The Society of Corporate Compliance & Ethics (SCCE) graciously allowed me to lead a seminar on “Communicating Ethics with Movie Clips, Viral Videos, News Feeds and Memes” at CEI in Las Vegas last week. (I was blown away by (A) the invitation and (B) the fact that an ethics conference was being held in Sin City.) Even though the class was at 9 am on a Sunday (considered the witching hour in slot country), everyone engaged and participated in discussing how to transform various sources of popular culture into illustrations that can be used in training.


My students taught me three important things concerning the direction of ethics and compliance training.


1) The Millennial Revolution

I hadn’t realized the growing influx of Millennials into the workplace was impacting training. Because these digital natives speak a cultural language so far removed from traditional training, they have unwittingly forced management to seek new teaching styles, fresh media and increased interaction in training in order to have any hope of affecting the comprehension and conduct of new employees.

The disconnect between old-style teaching and Millennial student learning has created a chasm that can no longer be ignored.


Trainers are not only eager for fresh ways to engage their audience (especially if they can harness social media), but they are (finally) finding upper management receptive to new methods for effectively communicating important information. There’s a growing acceptance that one size does not necessarily fit all when training, and that it’s important to create a dialogue with students instead of relying solely on lengthy monologues.


2)  In WITH the Old

This excitement for fresh approaches doesn’t have anyone racing for cans of kerosene to burn their current training to the ground. Everyone agrees the information and “guts” of what they’re teaching is good, so there’s no need to knock the structure down to the studs and start over.

That said, there’s widespread agreement that the standard operating procedure of training is in dire need of some cosmetic love.


How can you transform the training house with fresh paint and some modern furnishings? A reasonable financial investment and a dose of creativity can refresh your current training plan in much the same way your grandma’s musty old house can suddenly become a hipster’s dream bungalow. Inserting a well-produced video (like these), allowing for group discussion or at the very least adding memes (like I post every Friday) to a text heavy slide deck can go a long way in improving engagement and retention.


3) Advertising, Not Lecturing

Since the dawn of corporate time, training has mirrored college with a professor lecturing students who take a test over the information they crammed… and then promptly forget. This style drains everyone involved and typically doesn’t produce the desired long-term results (though it does check the legal department’s box).


It is becoming increasingly clear, especially with employees raised on YouTube, that this method is short-sighted at best. Counter-productive at worst.


Imagine Coca-Cola launching a new product with an hour long PowerPoint deck and then never talking about the product again. (Inconceivable!) But that’s what people do in compliance training. Sure, some important topics may get addressed yearly, but most things get left to employee orientation… never to be covered again.

If the old advertising adage of needing eight impressions for a message to sink in applies to exciting products, then you definitely need that many touch points for communicating compliance.


Excitement is building around an advertising campaign approach to training that uses various media (videos, memes, posters, memos, etc.) that continuously drip out over a long period of time. Micro-teaching on subjects through several small bursts and diverse touch-points cuts through the clutter to remind and reinforce compliance for the long haul. This style of training also appears to be more effective than forcing employees to binge in one long sitting… especially since they inevitably purge the information down the road.


Those are the three things I learned from my class last week. Does what they taught me ring true for you as well?

BTW — You can get a taste of the movie clip portion of the class in my new ebook “How to Teach Ethics and Compliance with Hollywood Movie Clips,” which is available for free download on our home page.


Bryan Belknap, an award-winning screenwriter and speaker, is Creative Director at Resonate Pictures, which specializes in story-based training and branding films. His new ebook “How to Teach Ethics and Compliance with Hollywood Movie Clips” is available for free download.


Tags: , , , , , , , ,