Are Regulatory Changes Making Your Training Program Unsustainable?

If you work in a heavily regulated industry like insurance, financial services, or healthcare, you know that change is inevitable, and meta factors far beyond your control can have a significant impact on how you do business.

It could be governmental mandates with which you must comply or standards set by industry groups that you must adopt. 

  • If you work in insurance, for instance, you may have to shift your processes to accommodate amendments to the Insurance Fraud Model Act or rethink how you collect and use data because of California’s Consumer Privacy Act
  • If you work in healthcare, you’re likely all too familiar with the significant changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act or shifting CEHRT requirements dictated by CMS. 
  • Alternatively, you may be pressured to align with PCI standards or EMV guidelines if you work  in financial services, beyond having to comply with federal financial service regulations.

In any case, when regulatory change comes your way, you have to make changes to the way you or your colleagues work, or your organization risks incurring fines, reputation damage, or a variety of other negative outcomes. Yet achieving compliance isn’t always easy, capital expenses and implementation headaches aside. You also have to educate your people on what regulatory changes mean and how they affect not only your organization’s bottom line, but associates’ daily responsibilities.

With regulatory change comes process shifts, altered documentation requirements, and new training needs as team members learn novel protocols for handling claims, managing customer data, reporting new information, using new software platforms, and much more. If you aren’t properly prepared with an agile training approach, you may find yourself lagging behind in compliance or working with a patched-together training program that is confusing, obsolete, or worse—just plain wrong—potentially getting your organization in legal trouble.

You can’t change the fact that paradigms will change within your industry and you will have to adapt. But you can be honest with yourself about the state of your training program and just how equipped your organization is to keep up with rapid or substantial change.

How prepared are you for regulation-induced training changes? 

You likely have a general plan for making standard updates to your training. But will you have the capacity or capabilities to keep team members properly educated when regulations change quickly? If you do, will the training you develop be effective?

It could be that your organization is well-equipped to maintain coherent, updated training programs, regardless of what regulatory change comes your way. But it may also be the case that having a backup plan involving external, professional instructional design support would be worthwhile. Ask yourself the following five questions to get a sense for your organization’s level of preparedness to keep your training updated and effective, no matter what you face. 

Do you have in-house expertise in training development?

  • Yes: Great! As long as training specialists have the capacity to deal with training updates in a timely manner, you’re off to a good start. 
  • No: When non-instructional-designers make content changes to training materials, are they considering how this impacts learner performance on the job, i.e., their ability to apply newly acquired knowledge? Keep in mind that training changes impact what the employee needs to do, not just what they need to know.  Knowing how to apply new regulation-related knowledge is key to ensuring people are equipped to act on what they’ve learned and keep your organization compliant. You often need professional instructional designers involved if you’re going to create training that translates well to a real-world environment. 

Does your in-house team have the capacity to make training program updates in the time required? 

  • Yes: Good! For now, you may be equipped to handle training development effectively in-house, but you should consider if this will continue to be the case long term.
  • No: An organization specializing in training development can help you fill the gaps, providing value by giving you access to qualified training development professionals with rich experience creating effective education programs even on tight timelines. Read an example of how we helped an insurance company develop eLearning courses when they found themselves unable to keep up with their workload using internal training resources alone.

Are the regulatory changes that you are facing, and therefore updated training needs, a one-time thing?

  • Yes: It might not make sense to hire full-time employees for a temporary need if you find yourself short-staffed. Depending on the scale of the one-time change you have to make, you may want to consider engaging a professional instructional design firm to help you develop courses without a long-term commitment.
  • No: If there are going to be continuous regulatory updates that will impact your training materials, you might want to consider creating a new position and hiring an in-house training specialist to fill it. While you are conducting your search, you can still bring in outside training experts on a short-term basis to keep up with the current workload.

Have you been tweaking your existing training for years to keep up with changing regulations?

  • Yes: There is a good chance that your training may have become convoluted, and your learners aren’t getting the message that you think they are. When courses are updated multiple times, the content and flow can become difficult to follow. Especially if the author of training content has changed over the course of edits—creating inconsistency of voice and flow within the training materials, or if the authors are not familiar with adult learning principles, it may become difficult for learners to follow the training material and learn effectively. Making changes without re-evaluating the flow of the course could cause gaps in content that can be detrimental to the learner. Also, if major sections are removed, valuable activities may be replaced by less instructionally sound activities or content that is presented in a less than optimal way. Third-party training professionals can give an outsider’s perspective on the effectiveness of course construction, giving the course renewed clarity, especially if non-instructional-designers have been handling training updates.
  • No: Having a fresh start on training improves your chances of developing something that makes sense since you won’t have to piecemeal anything together. That said, if you’re new to instructional design and find that regulatory changes are more than you can handle, getting specialized advice is an option.

Have you evaluated the effectiveness of your courses recently, and does the current content meet the current regulatory requirements?

  • Yes: If the course is truly giving learners the knowledge or skills that they need to meet the regulatory requirements and you are measuring outcomes and seeing strong results, that’s a good sign. Be sure learners are exhibiting required behaviors, and continue monitoring the effectiveness of training moving forward. 
  • No: If you aren’t sure how effective your training is—either because you aren’t measuring whether learners are absorbing information or you don’t know if classroom material is being translated effectively to the workplace in a manner that keeps your organization compliant with regulatory requirements—it may be worthwhile to bring in external consultants to evaluate your training programs. It may be that your training materials should be adjusted, or it could be that training is not even the best solution. The right specialist can help you find the right path forward.

Don’t let your training program be what keeps you from successful alignment with regulatory requirements.

As Heraclitus of Ephesus is often quoted as saying, “The only constant in life is change.” When you’re working in a regulated industry, it can certainly feel like this is true. But that change can be accommodated if you have an agile approach to training development. 

If you worked your way through the five questions above and feel any doubt about your organization’s ability to keep up with shifting regulatory requirements, give us a call. We’d be happy to talk through what challenges you’re facing and help you determine what next steps might make sense to get your training planning where you’d like it to be.