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Missing the Point – When Compliance Training is Not Part of the Culture Discussion

It seems like a daily occurrence now, another major company acknowledging that they have a serious problem with unprofessional conduct in their workplace culture.  Lately, it’s been the “most admired employers” confessing to having a “frat guy” environment that will no longer expense adult entertainment or being accused of covering up sexual harassment and/or discrimination.  It is clear that success no longer provides the veil of protection, as it has in the past.

All of the negative media attention has alerted business leaders to the need for more compliance training in their own organizations.  “If Google can’t get it right, then we really need to look at what we are doing,” goes the line of thinking.  States like New York are also getting in on the action by passing laws and prescribing what type of harassment compliance training employers must have to do business in their state.

All of this has left many organizations in a reactive mode looking for fast and effective off-the-shelf compliance training to check a box.  We often get requests like, “We need you to come in and do an hour of compliance training for our managers.”  We then explain that doing so will have little to no effect on real change.


  1. It’s not genuine because it’s never been part of previous conversations.
  2. It’s sterile, boring and not authentic.
  3. It’s not placed in the context of how it actually helps the employee or the organization be successful.

We recommend a more comprehensive and impactful training solution. It’s one where culture is at the center of the training and communicating with professionalism is a key component of that message.

Most employers do genuinely have the best interest of the employees in mind.  They know that the success of the organization is dependent upon their employees providing a superior level of service to customers or providing a high level of discretionary effort.  Many times, though, “how we interact with each other” is an assumption that gets lost in growth and the hiring of new faces.

This is why taking a step back to consider the overall culture of the organization is critical.  This shift in messaging takes the conversation from “compliance-centric” to “How do we want our employees to embody our values, prioritize work, and behave?”.  It moves us from “you get fired for this” to “this is what makes us special and successful.”  Compliance becomes a byproduct of the bigger picture, it’s baked in.

Follow these three steps to integrate professionalism/compliance training and culture:

  1. Start framing the story of your culture with a view of how we treat each other.
  2. Incorporate concepts of respect, professionalism, and importance of diversity. 
  3. Train your new hires on this critical piece of your culture.
  4. Live by it and enforce it.  No exceptions for top performers. 

Congrats, now “compliance” training is built into your culture instead of an awkward add-on.

This provides employees with not only the bigger picture but also an understanding that the company is authentically concerned about these issues.  It tells the employee that we don’t tolerate unprofessional conduct not because it’s the law, but because unprofessional behavior is not part of the culture we want to promote.  This says we are not just checking the proverbial box—we actually care.

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