Whether you fit into the required category or the recommended category, it’s prudent to add this to your training list. This not only protects your company, but creates a better work environment for all.

4.  Break Up Your Learning Modules

As with all compliance, your employees need to learn and process. So, don’t shove it at them all in one or two days. Along these lines, don’t repeat the same steps next year. That’s not an effective way to learn, and very little will be retained.

Break up your compliance training into smaller learning modules. For example, group two to three subjects together. Introduce different ways of learning, so everyone gets involved. Get creative. Introduce technology to education. You can also let employees do independent studies on their smartphones. You can even try to make it fun.

Indeed, most organizations still view required employee training with a “get it over with” attitude. So, if this is the current feeling in your company, mix it up. Not only do you need to train your employees on the legal compliance affecting your business, but you need to keep them up to date as the laws and regulations change. On-going training is necessary. Furthermore, it’s much easier to swallow in smaller chunks.

5. Focus on Risk Reduction

Connect your training to the result—risk reduction. Make sure employees understand why they need to understand the multitude of regulations they’ll learn about. Why do they need to learn all of this? Obviously, it’s required, but explain the safety aspects as well.

Although your training program does exist to meet federal and state legal requirements, it’s also there to reduce risk. An effective program reduces legal issues and helps the organization avoid these risks. Overall, it builds brand transparency and helps protect the business.

At the same time, this training also protects the employees. Legal compliance ensures that the employees are treated fairly by the employer and by each other. It also keeps the employees up-to-date on the current legal trends, laws, and regulations. Lastly, it helps them do their jobs with the most current information.

By achieving the above goals, a robust compliance training program provides a safe, productive, and pleasant working environment for everyone. Don’t just say, “Well, here we are. Let’s start this COBRA training again.” Groan. Groan. Explain why the compliance program is there. What do you want to achieve? What’s the purpose? Moreover, how does it impact your employees?

6. Run an Internal Compliance Audit

Only about 40 percent of companies are sufficiently prepared for a compliance audit by a state or federal agency. For many companies, documents are not where they need to be. Records are incomplete or non-existent. Bottom line: most companies are not adequately prepared for external compliance audits.

Once you go through some training modules, run an internal audit with your employees on one or two compliance issues. For example, run a wage audit or a retirement plan audit. This audit is only for your benefit.

By doing this internally, you get the opportunity to see how prepared you would be if an external audit happened. How well are your employees grasping the compliance issues? Is your documentation ready? Where are your gaps? Where can you improve?

Repeat this process in other compliance areas. It’s good practice for your employees, and it’s the best practice for your organization.

7.  Keep Improving Your Training Modules

Laws and regulations move faster than we think. For anyone who’s a follower of C-Span (no judgment), it seems like most bills die a painful death on the Senate floor. However, here are some interesting statistics. Between 1995 and December 2016, 4,312 laws were passed. However, 88,899 federal rules and regulations were passed. Approximately 2,419 proposed rules existed at the end of 2016, but many of those met review when President Trump stepped into office.

The point is that the law moves quickly when you’re trying to run a business. Once you understand one law or regulation, another one comes right along. So why do you still have the same compliance training program from 2011?

Keep improving and updating your training modules. Make sure they’re current. If you’re having a hard time keeping them up-to-date with all of the legal changes going on, hire a third-party to help you. Teaching old law is dangerous. It can land you in hot water, so ensure everything is current.

Now Get to Training

Employers should keep abreast of the legal compliance requirements for their organizations. Likewise, you need an effective way to train on these requirements. Remember that although federal requirements may be similar for most companies in the U.S., state requirements vary. If your company has multiple locations across the company, pay attention to the various state requirements.

Additionally, make sure you thoroughly document all training activities–from classroom activities to any self-study. Include all computer work, internal audits, or other activities. Also, have a way to document employees signing in and out of all training activities. Include the date, the trainer’s name, and the type of training.

Remember, any good defense is a good offense. This couldn’t be truer than when it comes to compliance readiness. For an external audit, you want to be “audit-ready.” There’s no better way to be audit-ready than to start with a solid, effective employee compliance training program.