John Arendes of Skillsoft

Q&A with John Arendes, VP and GM Global Compliance Solutions at Skillsoft

Today, we present an interview between CCI’s Maurice Gilbert and compliance expert John Arendes. Skillsoft is a leader in e-learning, and one of the company’s main areas of focus is compliance training. What follows is some background on this thought leader, as well as John’s insights into how companies can achieve a complete compliance transformation.

Maurice Gilbert: How did you get started on a career in compliance?

John Arendes: As is often the case, it was by accident that I started my career in compliance. One of my old managers became CEO of a compliance training company and asked me to leave the IT industry to become his VP of Sales. During this time, I developed a passion for ethics and compliance.

MG: Who helped shape your views?

JA: That is a great question.  My grandfather; he always told me to be accountable for my actions and to have integrity – even when no one is looking. When you look at any violation, whether it is in health and safety or ethics and legal compliance, those two things are often missing.

MG: How do you stay current on ethics and compliance issues?

JA: I am constantly reading. I set up news alerts on a number of different topics, as well as subscribing to various trade organizations. Some of my regular sites for news include the FCPA Blog, Compliance Week Blogs, U.S. Department of Labor Blog and OSHA Law Blog.

MG: What are some of the most significant issues facing CCOs, Risk Managers, etc.?  

JA: There are a number of issues facing compliance executives. The first is dealing with a failure in leadership. When we look at a compliance failure in the organization, it typically starts at the top. When leadership is not willing to live by the same set of rules, eventually those below them feel it is ok to break the rules as well. It is a failure of accountability. Recent examples in the media have highlighted this behavior.

Another issue is that we have a new generation of employees comprised of Millennials and GenZ, who are mobile and technology savvy and who are forcing organizations to rethink the way they provide training and skills development. Recent brain science research shows that the majority of learners like to use micro-learning – learning in short, but engaging “bursts” of information as opposed to traditional training methods. Skillsoft is at the forefront of enabling organizations to satisfy the modern learner and has launched new content paradigms that introduce shorter – no more than five minutes – and more impactful topics in a way that’s much more like an experience of a consumer app. Moving away from instructor-led training to camera, Skillsoft’s new treatment brings the learning concepts to life in real-world situations to fully engage this new type of modern learner.

Another challenge organizations face is educating their employees in these complex topics. Learners need to understand the subject itself and commit a certain amount of time learning the regulatory requirements. Additionally, the number of requirements being asked of employers and employees has to have a material effect on productivity.  The advances in technology and content treatments allow organizations to stay ahead of the curve in terms of the complexity within the compliance realm.

MG: What do you believe is the optimal reporting structure for the CCO and why?

JA: I believe the CCO should report directly to the board of directors. This removes any conflict of interest that could occur should improprieties be discovered at the senior management level. Over the next few years, you will start to see this happen more often in organizations of all sizes.

MG: How do you effect change within your clients’ environments?  

JA: What Skillsoft offers today goes beyond compliance training. It provides training that impacts leadership and empowers organizations to build a culture of compliance. That culture ultimately drives the value of any compliance training program provided which has a direct impact on business results.

Too many companies make the mistake of looking for the compliance vendor to solve the problem. If we roll out training X it will address the issue; if we implement X policy management solution, we are safe. It takes a culture change to change behavior. The good news is companies can choose to change their culture and embrace compliance-oriented behavior.

MG: How do you see the CCO role evolving within the next three years?

JA: The role of the CCO will become more of a change agent than it is today. I believe they will be empowered by the board of directors to take swift action and to guide organizations through the difficult landscape of compliance.

MG: What new service offerings do you have in the queue?

JA: Using the research from brain science and understanding the most critical learning factors, Skillsoft is investing in a modern look and feel and unique content treatment for compliance content to ensure learners will be highly engaged in order to achieve optimal performance outcomes.

From brain science research, Skillsoft found that learners need three things for an optimal learning experience: relevance, meaning and emotion. This new content provides a data-driven mix of content design approaches that are learner-centric. The design provides memory hooks for the learners by engaging both sides of the brain, fostering a linkage between cognition and emotion. By utilizing world-class writers, animators, actors and presenters, Skillsoft’s new multimodal content will create an engaging, high-definition and highly contextualized experience to help change learner behavior and drive business performance.

MG: Compliance departments are often asked to accomplish their work with limited resources… do you see this situation changing anytime soon?

JA: I do not see this changing. However, I do see that the type of experience brought in to manage compliance will be more diverse. Compliance departments will likely be looking for team members who have a legal and organizational behavior background combined with learning and development experience. These skills will be required to enable organizations to drive the adoption for change.


John Arendes is Vice President and GM Global Compliance Solutions for Skillsoft. John is responsible for the leading the direction of Skillsoft’s Global Compliance solutions, ensuring its compliance programs have a multinational impact for organizations. John works closely with many of Skillsoft’s clients in identifying best practices for successful compliance training programs. John’s experience crosses multiple verticals in dealing with compliance training. Prior to joining Skillsoft John was Head of Compliance Learning, North America for Thomson Reuters.

Maurice Gilbert

Maurice Gilbert founded Corporate Compliance Insights in December 2008 to further the discussion and professional knowledge exchange of important, forward-thinking corporate governance, risk and compliance topics.

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