Effective Ethics Training

“Compliance and ethics training represents an organization’s most direct means of influencing employee conduct and setting corporate culture,” according to a recent white paper by Blue Hill Research.  To be effective, decision makers must balance cost-of-delivery considerations with the investments needed for training that delivers desired results (Houlihan, 2015).

Organizations provide compliance and ethics training for various reasons, to include complying with regulatory guidelines, influencing employee behavior, and reducing the risk of ethics and compliance violations, both intentional and unintentional.  If the former is the only driver, training efforts may become least-cost, check-the-box exercises, with little impact on behavior or risk.  However, training efforts that effectively influence employee behavior may require greater investment than the former.

That’s because effective training—training that will influence behavior and help to prevent violations—requires employee participation and engagement.

Based on the results of research interviews with a handful of organizations, Blue Hill identified key characteristics related to the employee engagement.  It suggests firms consider these characteristics when developing or otherwise investing in compliance and ethics training:

  • Entertainment / production values
  • Focus on ambiguous situations and application of standards
  • Bi-annual refreshes of content
  • Interactive learning environments
  • Short presentation components with a high frequency of reinforcement
  • Adaptive formats to support variations in learning styles

When these companies shifted their focus to employee engagement in training, they experienced the following results:

  • The average percentage of employees completing new training programs within 30 days of launch increased from 40% to 95%, a 138% increase in employees reached.
  • The number of training topics covered per employee increased from 1 to 3 to 5 to 6, a 250% median increase in breadth of topics
  • The hours per year the average employee spent on compliance and ethics training stayed flat at 3 to 7 hours, a 0% change in employee time required.

Although it can be difficult to measure the return on investment in training initiatives, the Blue Hill study suggests that organizations that invest in features to increase employee engagement in the training will benefit.

Ethics training is not just a nicety that looks good to everyone else! It’s a necessity

if you want to decrease the odds of ethical problems before they become a potentially expensive legal problem, a public relations nightmare or a trauma to employee morale. How much would you invest to preserve your company’s reputation, growth, and profits?

— Frank Bucaro

Ethical Advocate recognizes the importance of training in the ethics and compliance toolbox. Contact us for information about comprehensive ethics and compliance solutions, including ethics and compliance training and confidential and anonymous hotlines.


Bucaro, Frank. “Ethics Training: What’s the ROI?” Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics, LinkedIn discussion, December 15, 2014.

Houlihan, David. Estimating the Business Impact of Employee Engagement in Compliance and Ethics Training, Blue Hill Research Report Number 0143, April 2015.