Strategic Targeting: Maximizing the Effectiveness of Legal and Compliance Policies and Training
Before we start:
One of the key principles I teach is the importance of preparing people’s brains to take in our content and to remember it through the art of the ‘Preframe’ and the ‘Postframe’.
- The Preframe is how we share before we share it fully. It can influence the way people think about a topic, issue, or situation and help them to recall the information they are learning, particularly when it is new. It’s more than an explanation or introduction. Think of it like a movie trailer. It’s designed to invigorate, inspire, and instill a sense of ‘must have’ or curiosity in the recipient.
- The Postframe is how we help people to remember and embed the information they have learnt. It usually entails a summary of three to five key takeaways that we want to reinforce and a few action items.
- I share the science about how the Preframe and Postframe helps our brains understand and retain new content, in my new book Told: How in-house legal and compliance professionals secure airtime, gain traction and transform organisations.
You will spot the Preframe and Postframe elements in all of my articles.
What you will learn in this article:
- The key difference between adequate and effective when it comes to policies and training.
- Why legal and compliance controls fail the employees who use them.
- What legal and compliance professionals miss when sharing messages with employees and
- how to immediately enhance training and communication effectiveness using the Audience Initiated Messages (AIM) formula.
1. When Legal and Compliance Policies Fall Short: Unveiling the Gap Between Adequacy and Effectiveness in Training
Many years ago, I was working for a formidable General Counsel in a global company in their in-house legal team as an employment lawyer. It was the days when offices still had executive suits on the top floor and that was where the GC was situated. Her office was guarded by a wonderful executive assistant who was equally friendly as she was protective of her boss. To get into her room you had to have an appointment!
I had just come across a piece of information in the form of a text message which strongly indicated either a prank (as it was so obvious) or outright bribery. The latter turned out to be what the regulators suspected.
It was one of the few times when I managed to get into the GC’s room without an appointment! The rest of the story is in the record books of the DOJ and the SEC.
But that is not relevant here. What is relevant is how and why this suspected behavior happened in light of the policy and training in place to manage the risk. Why was it that employees, who received no personal benefit, would risk their jobs, careers, and the reputation of the organization?
It’s a question that has plagued me for the remainder of my career.
U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs March 2023 “describe specific factors that prosecutors should consider in conducting an investigation of a corporation, determining whether to bring charges, and negotiating plea or other agreements. These factors include “the adequacy and effectiveness of the corporation’s compliance program at the time of the offense…”
What I have learned over the course of my career is that adequate does not mean effective. Having training and policies in place may provide adequate protection for the company. i.e. the right policy is in place and there is training that accompanies it. But just because there is an adequate policy or training does not mean that they are effective, just like the case I described above.
2. The missing focus in Legal and Compliance training and communication
Many lawyers and compliance professionals I come across focus on three things:
- The legal/compliance obligation
- The actual risk relevant to the organization
- How to manage the risk
When it comes to advising on the legal obligation and risk, this is a great formula.
But when it comes to explaining and sharing what people in the organization need to do to manage the risk, this formula falls short.
Messaging does not fail to land because of any fault on the lawyer or compliance professional. It’s not because we cannot explain what needs to be done in plain language.
The issue is far simpler than that. It’s that we are trained to focus on what we need to say, and not on what people need and are prepared to hear.
This doesn’t mean that we can only deliver good news. Unpopular information can be shared and fully received if we focus on our audience.
And I learned the hard way.
- I was 26 working in a niche employment law firm in London. I had taken on the task of researching and then presenting on the importance of fiduciary duties to a room full of clients. Unfortunately, I was so insistent on sharing what I ‘knew’ in the form of a 20-page legal presentation, that I missed that the room of people were hungry and waiting for lunch. People actually walked out! Ouch!
- I was presenting in-person and virtual compliance workshops around Australia. It was my 30th workshop and I knew the session back to front. I knew it so well that I went into autopilot mode and forgot the most important process at the start of the session. After presenting for 20 minutes, someone asked me who I was. I had forgotten to introduce myself!
My ad hoc approach to engagement was getting average results. I needed something intentional.
AIM Fire with Audience Initiated Messages
Audience Initiated Messages (AIM) is a term I created for aiming our legal and compliance messages at what people are prepared to hear rather than what we want to tell them.
I was intentional about creating messaging that would relate so closely to who my audience was and what occupied their minds, that it would seem to them like they actually asked for it. Or at least expected it.
To their brains, it needed to feel almost like they initiated it. To do this, I needed to know at least as much about my audience as I do about my message before I share anything. So, I started working with my clients on understanding their target audiences. At the end of this article, I have shared the types of information this is.
This approach of understanding our audience and providing messaging that is congruent with them is a game changer.
Shoot, aim, fire.
You have reached your destination.
Key AIM Takeaways
- Adequate does not mean effective. Consider ways you can communicate your policy or train people in a way that they receive the message they are prepared to hear.
- Know at least as much about your audience as you do about your message you are sharing.
- AIM your messaging at what people are prepared to hear rather than just what you want to tell them.
- Next time you are considering putting on a training session, workshop or just a presentation, focus on 1 to 3 attendees, depending on how many people you are presenting to. Take 5 minutes to jot down everything you can about these people. Then ask a colleague some questions to test your understanding.
- Review your content and add in an extra case study, update some of the introduction and add in a few choice words that would resonate with these 3 people.
Types of information to collect about your audience
- Demographic information, like their age, gender, work situation, and location. This enables us to better understand certain background characteristics of our audience and target messaging to them. Marketers do this the whole time. But in legal and compliance this can also be just as useful. Take a message on tax facilitation for example. Demographic information such as age can help us target why this is a problem for a person of that age. Maybe money that could have gone to funding their children’s childcare is lost. Maybe, the school heating system isn’t fixed.
- What their role is, really! I don’t mean their job title, I mean what they actually do in their role and how they do it. Are we dealing with a technical crowd or a strategic crowd? We may need to communicate differently (methods and content) to different skill sets. For example, there is a marked difference to how someone working in an analytical or engineering role assimilates information compared to someone in a creative team, such as a designer.
- Know what keeps them awake at night. What are they concerned about? How can you alleviate that concern in your messaging? e.g., instead of “say no to paying a bribe”, why not “in order to hit your targets for the month, don’t pay unnecessary commissions to third parties”. The focus becomes something that the audience associates with whilst benefiting your own goals.
- Know (or take a guess) at their psychographic data, like their challenges, interests, and aspirations. You won’t get all of your audience using this approach, so focus on one or two people. This information will allow you to motivate your audience into what they are interested in. This helps with analogies and case studies. For example, you may have an audience who are interested in tennis. You can use the case study of a provider asking you to pay an all-expenses paid Box at Wimbledon. Even if the whole audience isn’t interested in Wimbledon, you can be sure that someone will relate to it.
About Untold Compliance
Untold Compliance is the creation of me, Nicole Rose.
I am a UK and Australian qualified lawyer and also an artist. I have spent the past twenty years working with global organisations transforming legal and compliance programs using training, engagement, creativity, and communication strategies.
Working with employees, executives, and boards in complex legal and compliance global environments in mining, banking, tech, education, retail, non for profit and insurance, I have firsthand experience of what works to transform legal and compliance from a program to a culture.
The great news is that the principles of effective communication and training strategies that we share in Untold Compliance are applicable whatever your size, industry, culture or, country.
Untold action items
To uplevel your legal or compliance program through a customer centric approach to training and communications, there are three things you can do:
- Read: Get on the list to be the first to read Told, How in-house legal and compliance professionals secure airtime, gain traction and transform organisations.
- Learn with me Find out how you and your team can utilize the Frame Training Method™ to power all your legal and compliance training and communications.
- Let us do it for you: Contact me to learn about how I can support your organization with training and communications to power your legal or compliance program.
Just click here to share what you are interested in learning more about. Feel free to tick all three.
And if you liked what you read, I would love to hear your feedback. Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.