What I Learned on My Summer Vacation – Training with Magic

Lauren Barnett, Compliance Specialist

With school recently starting for kids around the country, I got to thinking about those “what I did for summer vacation” essays or projects we had to do when we returned to school. My essay this year would have been about going to Walt Disney World. For those who know me, that would be no big surprise. I’ll go ahead and confess it, I am a Disney nut. I love Walt Disney World and dream about my first trip west, to Disneyland. Inevitably, when people hear I go to Disney World multiple times a year they ask, “Why do you go so often?” As I consider the reasons, I realize that some of the attributes that fuel my love of Disney are of the same ones that make for successful compliance training. I can’t promise that these will make your training as magical as a trip to Disney World, but a little bit of pixie dust does go a long way.

Accessiblity. A few hours in the car and I’m there. I don’t have to fly and deal with all that entails. Even if did have to fly, Disney does all it can to make it easy for me to get to Walt Disney World. They have their own hotels, and if I stay in one of those hotels, they pick me up and return me to the airport. They have busses, boats and monorail that shuttle me around from my hotel to anywhere I want to go on property.

In compliance training, we need to be conscious of how learners are accessing the training and communication programs. We need to ask the appropriate questions related to accessibility. Is a training window a one shot deal or do we stagger courses through the year to extend the learning opportunities? Are the policies stored in areas where those who need them most are likely to access them? Are policies or other documents only available in one format? Are you offering documents or training in the format that makes the most sense for the group. When we offer learners the easiest pathways to our training and education, the more they look forward to returning.

A Place We Can All Play. When Walt Disney’s daughters were young, he took them to a carnival. While his daughters enjoyed the amusements, he was left to sit on the sidelines and watch. This did not sit well with Walt. He thought parents and kids should be able to play together, and he set about creating a place where that could happen. That place, Disneyland, recently celebrated its 57th birthday, so I’d say Walt was onto something. The challenge with the training in the commercial compliance space is that our primary audience has been sales and marketing. Times and philosophies have changed and the audience is broader. However, the temptation can be to stick with the reliable old examples because they are the most impactful and helpful in illustrating how certain laws affect the industry. Unfortunately, this leaves some people sitting on a bench, unengaged. As the landscape has changed, we have to remember those who are now playing in our park, and do what we can to show, that yes, unlike high school calculus, this information applies to all of them and they will use it again.

Similarly, since we’re dealing with laws and regulations, we need to avoid the trap of keeping the legal tone with which the laws and regulations are written. Some of us are used to that “legal style” and naturally use it in our training, policies and communication pieces. But, not everyone else is riding the “legal style” teacup. We need to broaden the language. In compliance, we like to say “compliance is everybody’s job.” Keeping the training and any supporting tools and materials in “plain English” creates a space where everybody a) understands what their job is relative to the laws and regulations, and b) makes compliance training a more compelling experience.

Tell Me a Story. Nearly every attraction at a Disney theme park has a story associated with it. Some are more obvious than others, but the story is always there. Telling stories is something Disney does well, and it’s something that separates its theme parks from its competitors. Stories paint a picture, set a mood, and most importantly, stories are what people remember – they make the information stick. Great training teaches through stories. That concept is not necessarily what learners expect from compliance training. Why not find ways to make learners part of the story and not just passive learners? Just like Disney does it.

It’s All About the Show. Anyone who knows Disney knows they are fond of using theater terms like “cast members,” “onstage,” and “backstage” to describe areas of the parks and the people who work in them. At a Disney Park, everyone’s responsibility is to put on “good show.” From the person sweeping the street to the person in the Mickey Mouse suite, everyone is a “character” (some literally some figuratively) in the show. When they step onstage, (the areas visible to guests), they have a part to play in making the guest experience magical.

In addition to the human element, putting on a “good show” includes the physical surroundings. Burned out bulbs are promptly changed, trash is constantly picked up from the ground and painting and in-depth cleaning and adjustments are regularly scheduled. And as beloved as some rides and shows are, they have to be changed or replaced with something new that reflects the Disney company as it is now, or what the patrons know and treasure now. It even extends to the types of benches, signage, landscaping and ambient music in the various areas or “lands” of the theme parks. “Good show” is about the obvious and the details coming together to give the guest the best-in-class, magical, Disney experience.

As with Disney, the “training show” is about pulling all the other elements together in a way that captivates the audience and inspires action on their part. It’s about keeping things timely (you aren’t still talking about that settlement from 2007, are you?), making it interesting, and evaluating the training for re-boots. It is about ensuring the “little things” in your training are on theme. Using branded slides, colors, fonts and imagery that is representative of the company are all critical in telling the story of compliance and enhancing the training show.

Ultimately, I believe the Disney experience boils down to this: by and large, the people who work for the parks are genuinely excited to deliver a magical guest experience. Most people are happy to be there, they smile and they are beyond helpful. The “behind the scenes” folks are passionate about what they do. It all comes together to deliver a magical experience.

The same is true for compliance training. Conveying excitement and passion for the topic is the key. All the shiny, branded and most up-to-date training is not captivating if the people behind it aren’t conveying their excitement for the topic. That means finding that thing that makes compliance “magical” for you, and conveying it to the learner. We all ended up here because for some reason we really enjoy compliance. Zero in on that joy and communicate it through the training. You’ll be excited about delivering it, and learners will appreciate your enthusiasm. To me, that’s what the magic is all about.

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