Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
According to a recent article in the New York Times, innovative trends in the corporate training industry are on the upswing. These innovations include using comic improvisation to deliver training and leveraging digital devices to reach geographically dispersed audiences. Although the customer service training addressed in the article falls into the category often referred to as “soft-skills” learning, such as teambuilding, communication skills and leadership training, the theme – innovation in corporate training – has application to the more cut and dry world of employment law training. The challenge, however, is that employment law training must meticulously (and appropriately) cover a wide range of learning objectives to be effective. These objectives include:
- fulfilling complicated and detailed compliance objectives;
- clearly covering elements required to assert an affirmative defense to various claims of employment-related misconduct;
- raising awareness of ever-changing legal definitions, and
- providing a variety of skill-building exercises focusing on risk management, issue-spotting, effective response strategies, and professional practices.
Other training topics may need to be covered as well. Currently, a few states (California, Connecticut, and Maine) have statutes specifically mandating workplace harassment training. They affect organizations that have at least 50 employees, even if the companies have a much smaller in-state presence, and require training of out-of-state supervisors who manage in-state employees. Additionally, comprehensive training on workplace ethics has now become an imperative under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Federal Acquisition Regulation and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. Meeting the comprehensive objectives of these training mandates requires a rare blend of subject matter expertise, training facilitation, and curriculum design that, if not implemented correctly, can turn a potentially enriching presentation into a dry lecture or a series of rote exercises that are as dull as they are repetitive. The right blend is best realized through an approach that may sound oxymoronic – combining careful consideration of required training elements with out-of-the-box thinking about effective training strategies.
As the need for compliance training expands, so must an organization’s approach to crafting meaningful techniques for delivering mandatory messages. While technology provides great tools for this, few things beat the time tested method of delivering an enlivened exchange that opens up a larger, live dialogue.
Employment law training thrives when attendees are engaged and willing to share their own best practices with the larger group. But achieving this can be difficult - techniques that would yield interesting, free-wheeling responses in soft-skills training may not work with legal topics because they can create an atmosphere that is too casual for the subject matter at hand. Comic improvisation, for example, could yield some unwelcome results with even one wrong word thrown in as an ad-lib.
How then to bring enlivening innovation to a relatively controlled message? The solution is well-designed role plays. Take your topic, identify the specific areas calling for skill building related to a legal requirement (something like an effective response to a complaint or observed transgression), and then craft a series of pointed encounters that a training participant will experience in a live exchange. This can de done through use of actors skilled in improvisation, but the subject matter has to be thoroughly respected and any comedic tone should be discouraged. Other effective techniques include scripted one-on-one role plays performed by attendees, or use of videos that direct an issue at the viewer. Once the issue has been brought to life in these ways, the subject matter expert then carefully facilitates the necessary learning points related to the dynamic in question.
As Albert Einstein said, “(i)nnovation is not the product of logical thought, although the result is tied to logical structure.” When coupled with practical oversight, innovative delivery of compliance training may be the best way to turn a must-do topic into a must-see event!
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