REUTERS | Grigory Dukor

Practical Law training survey results: market practice v ‘best’ practice

Practical Law has published a report on the results of its compliance training survey.

Many thanks to all those who responded to the survey questions and to those who contributed to the report, particularly our survey panel. Two-thirds (62.9%) of respondents were in-house lawyers, or compliance officers, or both. Almost half (45.5%) were themselves responsible for creating/commissioning or delivering training on risk & compliance topics.

We hope that the detailed data allow you to benchmark your own organisation’s compliance training programme and consider whether any changes need to be made.

For me, the data overall suggest three areas where there seems to be dissonance between standard practice and what might be considered ‘best’ practice.

Those areas are:

  • The treatment of data protection as a training topic, versus the treatment of other topics.
  • The prevalence of eLearning in surveyed organisations.
  • The personal and skills development training that in-house lawyers would like to be offered by their organisations, compared with the training actually made available to them.

GDPR as the bogeyman: to the detriment of focus on other compliance topics?

The threat of a very large fine under GDPR seems to have focused attention on the importance of data protection training: 84.6% of respondents reported that their organisation had a mandatory training requirement on this topic.

Some respondents specified which training topics different groups within their organisations were required to complete. All (100%) of those who specified which topics their Senior Leadership Team had to complete included data protection on their list. By contrast, only 50% of such respondents said that their SLTs were required to complete training on four other major areas of compliance concern:

  • Business conduct and ethics.
  • Conflicts of interest.
  • Anti-money laundering.
  • Competition.

Only slightly more (60%) said that the SLT members in their organisation were required to complete training on information security.

Furthermore, the potentially unlimited fines that can be imposed on an organisation for a ‘failure to prevent tax evasion’ offence do not appear to have had the effect that training on this topic is widely required. Only just over a quarter (28.2%) of respondents reported that training on this topic was required across their organisation, and only 40% of respondents who specified reported that the SLT were required to complete it.

Is it the case that organisations are choosing to address these risks through other means, or do the results indicate that there is a real training shortfall here?

Resources that may be helpful in determining whether your own organisation should consider introducing training on the tax evasion offences include:

eLearning and effectiveness: not necessarily synonymous

Respondents reported that eLearning was the format most frequently used to deliver compliance training in their organisations.

The top three formats used were:

  • eLearning/online learning “games” (used by 71.8% of respondents’ organisations)
  • Face-to-face seminars or workshops (used by 53.9%)
  • Self-directed online learning, such as watching recorded lectures (used by 46.2%).

eLearning’s dominance is not surprising: its scalability allows organisations to deliver training to large numbers of people in multiple locations without having to put a human presenter in front of each group. It also permits organisations to record rates of completion automatically, which can be a valuable piece of data should a compliance breach occur.

However, external research suggests that eLearning courses are not the most effective method of training (see Article, Training as a compliance tool: measuring effectiveness, Use of technology), and our survey’s results do nothing to challenge that conclusion.

If a key measure of the ‘effectiveness’ of training is the trainee’s ability to recall the training itself, then the survey results suggest that face-to-face training is far more effective than eLearning. The plural of ‘anecdote’ is not ‘data’, but the examples of both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ training given by respondents all referred to in-person training, ranging from praise for a negotiation workshop that “was really well designed and (…) full of surprises” to a scathing review of a GDPR presentation which left the trainee “more confused than I was before.”

Other characteristics of effective training, according to our respondents, are that it is clear, thorough, delivered by someone who knows the subject inside-out, full of practical examples and – above all – not “boring”.

Yes to the ‘soft skills’ training – but yes to the ‘hard skills’ training too please

Over half (55.6%) of respondents said that they were currently offered ‘soft skills’ or ‘personal development’ training (such as networking or presentation skills training) by their organisations. Almost half of those not currently offered such training (45.8%) said that they would like to be.

Very few respondents were offered training in the areas of project management (13.9%), reading business plans (5.6%) and reading company accounts (8.3%). Many of those who were not would like to be:

  • 35.9% would like to be trained on project management.
  • 26.2% would like to be trained on reading a business plan.
  • 25.0% would like to be trained on reading company accounts.

One of our survey panel explained that the wide range of skills development training their organisation offered was part of a strategy to attract and retain the top talent in their sector. Our results suggest that offering training in these areas might be a way for organisations to drive loyalty in their in-house counsel.

In the meantime, resources on these – and other – skills development topics can be found on Practical Law’s In-house resource centre.

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