3 Simple Ways to Improve Compliance Training

Compliance Training

Compliance training does NOT have to be a chore. Through our work helping clients comply with BBP, OSHA, HazComm, HIPAA and more, we’ve developed some best practices that we turn to again and again.

I wish I could tell you about one “magic bullet” method that will meet all of your compliance-driven needs. Every workplace is different, and the people taking your compliance courses have different job roles, backgrounds and personalities. What works at Company X may not work at Company Y. This is why generic, out-of-the-box compliance solutions often miss the mark.

Want to learn more about how compliance training can engage your learners? Access our webinar: Comply, Engage, Amaze: How to Make Regulatory Training Matter.


While every project is different, the tactics below are three of our favorites. Use them liberally… but only when it makes sense for your specific project.

1. Gamify, Gamify, Gamify

Points, badges, leaderboards, oh my. If there is ever a time and place to gamify an eLearning course, compliance training is it. Learners are usually not very motivated to take the course to begin with because they are being forced to do so. If you build some fun game mechanics into the course, retention and voluntary participation will rise.

This does NOT mean that just because you gamified the course, everyone will like it. Gamification done poorly, without proper game design skills and experience, can actually make the training even worse. It helps to think like a game designer when adding gamification elements to courses.

If you need a primer on game design, have a look at Sharon Boller’s posts on Game Elements and Game Mechanics. Sharon is our resident learning game design expert.

2. Include a “test out” option

Lots of compliance training has to be taken year after year. For longer tenured employees, this can become a real drag. It’s not that most of us don’t want to follow the proper procedures to help our organizations stay in compliance; we just get bored with taking the same course year after year. If you have the necessary information memorized and you’re following procedure, why should you have to retake a course?

This is why an increasing number of our custom eLearning courses include a “test out” option for part (or all) of the content. Learners who can complete a test may elect to skip the course, giving them back their valuable time. No matter how engaging you make your course, it’s still going to be a poor experience for learners if the content is redundant.

So… let learners test out of as much content as legally possible, assuming they can prove they know their stuff.

3. Build branching scenarios by job type

What’s worse than taking a course full of information you already know? How about trying to complete a course with information you do need to know, only to find all the information is generic, or not applicable to your specific job role?

We are big believers in using relevant, compelling scenarios in eLearning whenever possible. In fact, scenarios are a centerpiece of many of our curriculum designs. Companies run into problems, though, when they try to make every scenario apply to every learner. Pretty soon, the situation is so broad it applies to no one.

The answer? Branching scenarios. Let learners indicate their job type, then show them a different scenario that applies to them. Make the scenarios as detailed as possible, with responses that sound natural. Make your scenarios progress as far out as you can while staying within the scope of your project. It’s a constant balance between adding enough detail to make the scenario helpful… and adding too much detail that derails your budget.

Need to create compliance training? Contact us.

7 Steps to 508 Compliance: Why It’s Important and Where You Can Start

The term “508 Compliant” is nothing new to the instructional design community, and some of you probably saw the title of this post and thought about skipping it. Any instructional designer wanting to work on a government contract needs to be well versed in 508 compliance, and has wrestled with the challenges involved on more than one occasion. But for those who don’t work work on government contracts as often (or at all), 508 compliance may still be a foggy concept.

508 compliance has been less of an issue for us because a minority of our clients must comply with the standards. But after a recent chat with someone in a government sector, I found out just how important (and pervasive) 508 compliance really is. This led me on an obsessive research quest to find out more about EIT (Electronic and Information Technology) accessibility and hopefully make things more clear for instructional designers— as well as a few new insights.

First things first: Why we need to talk about EIT Accessibility Standards

Sometimes it takes a powerful moment in your own life to remove the blinders and see the difficulties faced every day by people with disabilities. Jeffery Zeldman had just that kind of moment when he had to help a stranger with a disability get to a medical center rendered inaccessible by a curb… even though the medical center was for people with disabilities. (Read his story here) This inspired a lot of people, including Samantha Warren, who realized how Zeldman’s story echoed the same issues in technology. Warren made this great point in her blog:

“There are curbs standing between so many people and the information they need to access.”

She also made the eye-opening — and fairly valid — point that 508 compliance is just the minimum, and might not equate to being truly accessible. Keep that in mind as you strive to make your learning solutions 508 compliant. It’s no secret that people with disabilities still have incredible talents to offer any organization (I mean, look at Stephen Hawking), and they will need to be able to take advantage of the training resources you offer your employees.

The part you’re looking for: A guide to making your eLearning 508 compliant

Instructional designers who work regularly with government institutions already have a good process for making their learning solutions accessible, but what if you’re new to an organization and have never been asked “Is it 508 compliant?” You might find yourself stumbling on your words.

We can help with that! Through researching the topic for our own needs, we’ve come up with a starter’s guide to meeting 508 requirements:

Number 11. Design your eLearning solutions so that you can use ONLY a keyboard to navigate.

The “tab” key (or some accessible variation of it) is the primary means of navigation for people with certain disabilities. Be mindful of that as you design any elearning module. There are also other shortcuts you can build into your design to help people navigate with only the keyboard.

Number 22. Include ALT text, titles for links, and all other meta data necessary to describe visual elements.

Imagine a person who is blind navigating through your elearning course. How would they know what img04567.png is when their screen reader announces it? Also, make sure your links explain where they go with the title text. People who use screen readers typically listen to all the links first to make sure they want to use the page.

Number 33. Watch out for tables.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s internal guidelines do a great job of summing this up:

“Tables are permitted, but 508 requires that tables be coded according to the rules of the markup language being used for creating tables. Large tables of data can be difficult to interpret if a person is using a non-visual means of accessing the web. Users of screen readers can easily get “lost” inside a table because it may be impossible to associate a particular cell that a screen reader is reading with the corresponding column headings and row names.”

The moral of the story: use tables sparingly… if at all.

Number 44. Consider a “skip navigation” function.

When using a screen reader, the navigation is going to be heard over and over. This is both time-consuming and annoying. Penn State gives a good overview of using “skip navigation” here.

Number 55. Create alternative, text-only pages for information that cannot be made compliant in any other way.

This is mostly up to the client, as some institutions may not feel a text-equivalent provides the right solution for them. However, legally, it is acceptable to create a text-equivalent page for areas that can’t be made compliant any other way. You can give users the ability to choose whether they want to view the standard page or the text-only page.

Number 66. Avoid Flash

I have always liked flash in my design career, but many of my coworkers feel differently. Regardless of your personal preferences, Flash is not the tool to use when attempting to design an accessible learning solution. It is virtually impossible for screen readers to navigate Flash objects… among other accessibility issues. When designing with 508 compliance in mind, avoid Flash.

Number 77. Use your course/module/game with your computer’s accessibility features turned on.

This is absolutely the most important part of designing for accessibility. Your computer has built in functionality for people with disabilities. Turn it on and try to navigate through your learning solution. Can you still see everything if you use only the keyboard and the screen reader? Does it still work the way you intended it? A quick Google search should show you how to turn on your computer’s accessibility features if you don’t already know how.

The key to 508 compliance is to understand the requirements and design to meet them before you start a project. If you want a more detailed look at the requirements, you can check out the EPA’s checklist, or you can read the full legislation here.

Friendly Reminder

When talking about EIT accessibility and 508 compliance, it is important to make sure you also know how to talk about people with disabilities in general. People with disabilities will certainly face some challenges in their life, but they are not helpless victims. They are also NOT their disability. This is where “People First Language” comes into play. People with disabilities are people, and that takes precedence over their disability in life as well as in the terms used to describe them. You shouldn’t say “blind person,” instead it should be “a person who is blind.”

The Arc, the largest national community-based organization advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, words it perfectly on their website:

“Our words and the meanings we attach to them create attitudes, drive social policies and laws, influence our feelings and decisions, and affect people’s daily lives and more. How we use them makes a difference. People First Language puts the person before the disability, and describes what a person has, not who a person is. Using a diagnosis as a defining characteristic reflects prejudice, and also robs the person of the opportunity to define him/herself.”

Be mindful of this as you explore EIT accessibility standards and strive to make technology a good experience for ALL of its users. Learn more.

Compliance and Safety Training: When You Have to Do It, Make it Memorable

What’s the risk of delivering the same old compliance training year after year? The main reason most organizations train for compliance is, well, to comply. They are mandated to deliver the training by law. Some would argue it is in the company’s best interest to deliver the cheapest, most basic training possible that still meet the necessary requirements. Why waste time and money on making it fun and elaborate when the bare minimum will do?

Want to learn more about how compliance training can engage your learners? Access our webinar: Comply, Engage, Amaze: How to Make Regulatory Training Matter.


While OSHA, HIPAA and FDA regulations do a great job of setting standards and auditing organizations when a problem is perceived, it’s still way too easy for people to slip up on a daily basis. Minor compliance violations go unreported in almost every workplace… and it never seems like a big deal until it is a big deal. Just because you made someone “aware” of a procedure does not mean they are actually following it.Compliance Training - Why Checked the Box... Now What?

The challenge of compliance is getting more serious for Hospital Networks. The Affordable Care Act has introduced a set of 10 new Partnership for Patients standards hospitals must measure. Medicare funding for hospitals is no longer tied to the volume of patients they see – it’s based off of the hospital’s ability to reduce its number of readmissions and various hospital acquired infections. Now, a failure to comply with standards is directly related to funding.

Employers must also be aware of the various parts of OSHA. While training is not always a requirement to meet OSHA standards, over 100 of OSHA’s standards require some sort of training to stay in compliance. Even if a particular OSHA standard does not require training, an organization struggling to stay in compliance may turn to training as part of their solution.

The US Department of Labor Website has an entire section on Training Requirements for OSHA standards and guidelines. OSHA encourages a personalized approach to compliance training so it reflects the local work environment. A one-size fits all, cookie cutter approach to compliance training may check the box, but will it really motivate learners to change their behavior? Probably not.

Motivating behavior change is the secret to true compliance… but most compliance training is just designed to list facts and make people “aware” of procedures. And while delivering generic awareness training that is legally sufficient may solve the short term need, it leads to big problems in the future. When a dangerous situation arises and your workforce has no idea how to handle it… you’ll realize the compliance training didn’t really work.

Custom eLearning is usually part of the learning solution when training for compliance. BLP works extensively with organizations in highly regulated industries to help them comply with government mandated policies and procedures. We design compliance-driven learning solutions to motivate behavior change, not just drive awareness. We want people to know what they are supposed to do AND do it… not just vaguely remember they took some required training and hated it.

If you have to deliver compliance training, you need to make it memorable. Here’s how:

Some examples of Compliance Training

Building EvacuationBuilding Evacuation - Second scenario Taking a course about Building Evacuation is not most people’s idea of an exciting day at the office. But what if the course is an illustrated scenario where you must successfully evacuate three types of buildings or risk you or a coworker becoming incapacitated or worse? We took this approach in a course for a Fortune 500 client and got rave reviews from learners. Believe it or not, this course was one of the least expensive to produce!
Proper Handwashing TechniquesProper Handwashing Techniques - Germ Scene Investigation We wash our hands all the time, but are we doing it right? One of our compliance courses included videos on handwashing and aseptic technique with a “CSI” theme. Instead of just watching an instructional video, learners became Germ Scene Investigators at a crime scene. In the process, they learned memorable tips, such as singing “Happy Birthday” two times while washing hands to measure the amount of time spent. Proper hand washing is at the root of many hygiene issues… so it’s important to get it right.
Bloodeborne PathogensAnimated BBP characters Organizations that handle Bloodeborne Pathogens must deliver annual training to workers that makes them aware of the risk. Longtime employees often receive the same training over and over for years… so a new approach is essential from time to time to keep them engaged in the training. Our BBP Course for a Fortune 500 client takes a gamified approach with multiple levels to complete and BBPs to “defeat.” Oh, and they will laugh at you and animate across the screen!

None of these examples are at the high end of the price range, but all of them were rated as highly effective and fun by our clients. When you need to develop compliance training, take it as an opportunity to make it memorable and give learners something that will really, truly help them change their  behavior.

Otherwise, you’re just checking the box.

Need to create compliance training? Contact us.