The secret to effective compliance training

When it comes to compliance or health and safety training, people often roll their eyes and complete the tick box exercises as fast as possible. But high-impact, disruptive training should not just be a way to transfer knowledge, it should also be a way to change mind-set and influence future behaviour.

We’ve asked Luke Merrick, Head of Training at Sponge, to share some of the design decisions he took when creating our latest compliance module, Age-related sales.

age related

1. It’s vital to grab the learner’s attention at the beginning of a module – particularly when they may not have a great amount of interest in the topic! We’ve done this here by doing a couple of things: the module starts with an interactive challenge (“you need to guess each customer age”) and challenged pre-conceptions (“this isn’t as easy as I thought”.)

age proof

2. We often get asked the question, “Why don’t you just present the information in bullet points or with videos?” My answer is always that learning has to be Active for it to be effective. Passive learning experiences, such as reading text or watching a video, require very little cognitive effort, meaning that Learners don’t have to think much and therefore very little of the information is actually remembered. Active learning experiences require a lot more thought and higher cognitive processes, and these result in better retention and learning. This next activity requires Learners to categorise different products into age categories. It’s a ‘discovery’ activity, wherein you learn by doing, by making mistakes and by being corrected.   

psychoactive substances

3. Any knowledge must be linked to its real-world application. This enables us to cut out irrelevant information and to create effective courses. A lot of eLearning modules are far too long and bloated with all sorts of information that has no practical impact on the average employee. This activity takes a relatively theoretical idea about psychoactive substances and makes it practical by making you think about which substances count as psychoactive and which do not – because this is the sort of decision an employee in a store has to make every day.

id card

4. Training of any kind should make people practice certain decisions and skills so that, when it comes to doing the same thing in real life, they already have some virtual experience and therefore have the confidence to perform. This activity is another ‘learning by doing’ activity in which you have to look at an ID card to find out how to look at an ID card!

passport proof

5. This activity immediately follows the previous one, providing immediate application and consolidation of this new concept by giving realistic practice. We went to great lengths to make sure that we included common decoy ID documents too, to make sure that the Learner is as ready as possible for the real world.


6   Employees in retail have to be able to deal with customers, and one of the hardest parts of Age-Related Sales is refusing customers. We included some realistic scenarios that help learners to practice this skill, almost like online role-plays.


7. Finally, both the Learner and their managers must be confident that the Learning objectives have been successfully met. eLearning modules should always have an assessment allowing trainee analytics to be mined. It is critical to understand when, how and what people have understood, or not. In this case, it allows managers to keep a record of their levels of compliance and also where additional training may be needed for certain staff.

8. Get accredited. We work with both RoSPA and ACS Assured Advice to check that our compliance training is up to the job. 

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