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Mandatory online learning


We have had an online learning system on a "here it is if you want it" basis for the past fifteen months.

For the first time, however we are making one piece of content mandatory for all staff (all 3000 of them worldwide).

Does anyone have any experience they would like to share with me on things I need to look out for in making online content mandatory? I have considered ease of access for the endusers, and the amount of server traffic. However I am sure there are loads of things I have not thought of - especiallly around makng sure that people do actually do the training - so any guidance would be much appreciated!

Stephen Taylor

4 Responses

  1. Mandatory training

    Hello Stephen,

    In a previous role we had to manage 8,000 call centre staff through various Financial Services and associated regulatory courses and tests.

    I will not cover anything too IT technical and in a way that is not really the answer. Having effective and timely reporting of usage and results to the right people is the key.

    In order to get all of the staff through in the time allotted we engaged our team leaders and made them responsible for the achievement of the outcome.

    In my previous organisation a team leader was responsible for about 6 – 12 people.

    They had to ensure that everyone had done the course or passed the test at the required level.

    The reporting from the training site (intranet based courses / programme) could give a team leader a report showing all the people who had completed the training to the required level on a daily basis. This allowed the team leader to increase the priority of the training as time went on.

    In this way we regularly managed to get all 8,000 through a test or required learning package in a week.

    You also need to have good reporting back from the team leaders to pick up those who are sick, on maternity etc. so they can be reported accurately as missing and not failed or non compliant.

    If it is for regulatory purposes you will have to show that you have secure log on procedures and that these ar policed to ensure that one person cannot sit the session for others.

    Break the material into small modules and test each module, as long as this is appropriate and acceptable. We went for 20 minute sessions. This had two advantages; firstly it meant that the attention span of the learner was not stretched too far. Secondly, as they were working in a call centre, they could plan to do five sessions in a week to complete a one hour course (the largest course we had) and only use 20 minutes a day which the team leaders could easily manage.

    Final thought, we expected the staff to do the training in work time. Some companies have tried asking staff to train on their own time and this often increases non compliance and late returns.


  2. How ‘mandatory’ is ‘mandatory’?
    Hi Stephen.

    I like Nick’s process guide, and his outline is very useful.

    Perhaps one further point to think about (you may already have thought of this of course) – are you including the outcome of the training as a ‘role requirement’ as part of recruitment and performance management?

    Perhaps these may be regulatory requirements, but if not, in my experience organisations sometimes make a decision that specific training requirements are part of ensuring consistency of service or quality of service delivery without a regulatory framework.

    In this case, your particular quality checking processes may link back to the knowledge, understanding and behaviours of staff, in terms of highlighting personal development needs as part of an individual or team performance and quality improvement process.

    It would be important to ensure the measurability of the skills assessment criteria, so that individual skills can be objectively assessed using clear grading criteria, perhaps a skills or competency framework, and giving managers the task of ensuring the skills within their teams are assessed and/or developed within a certain timescale.


  3. Blend the Mandatory Module
    Hi Stephen!

    I’ve used mandatory e-learning quite a few times over the years. As well as the great advice you’ve already received, I’d add that you must make sure that the value of the e-learning is appreciated by all that do it.

    So make sure you provide follow-up to the online content in other forms of training, be that a workshop or maybe a helpline or someone to whom learners can turn, as they may well have questions that need answering, or help in putting the learning into the context of their own role. If they can’t answer the “so what?” test after having taken the module, many will see this “mandatory” module as something that just has be viewed to please the organisation. Word of mouth can quickly spread that there was no apparent value in doing it or that it left so many unanswered questions, as to be questionable in its usefulness.

    Also, try if you can to make the study of the module very “matter of fact”. The less you highlight the fact that this is something “different” or “special”, the more people will just get down and do it.

  4. Mandatory training
    Hi Stephen,

    I shall assume that you have a Learning Management System in place to track completions of your mandatory content so I shall skip straight to what I feel is an important issue.

    As you state, you have had online content available for 15 months – has the uptake been good…or disappointing?

    One of the key features of effective learning is that it must engage the learner – it must acquire the learner’s buy-in. Without going into detail, there are a number of factors you need to consider to ensure that amployee A says to employee B :- “Hey, that online training was great – I knew why I was doing it, I learned loads and it was actully fun!”.

    If this training is to be mandatory, you must ensure that the audience isn’t deterred from completing it – it must engage!

    Further, you have the ‘carrot or stick’ conundrum. do I bribe them or coerce them…? Without an appreciation of the audience, I cannot make any suggestions here.

    If you would like to talk further please email me. I work for a learning services company which specialises in ensuring mandatory training is as engaging as possible.

    [email protected]

    Kind regards,



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