Why training must be more than a New Year’s resolution

11 February 2021

Tags: Communication & Engagement, Training

As we launch our Good Practice Guide, Trends and Innovations in Effective Ethics Training, Dan Johnson addresses the shift in E&C training.

During the breakout session on training at our European Business Ethics Forum last week there was one comment which particularly stood out for me. It was the general agreement that when thinking about E&C training, the idea of a mandatory module once a year cannot be enough. It was a simple, but stark reminder that E&C training programmes may not be what they could be.

E&C training is a mainstay of most ethics programmes, however, when speaking candidly, most E&C leaders acknowledge that the report card for training programmes is at best, mixed – especially when thinking about behaviour change and creating positive impacts on company culture.

Today, we launch our latest Good Practice Guide – Trends and Innovations in Effective Ethics Training. While E&C training is nothing new, the approach that many E&C leaders are now taking has shifted substantially over the years.

Training interventions have traditionally focused on formal educational activities such as annual e-learning modules, classroom workshops and leadership off-sites, but our research reveals a more optimistic picture with less of a focus on the 10% of the well-used 70:20:10 L&D model. Instead, a wider definition of what constitutes training is consistently being taken – to such an extent that many interventions may no longer look or feel like training at all.

While standalone training events will not disappear, the way they are being supported with closely aligned initiatives means that the lines between training and communication are becoming blurred. This wider conceptualisation of what constitutes training makes it clear that “once a year is not enough”. 

Another way to think about it could be to consider the ‘other’ mainstream use of the word training – physical exercise.

‘Exercise more’ is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions. However, it is estimated that 80% of New Year’s resolutions have failed by the second week of February (which happens to be this week!), and the reason that many of these goals fail is not because of lack of intent, but because the intention doesn’t become a habit. Anyone who has set themselves an ambitious personal goal, such as running a marathon, can attest to the value of training, and very much to the idea that once isn’t enough. Additionally, the most effective training programmes involve different types of exercise, rather than just completing the same activity over and over again.

There’s a lesson here that can be applied to E&C training programmes. To achieve an ambitious corporate goal – such as culture change – a training programme cannot be a one-off, but instead, aligning a number of supporting activities will help to reinforce the messages and normalise desired behaviours (i.e. making them become like good habits in the organisation). Examples could include introducing regular newsletters, case studies, workshops or quizzes that focus on developing good E&C behaviours, but that don’t necessarily feel like training.

Our Good Practice Guide is designed to help those with responsibility for implementing and increasing the effectiveness of E&C training in their organisation. The different chapters share examples of how organisations are innovating across how they plan, develop, deliver and measure their E&C training.

None of the chapters offer ‘the one’ best approach, but instead explore a range of perspectives to help readers assess what is right for the specific context of their organisation by posing a series of reflection questions, such as:

  • Have you considered whether the labels used for your E&C training programme help or inadvertently hinder your training goals?
  • Do all learners need the same content?
  • Are there opportunities within your E&C training to be more programme-focused rather than event-based?
  • What, other than budget, is preventing you from testing a new approach to E&C training?
  • If a regulator or the board asks, how do you justify the rationale for your training plan?

To be effective, training programmes should be designed to support the idea of ethics as an enabler for the business. They will need to be engaging and memorable (for the right reasons), and certainly more than a one off ‘sheep dip’. Focusing on the behaviours you want to develop as habits will help and this starts by moving away from considering E&C training as a yearly, mandatory one-off that employees have to endure.

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Daniel Johnson
Daniel Johnson

Head of Engagement, IBE, d.johnson@ibe.org.uk

As Head of Engagement, Dan leads on, manages and coordinates the IBE’s relationships with supporter organisations and key contacts to promote mutual benefit and aid efforts to embed ethical values and ethical cultures across organisations.

This is Dan’s fourth  role within the IBE having previously held research, project management and products and services roles.

In this role, Dan acts as Secretary to several of the IBE’s practitioner working groups.

Dan is also a trained project manager and trainer, and represents the IBE with various public speaking engagements, facilitated training sessions and webinars.

Prior to re-joining the IBE on a full-time basis, Dan was seconded to BAE Systems for 6 months where he acted as the Business Conduct Manager. In this role, Dan led the activities for the update of the global Code of Conduct, and authored guidance on the role for an international network of ethics ambassadors.

Before this, Dan was employed in the CR team at Pentland Brands, responsible for data management and risk mapping Human Rights and Modern Slavery in the supply chain.

Dan holds a Master’s degree in Corporate Social Responsibility from the International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility at the University of Nottingham, and won Best Essay in the under-25 category of the ICAS Sustainability Essay Competition when he was a student.

To do what is right is excellent. To teach what is right is even more excellent, and much easier… – Mark Twain

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