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I had joined a new company and was taking the induction training. I thought it would be a good   idea to get fellow participants perspective. So I asked a young employee – “How did you find the risk management induction training?” He responded – “Was that training? It sounded more like a rulebook of corporate prison.” The training had bored me to death and I shared his opinion. I wondered whether risk management team took feedback seriously or were purposely designing trainings to turn off new employees.

Normally in India, a trainer reads out from the presentation the various dos and don’ts of the organization’s code of conduct, regulations impacting the organization and technicalities of business ethics. To enhance interest further some provide detailed information of GRC organization chart. The training comes to a dramatic end when in the last few slides, the trainer delivers the key message to the participants – We will fire you if you do not follow all this.

The newcomers already have butterflies in their stomachs. To add to their woes, we present a dry subject in a dull and boring manner. Then we expect them to imbibe the messages in their daily working life. Let’s face it, we are facing competition from Lady Gaga.  Gen Y is more likely to remember the lyrics of her song, than risk management training. To get their attention we need to reframe risk management training. There is no rulebook that says trainings must be without any rammatazz and unimaginative to the core.

Yeah, that's a HR Management book

I contacted Peter Cook, an unconventional and creative business author, speaker and consultant, to get his views. He is reinventing the art of human resource management. His recent book “Punk Rock People Management” is a winner. He innovatively connects human resource fundamentals with music. Unbelievable but true, you have to read one of his books to find out how he does it. His perceptive views on induction enormously impressed me. Here is my favorite paragraph from the book:

“Post-punk princesses Madonna and Lady Gaga unwittingly stumbled upon the problem of induction with their songs ‘Like a Virgin’ and ‘Bad Romance’ as did punk group The Boys with their minor hit ‘It’s my first time’. However good your hiring of people is,  failing to induct people properly can cost you in the long run. Classical HR induction sessions emphasize all the statutory stuff, such as health and safety and getting your corporate identity badge (whilst losing your identity). But they generally fail to establish what is called a ‘psychological contract’ between the new recruit and the company, which leads to long-term performance and commitment. The costs of NOT doing this include rapid turnover, poor performance, corporate sabotage and mental sabbaticals (the lights are on but no-one’s at home) etc.”

Peter makes an excellent point about psychological connection. Risk management trainings fail to positively influence the participants. The lines below highlight the ridiculousness of expecting participants to be gung ho about the training.

“Imagine what would happen if this approach were adopted when you fell in love. You would have a ARRSE (Adviser – Romance Risk Strategy Executive) come along to show you some PowerPoint slides on the risks of falling in love, issuing you with badges to say you are officially in love, and so on. So, why does common sense go out the window when we enter the crazy world of work?”

This prompted me to pick up three most applicable points for risk management induction training from Peter’s book and I requested him to share his views on the same.

1.    Understand the audience

The one-size fits all doesn’t work for risk management training. For instance, in Indian ITES sector, new employees join right after school. To them, terms like audit, fraud, ethics are practically incomprehensible. Their head will spin if we give them a download on various laws and regulations in the first training session.

The same applies in other industries also. The choice is ours – to be either amused or appalled at their naiveté. The story below depicts the level of understanding of a fresh recruit.

An experienced purchase manager working in food and beverages industry was offended with a new junior. The junior had accepted a gift from a supplier in their first meeting. The purchase manager called the junior to his room and asked in Hindi –“Do you understand ‘AAchar’ (ethics)?“ The junior replied in English– “Of course sir, it means pickles (Achar).”

This is the risk managers’ starting point for training. Therefore, prepare a training calendar with various sessions over 6 months to bring them up to speed. Peter mentioned that there are 57 ways to train besides classroom training – workshops, e-learning, mentoring, storytelling,  etc. Identify the staff learning styles and develop the training accordingly.

2.    Make training fun

I know it is tempting to give a few thousand pages to read to the participants. That is what we, as risk managers had to do. But remember the training participants haven’t signed in for a risk management professional course. Don’t give them manuals in the name of e-learning. That’s only going to make them panic. Make it simple and fun. Peter succinctly put this point across in his book. He says create an environment where people are naturally engaged. For example, he wrote:

Pubs do NOT have mission statements that say:

“We aim to encourage socio-sexual networking and leverage mission critical knowledge, skills and wisdom through the use of addictive depressant substances in a relaxing lifestyle environment that encourages the suppression of societal norms of decency and so on”

If you read this statement while entering a pub, will you immediately fall in love with the pub or hesitate to enter? Same rule applies to induction training. Why not explain the statutory stuff without using the corporate and risk management jargon?

3.    Help participants succeed

The biggest obstacle in the successful implementation of risk management training, is the attitude of the risk managers. The managers sometimes focus more on the numbers covered so that they can tick off from their to-do list and report to compliance that training was conducted. The trainers are not accountable to make the business teams effectively manage risks.

Sometimes, when the classroom training is over the participants do not know whom to connect with if they have questions when they start working. In some e-learning courses the same problem is exists.

Peter gives some good advice here. He says - “Make sure that new people understand on the first day exactly what they can do to succeed. Connect the new members with the people who can help them do their best”

Closing thoughts

Use induction training as a starting point to develop risk awareness and culture within the participants. Don’t make it a big ruse to cover numbers. If the training is good, the new employees will become unofficial ambassadors of risk management. By creating the right chemistry, risk managers will have long term allies in business teams. Make the start a memorable and happy one for the new employees, and they will keep coming back for more.

Author:  Sonia Jaspal is a risk management and corporate governance consultant with +15 years experience. She is a qualified Chartered Accountant (India), a Certified Internal Auditor (USA) and has cleared Certified Public Accountant (USA) examinations.

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