4 reasons your compliance training misses the mark

Compliance training is rarely a team favorite. Many employees might consider it a burden, something to sit through out of obligation. This is likely due to dull, off-the-shelf online learning solutions or poorly designed learning programs that fail to consider easy-to-avoid common practices. However, we cannot underestimate the importance of well-designed and engaging compliance training programs.

Research conducted by Ponemon has shown that the least-effective cybersecurity training programs can have a 7-fold return on investment (ROI). However, it is possible to achieve a remarkable 37-fold ROI with well-designed and intentional programs. Instead of chasing colleagues to complete uninspired training, it’s time to explore why your compliance training is missing the mark and discover how to boost your ROI.

In this article, we will delve into these four key areas that can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your compliance training programs. By addressing these shortcomings, you can transform compliance training from a mundane task into a valuable learning experience for your employees. Let’s explore the strategies that can help you achieve this transformation and maximize the benefits of your compliance training initiatives.

1.  Lack of Relevance

One of the major issues with off-the-shelf training programs is their one-size-fits-all approach, which often leads to a lack of relevance for employees. These programs cater to a broad range of industries and job roles, making it challenging for employees to find content directly related to their work. As a result, employees may feel disengaged and uninterested in the training materials, hindering their learning and development.

Let’s consider the example of a non-profit organization that relies on fundraising efforts to support its cause. In this scenario, the off-the-shelf training materials provided to employees might primarily focus on sales and marketing techniques applicable to for-profit businesses. While some concepts may still be relevant, the content fails to address the unique challenges and considerations faced by employees working in the non-profit sector.

Highlighting and providing content directly related to employees’ work is crucial. When employees can see the direct relevance of the training materials to their job roles and responsibilities, they are more likely to be engaged, and motivated, and effectively apply what they have learned.

Tailoring training materials to specific industries, job roles, and organizational contexts can significantly enhance their relevance. By incorporating real-life examples and case studies that align with employees’ work, they can gain practical insights and knowledge that they can readily apply in their daily tasks. This targeted approach not only increases the effectiveness of the training but also boosts employee satisfaction and confidence in their abilities.

In addition, offering opportunities for employees to provide input and feedback on the training content can further enhance its relevance. Employees possess valuable insights into their roles’ specific challenges and requirements, and involving them in the training development process ensures that the content addresses their needs.

2.   Uninteresting and Monotonous Training

One common issue in online training is the prevalence of “click and drool” courses, where learners have to passively click through content without much engagement. These courses often consist of monotonous sequences where learners read text, click next, listen to a statement, click next, answer a question, and repeat until reaching the end. Frequently, the facilitator asks the learners to complete the same e-learning program year after year without updated content. Such lengthy and uninteresting compliance training keeps learners awake enough to click next, hoping to finish as quickly as possible.

The lack of engagement and interest in these click-and-drool training courses is a significant concern. Learners often become disinterested, disengaged, and fail to retain the information presented to them. When training becomes tedious and uninspiring, learners are unlikely to invest their full attention or actively participate in learning. As a result, the effectiveness of the training diminishes, and learners may miss out on valuable knowledge and skills.

It is crucial to prioritize the creation of thought-provoking and engaging learning solutions. Instead of simply focusing on clicking through content, training programs should strive to captivate learners, spark their curiosity, and hold their attention throughout the learning experience. By tailoring the training to a specific audience, instructional designers can develop solutions that draw learners’ attention, pique their interest, and stimulate active participation.

Understanding the audience’s unique characteristics, preferences, and learning styles enables instructional designers to employ various techniques to enhance engagement. This can include incorporating interactive elements such as simulations, gamification, branching scenarios, and multimedia content. By leveraging these strategies, learners are more likely to be actively involved in the training, leading to improved retention and application of knowledge.

Furthermore, updating and refreshing training content regularly is essential. Outdated information can contribute to the perception that the training is irrelevant and uninteresting. By ensuring that the content remains up-to-date and reflective of current industry trends and practices, learners are more likely to perceive the training as valuable and worth their time and attention.

3. Ineffective One-Time Courses

One common practice in training is the tendency to cram a significant amount of content into a single session. This approach is particularly prevalent in compliance training, where organizations aim to cover all necessary information in one go. However, this cramming of content can overwhelm learners, making it difficult for them to absorb and retain the information effectively. Learners may feel overloaded and find it challenging to engage with the material when presented all at once.

The lack of long-term retention is a significant drawback of one-time courses. Just like cramming for an exam in school, where short-term memorization helps answer immediate questions but does little for long-term retention, one-time training sessions often fail to promote lasting knowledge and skills. Requiring employees to complete yearly training programs does not guarantee that the information will be retained or effectively applied in the long run. Without reinforcement and continuous engagement, the knowledge gained during a single session is prone to fading over time.

To address the issue of ineffective one-time courses, it is essential to embrace the benefits of spaced repetition and continuous engagement in training. Research in Behavioral and Brain Science highlights that spaced repetition can be a cost-effective approach to learning. By spacing out learning sessions over time, knowledge becomes more durable, requiring less time to relearn forgotten content. This approach allows learners to retain information for longer periods, increasing the overall effectiveness of the training.

Continuous engagement with the content is also crucial for knowledge retention and application. Rather than relying on a quick “connect and forget” training approach, compliance training developers should spread out learning over time to keep learners engaged and connected with the material. They can achieve this through ongoing reinforcement activities, follow-up assessments, and opportunities for practice and application. By integrating spaced repetition and continuous engagement, organizations can enhance knowledge retention, reinforce skills, and foster a deeper understanding of the training content.

Furthermore, leveraging technology can be beneficial in implementing spaced repetition and continuous engagement. Learning management systems (LMS) or other e-learning platforms can facilitate the delivery of training modules at appropriate intervals, allowing learners to revisit and reinforce previously covered material. Personalization features can also adapt the training content to individual learners’ needs, ensuring the information remains relevant and meaningful.

4. Lack of Incentives

One way to address the lack of motivation and engagement in learning is by providing incentives for participation. Incentives are a powerful tool for encouraging employees to participate in training programs. Learners who perceive tangible benefits or rewards associated with their engagement are more likely to invest their time and energy in the learning process.

When considering incentives, taking the “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) perspective is essential. Learners want to understand how the training will benefit them and their work directly. By clearly communicating the value and relevance of the training to their personal and professional growth, learners are more likely to be motivated to participate actively. Providing real-world examples that illustrate the impact of the training can be particularly effective in demonstrating the WIIFM perspective.

There are various ways to introduce incentives into the learning process. One approach is to emphasize the real-world impact of the training content. For instance, showcasing the consequences of clicking on a malicious attachment that leads to spreading malware throughout the company can create a sense of personal relevance and responsibility.

Introducing gamification elements can also make the learning experience more enjoyable and motivating. Gamified activities like quizzes, challenges, or simulations can create a sense of competition, achievement, and progress. Rewards, such as points, levels, or virtual badges, can be assigned to learners who complete specific actions or demonstrate mastery of certain skills. These rewards can be accumulated and recognized as a visible symbol of achievement, fostering a sense of accomplishment and motivating learners to continue their engagement.

Additionally, incorporating team personas can make incentives more relevant and personalized for each audience. By understanding the unique characteristics and preferences of different learner groups, organizations can tailor incentives to match their specific needs and interests. This approach enhances the effectiveness of the incentives, as they resonate more deeply with the learners, reinforcing their motivation and engagement.


Relying solely on off-the-shelf solutions for compliance training can have negative consequences. While they may serve the purpose of meeting minimum compliance requirements, these generic training programs often fail to engage learners, leading to decreased interest and information retention. Moreover, compliance is not just about ticking off checkboxes; it is about safeguarding your company from risks such as ransomware, financial penalties, theft, and reputational damage.

Investing in crafting relatable and interesting training experiences is essential to address these challenges. By making the content relevant to learners’ roles and responsibilities, and presenting it engagingly, you can increase their motivation and willingness to actively participate in the training process. Breaking the training into smaller, digestible chunks throughout the learning cycle can also enhance retention and understanding.

Furthermore, it’s crucial to help learners understand the value of the content and how it relates to their day-to-day work. By emphasizing the importance of compliance and its impact on the organization, you can foster a sense of responsibility and commitment among employees. Additionally, providing incentives can further motivate individuals to comply with the guidelines and regulations.

By implementing these strategies, you can improve your organization’s engagement, retention, and compliance. Remember, compliance training should not be a tedious chore but an opportunity to educate and empower your workforce to protect the company’s interests.

If you want inspiration and guidance in creating top-notch compliance training presentations, we recommend “Crafting a Security Presentation for Global Security Leadership.” This customer story highlights how Kalles Group successfully designed a comprehensive compliance training presentation considering these four key factors.

As you explore the various information security frameworks available, one thing remains clear – ensuring compliance with industry standards, regulatory obligations, and best practices is crucial. Our expert team can help you navigate this complex landscape, offering tailored solutions to safeguard your business. Contact us today to find out how we can assist you in choosing the right security framework for your unique needs.


Jeanette Rogers is the Director of Instructional Design and Learning at Kalles Group. She is passionate about creating innovative training, making education interesting and engaging for all types of learners. Her priority is increasing the number of learners who want to return for more educational opportunities by providing effective and motivating learning.


1 CSO Online, Does Security Awareness Training Even Work?
2 Spaced Repetition Promotes Efficient and Effective Learning: Policy Implications for Instruction, Sean H. K. Kang


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