co-workers laughing at woman

Raising Awareness Through Compliance Training

When discussing the problem of bullying, we often overlook not only the victims, but also their fate. As bullies join the workforce, they continue to find targets, and the severity of their bullying behavior escalates. To address the 60.3 million U.S. workers bullying affects, companies must inform and educate their employees through an effective compliance strategy.

Just coming out of National Bullying Prevention Month in October, it’s important to evaluate the progress our society has made to prevent acts of bullying, as well as to consider what needs to be done moving forward. While it’s great to have one month dedicated to bringing attention to this issue, it needs to be top of mind 365 days of the year. This is especially true considering it was found that more than one in five students are bullied.

Bullying has been discussed widely in our culture – through TV shows, movies and pop culture – and it now spans much further than the elementary lunchroom. One problem: we often overlook the bullies themselves and their fate beyond school.

Many don’t think to ask the question, “What becomes of the bullies?” After graduation, do they realize their poor behavior and transform into model citizens and employees? Unfortunately, research concludes that this is not the case. As bullies join the workforce, they continue to find targets, and the severity of their bullying behavior escalates. Research by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), which defines workplace bullying as repeated harmful, abusive conduct that is threatening, intimidating, humiliating, work sabotage or verbal abuse, estimates that bullying affects 60.3 million U.S. workers.

While this does not seem surprising, bullies tend to be more senior than their target, and nearly 70 percent of them are male. It’s clear the psychological effect bullying can have on a target, but companies may not realize the impact it has on business. Many targets eventually quit their job because of ongoing feelings of being scared, unworthy or devalued, and this can add up to be a financial and cultural burden on a company. Without proper action, organizations suffer due to decreased productivity rates and/or other inconsistencies related to an unreliable workforce.

To address this issue within the workplace, companies must inform and educate their employees. Companies that do not have dedicated processes in place as part of their compliance strategy put themselves at significant risk, leading to increased turnover, customer dissatisfaction and damage to brand and reputation. The right mindset and resulting behavior change — which is safe, ethical and respectful — are necessary to not only decrease the risk of turnover, but to transition to an environment where individuals and the business thrive.

It’s no wonder why companies perform better when they have fully integrated programs for this issue built into their compliance strategy, as well as into their core values and business systems.

With ongoing research on the neuroscience of learning and retention, it has been found that learners need three things for an optimal learning experience: relevance, meaning and emotion. To address workplace bullying, it is critical for training to illustrate bullying behavior and then demonstrate the appropriate responses and consequences. By incorporating controlled re-enactments of different real-world bullying situations into compliance training content, employees can learn the many ways bullying presents itself in an organization. Furthermore, by experiencing the effects of bullying in that training environment, employees can learn to avoid putting others in uncomfortable positions.

For example, if an employee watches a realistic video on a boss bullying his or her colleague during a board meeting, then takes an informative quiz to recognize the signs of bullying, they will be more prepared to identify a similar situation in real life. In doing so, the employee will have had proper training and will feel confident to take the appropriate steps to address the issue.

The result of a successful compliance training program for this issue is a greater level of employee awareness related to bullying in the workplace. More importantly, another positive outcome is establishing a more empowered workforce that is able to identify and speak up when a situation presents itself. By incorporating scenarios into content and generating emotional engagement between those materials and the student, retention and learning are strengthened.

The last key to optimal training is customized videos and content that are relevant to the learner. Investing in engaging content and new technology for your compliance training strategy will lead to happier employees, less turnover and an overall more productive business.


John Arendes

John Arendes is the Vice President and GM Global Compliance Solutions at Skillsoft. John is responsible for the leading the direction of Skillsoft’s Global Compliance solutions, ensuring the company’s compliance programs have a multinational impact on organizations. John works closely with many 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.

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