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Apr 2014

Kineo Konnect Recap: The reluctant learner and compliance training

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Cammy Bean

Cammy Bean

Senior Solutions Consultant at Kineo US

Springtime in New York City and the weather didn’t disappoint. Us sun-starved North Americans saw glimpses of that glowing orb through the budding branches, and even some flowers! And so on Wednesday, April 9, over 50 learning and development professionals tore off their winter coats to move out of hibernation and engage in lively discussion at the Scandinavia House in midtown Manhattan..

JC Kinnamon, PhD kicked things off with a great discussion about the reluctant learner. JC is currently the Associate Editor at the International Journal of Advanced Corporate Learning and knows intimately the challenges of leading individuals through compulsory training.

You probably know a reluctant learner. You probably have been one yourself from time-to-time. The reluctant learner is the one who doesn't really want to be there. Who doesn't really want to have to click next to continue through a two-hour eLearning program on sexual harassment. Who sits in the back of the classroom during that two-day mandated training, yawning.

As designers and developers of learning, we have the challenge of getting through to that reluctant learner. As JC says, “Every day people choose what they want to pay attention to and what they want to ignore. It's a survival strategy.”


And one of the key problems in the compliance eLearning space is that organizations have generally followed two models that don't translate well to corporate education: the academy (the hammer of grades) and publishing. The publishing model falls short because the author assumes the reader actually wants to read what they write. The reader went out and bought their book, right? Problem is, when we apply these models to things like compliance training, we just get boring things that people actually don’t want to read.


So how can we make compliance training better?

JC says there are two models that can really work in compliance training: storytelling and game playing.

Stories work because people want to know what's going to happen. Compliance policies aren’t sexy, but if you tell an interesting tale about Sarbanes Oxley it turns out that even Sarbanes Oxley can be a little sexy. If you tell a good enough story, people will want to see your content through.

Compelling narratives with game elements are even more powerful motivators. That score keeping mode can get people on their seats, wanting to focus and see it through to the end.


JC wrapped things up with nary a reluctant learner in sight. I know I was hanging on his every word and sorry when I had to take the stage and share my own thoughts on compliance training.

I went through a few quick examples of compliance courses we’ve created that made people sit up and pay attention, starting off with the Brandon Hall Best in Compliance Gold Award Medal winner that we created for Warner Bros. You can view the slides here.

OK, so you might not be an entertainment company that can actually take a comic book approach to eLearning, but you can definitely apply our Kineo top tips to create better compliance learning:


  1. Make it memorable (and a bit fun!): JC says games are a great way to stir things up with compliance training. How about a comic book or a unique approach that’s unexpected and not your grandmother’s typical 50 slide elearning PowerPoint deck filled with bullet point after bullet point.
  2. Show consequences: Let people see why this topic really matters to them and what can happen if things go wrong. This is where stories make it come alive.
  3. Tell a story: Backing up what JC said, it’s all in the story and wrapping your dull content around something meaningful and memorable. If people can connect this content back to their real lives, you’ve had an impact.
  4. Make it personal: Talk to people directly. Don’t write boring, impersonal e-learning scripts, but instead address people head on. “This is what YOU can take into the world with you. Here’s what YOU can look out for. Here’s what YOU need to do.”
  5. Focus on the gray areas: Compliance topics are often not pure black and white, but get into fuzzy gray areas like ethics and doing the right thing. Create scenarios that highlight those gray areas, get people reflecting on them, and don’t hide from the fact that life is sometimes a bit messy.
  6. Include a clear call to action: Let people know what they need to take out into the real world, what’s expected of them, and where they can go to find out more.

Gordon Lam and Ting Huang from UBS got us going in the last fifty minutes of the program with focused round table discussions on a variety of topics, from the role of culture in compliance training to sharing of success stories. My favorite story: how one company took a Mayhem-like approach to their compliance topics.

We’re already looking forward to our next Kineo Konnect event in New York, sometime this fall. We’ll keep you posted!

Join the discussion in our LinkedIn group.

Help us with our research. Take the 2014 Compliance Training Survey. 

Cammy Bean

Cammy Bean

Senior Solutions Consultant at Kineo US

Cammy has been collaborating with organizations to design online learning programs since 1996. An active speaker and blogger, Cammy gets fired up about instructional design, avoiding the trap of clicky-clicky bling-bling, and ways to use technology to create real behavior change.