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Completion culture


Ideas for boosting completion rates for compliance elearning

How many compliance officers does it take to change a light-bulb?

Four: one to change it, one to check it, one to double-check it, and one to file a report.

This gentle mocking is a reminder that record-keeping really does matter in the world of compliance. While completion can be a blunt tool in judging effectiveness, it remains important for organisations which may need to prove to regulators that compliance training has been done.

But according to the Compliance and Ethics Program Environment Report, some organisations ‘often struggle with gaining training completions’. Two hundred and forty nine US compliance officers responded to the survey by SCCE and NYSE Governance Services. The findings show that 96% of the organisations surveyed offer some kind of ethics and compliance training. However, 12% fail to achieve completion for mandatory code training and 26% miss the same benchmark for risk training.

In light of this, it may be helpful to consider some ways to increase completion rates for elearning courses, particularly in the area of compliance.

Why completion matters

Motivationally, compliance elearning can be problematic particularly in sectors where staff must do a mandatory course every year. It may seem obvious but setting out exactly what is at stake for them personally, as well as the organisation, will aid employee buy-in. Citing examples of the consequences for individuals can be a powerful tool. This can be reinforced by allowing the learner to explore the ramifications in the form of a multiple choice question or quiz. Interactivity will help staff to understand the importance far more deeply.

Workplace relevance

If the compliance training is generic then it dilutes the workplace relevance which may leave an employee wondering, ‘how does this relate to me?’ Real life examples are useful to reinforce how a particular compliance rule would work in practice. Perhaps the most powerful way to do this is via an interactive scenario where the example not only looks familiar and relevant to the learner but real life decision-making is also recreated. Interestingly, the Compliance and Ethics Program Environment Report reveals that only 30% of organisations surveyed were using such scenarios in their training.

Campaign approach

To really drive forward compliance training a campaign approach can be effective. A good example is one we did with global retailer Tesco. The core compliance learning was delivered in three bite-size 20 minute modules. These were supported branded emails notifying learners of the course and following through to post-event knowledge check questions called PIPS (Putting into Practice). A dynamic, animated leader board provided real-time tracking of the number of staff who had completed the course as well as creating motivation for the rest of the group. During a four week period, Tesco were able to successfully train more than 4000 members of staff, across a number of countries. The Compliance and Ethics Program Environment Report reveals that 71% of organisations reply on direct email reminders to achieve training completion goals. This perhaps indicates that a more creative campaign approach would be beneficial.


For large global organisations boosting completion rates may involve translating and localising the elearning. If this is not done, or not done well, then whole sections of the workforce will not be able to access the training. It can be a major undertaking; we have clients who require their elearning to be translated into more than 13 languages. The key is to identify the multi-lingual requirements at the start of the project, rather than deciding later to get a translation. Planning ahead will also make it easier to change non-verbal elements such as document design, formatting and colours to reflect cultural differences.


As already mentioned, completion is not always a true test of what learners have absorbed and retained. We all know that it is possible to rattle through a training module, paying little attention and even achieving the required pass mark. However the strategies described here help to improve completion rates through bolstering engagement, rather than making staff feel forced into something. Good relevant elearning has the potential to change workplace behaviour as well as delivering on those all-important completion numbers.