How to Increase Learner Retention from Compliance Training… and Reduce Boredom


OSHA. HazComm. HIPAA. Hazmat. PPE. These acronyms don’t exactly arouse a feeling of fun, do they? No one wants to take compliance training, yet a huge percentage of corporate learning is centered around compliance. What gives?

As a L&D professional, it’s your job to make sure your organization can do the following:

  1. Comply with necessary standards.
  2. Help learners acquire compliance-related information they must know “cold.”
  3. Help learners find and locate relevant compliance information as needed.
  4. Make compliance training as engaging and effective as possible within a limited budget.


To accomplish these goals, we must think both about retention and engagement. Focusing too much on a fun, novel approach can lead to training that is not linked well to learning principles. Meanwhile, training that focuses just on teaching the necessary material can lead to learner boredom, burnout, and tune-out.

The best compliance training will connect these two extremes.

Increase Compliance Training Retention

1. Space out the learning and repeat concepts over time: Research shows that learning is seldom a one-time event. Use the learning principles of spaced repetition to provide both micro and macro spacings of your content. Make sure concepts are reinforced over time to aid in long-term memory acquisition.

2. Provide immediate, meaningful feedback: Most compliance training contains a posttest… and learners must reach a certain score to be marked as complete. We recommend also including a pretest, or some sort of Q&A in the solution design. During this pretest, provide immediate feedback and allow learners to retry questions they answered incorrectly. This way, they will embed the correct information in their long-term memories.

3. Use narrative story and scenarios to anchor the learning: Karl Kapp has an excellent blog post on how fantasy elements and story can aid in learning. By anchoring content to a story or fantasy element, it becomes more memorable and possibly even emotional.

4. Branch scenarios by job type: We wrote a similar blog post on this subject on the BLP Lessons on Learning blog, and it was there that we first shared our approach for branching scenarios in compliance training. By providing people with different job types a relevant experience, less of the content will be boring to them. They will also retain more of what they learn because the content is relevant.

Increasing Compliance Training Engagement

1. Use a serious game: Yes, research shows games are effective for learning. One of the reasons for this is the feeling of “fun” they create for players. For foundational knowledge topics like compliance, a game engine such as Knowledge Guru works well.  The game’s story, aesthetics, and mechanics are all created and you can focus on inputting your questions and answers into the game. The immersion and engagement of a serious game is a distinct advantage over merely using a gamification platform.

2. Gamify your content: Gamification has unique benefits as well. You can often add simple elements like points, badges, leaderboards, and levels to static eLearning content to create a motivating experience. Attaching external rewards to a gamification platform (or serious games) can also motivate learners to complete training they would otherwise find un-inspiring.

3. Include a test-out option: This was yet another feature of the Avoid the BBP’s gamified course we created for a Fortune 500 client. Senior employees had taken the same training year after year… and they would find the content boring no matter what format it was in. We built a test-out option in to allow so learners can remain in compliance but skip the course if they have the necessary knowledge.