How Do You Show The Worth Of Your Compliance Program?

worth of compliance program“Conducting an accurate cost-benefit analysis requires a holistic approach, one that incorporates costs … and also accounts for how participants are doing after they leave the program.”

– Ali Jaffer & Mona Mourshed, Harvard Business Review

What do you think of when you hear the words “compliance training”? Does this conjure up images of an ethical, almost utopian workforce, one that has come to espouse company values through an effective culture of compliance? Or perhaps it brings to mind dull, mandatory training – a “box-ticking” exercise that must be endured once a year just to comply with industry requirements. Unfortunately, the latter is still a pervasive idea of what compliance training is all about. It’s no wonder then that it can be hard to defend the value of compliance programs when the question “What’s the return on investment?” is asked.

The main reason that it’s difficult to show the ROI of learning is because quantifying and validating its success can be problematic. For instance, suppose you’ve just carried out anti-harassment training at your firm. After the compliance program is finished, you notice a sudden upswing in calls to a HR hotline for reporting harassment. But, is this because your training is working – hence the increase in reports – or because the training is broken – which explains the increase in incidents?

Or imagine that you’ve implemented a data privacy compliance program. Six months go by, and not a single data breach has occurred. You could argue this is due to the efficacy of your program. Another possibility could be, however, that this has simply not been an issue, perhaps thanks to the pre-existing, top class IT security setup.
So, how exactly do you find out and demonstrate the value of your compliance training, and convince those who hold the purse strings of its benefits. In this post, we discuss five novel ideas for showing the ROI of compliance programs.

1. Run focus groups

To get an idea of the value of your compliance learning, it’s vital that you evaluate its effectiveness. And one of the best ways of understanding this is by organizing focus group with middle management – the eyes and ears of your organization – to get their impression of how the training is impacting their employees, as well as the bottom line. By getting the approval of middle management, you can show that your compliance program is worth the investment. These focus groups can also provide valuable qualitative data, and can serve to highlight key issues and areas for improvement in the training. To get the most from your focus group, pick the right group members who can provide crucial insights, moderate the group properly, and be able to analyze the resulting data so as to make improvements to your program.

2.Use learner star ratings

While focus groups can provide important qualitative data, star ratings offer a more quantitative way of assessing the worth of your compliance training. One advantage of this is that if your compliance training scores highly with your learners, it builds the prestige and credibility of your broader compliance program. An added benefit of using a star rating is that is a quick and easy way of gathering meaningful statistical data.

3. Trust your own judgement

Gathering quantitative and qualitative data is useful, but there is something equally important in determining the worth of your compliance program – your judgment. Your own expertise in training design can help you figure out if your course will have the effect on employee learning and organizational culture that you intend. It’s also crucial to see what your peers are doing by attending conferences and reading industry-related articles – this will help you improve your own judgment of what will or won’t work for your organization by finding out new trends, technologies, or design methodologies.

4.Align learning with business objectives

Company executives are naturally interested in the success of their business objectives. And any expenditure that in the long run can improve the bottom line is usually seen as a worthwhile investment. That’s why it’s vital that you tie your compliance learning back to your organization’s macro business objectives. Suppose your company considers insider trading to be the number 1 risk threatening its reputation and financial well-being. By strategically pointing out the key skills and knowledge employees can achieve through an insider trading compliance course – and the possible penalties the organization can avoid – you can go a long way in demonstrating the learning’s value.

5.Enter your program for awards

The final way of discovering the ROI of your compliance training is by entering your program for industry learning awards. With clear metrics that include completion data, quantitative learner ratings, and feedback from senior management, it’s possible to have a winning entry for some of the top accolades in your industry’s category. Having an award-winning compliance learning program is of course highly desirable, and can showcase the quality of your design methodology. However, entering these types of competitions is also a useful way of benchmarking compliance learning and of finding out if you’re meeting industry training standards.


Although the ROI of compliance learning is often calculated in dollar amounts – the cost of investment compared to the cost of non-compliance – its value cannot always be calculated that way. There are other, less obvious benefits, such as improved employee morale, engagement, and productivity, greater awareness of regulatory issues and risks, and higher levels of public trust and reputation. The five methods outlined here take these benefits into account and offer a more holistic approach to identifying the value of compliance training.


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