If you ask employees why they're attending your legal training presentations, what would they say?
"My boss made me..."
"Legal says we have to..."
"It's some corporate thing..."
I bet these are not far off.
Even when you've already gotten buy-in from management, legal training is generally marketed to employees as something they "just have to do". There's no messaging focused on the personal benefits to the employee.
Sometimes meeting invitations titled "Legal Training" just magically show up in their inbox without any context at all!
This is a huge mistake.
In order to create effective legal training programs, you need to market your training to employees by emphasizing the personal benefits they'll receive through attendance.
Okay, how do I do that?
1. Understand the root of the problem - why am I sitting in this training session?
Remember back to the days of your youth?
Like mine, I'm sure your parents gave you a pretty simple reason to follow their instructions - "because I said so." While this may be a valid-enough reason for a 6 year old, it does not fly in the workplace. Employees want to know why they're taking time out of their busy schedules to listen to you talk about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
So, after you get buy-in from management, tell employees why they need legal training. Sell it to them! If the pitch is compelling, you will get better engagement.
(not only that, but science shows that you can more easily get people to act if you tell them why you're asking them to take that action - our ultimate training guides on advertising, antitrust and FCPA all utilize this concept)
On the other hand, if you don't tell employees why legal training is important to them, it will quickly become a "check-the-box" exercise with no lasting impact.
Okay, so I understand the base issue. Now what do I tell employees about why they need training?
HINT: Don't use the terms "best practice" or "compliance"
2. Sell employees on the personal benefits of your legal training
A 2014 study by Accenture found that 80% of job-seeking college graduates expected to receive formal job training from their employer.
Why do these college graduates want job training?
Why is the online course market booming?
Why do employees attend night classes after work?
I assure you the answer is not because employees want to follow "best practices" or "foster a culture of compliance."
Answer: Employees are interested in learning relevant skills to improve their careers and marketability.
Corporate counsel need to sell employees on how legal training will provide them with new marketable skills.
Let me give you an example.
A classic area of "because-I-said-so" legal training is anti-corruption compliance. Usually anti-corruption is covered in annual online training for all employees, and is presented without context or reason. Because of this, most employees will infer that the company needs them to complete the training to avoid trouble with the government. This type of motivation doesn't resonate with many employees who will tune out, assuming that they won't get any personal benefit from the training .
What if we change the message?
Instead of "because-you-have-to," what if anti-corruption training was presented to the employee as a skill-builder? Or a "negative-spotlight-avoidance mechanism"?
Highlight some of the personal benefits for employees:
- All things equal, wouldn't business people feel better hiring a candidate for VP of Sales who has had engaging international anti-corruption training (with extensive knowledge to prove it) versus the candidate who clicked through the slides as fast as possible?
- All things equal, wouldn't business people prefer to give that promotion or raise to the employee who demonstrates excellent reasoning when navigating through complex anti-corruption issues?
- Wouldn't employees rather not be on the hot seat for accidentally shipping a product to a terror group?
The answer is YES.
Of course, you will need to change emphasis for each type of training you offer (e.g., improve negotiation skills for contracts training, improve relationship building skills with anti-harassment training, etc.), but the basic guidelines remain the same:
Employees want job training to improve their skill sets. Sell your employees on the personal benefits of your legal training.
3. Actively market personal benefits before, during and after legal training (this is IMPORTANT)
Don't just send a one-liner in your meeting invite about how your legal training will make the employee a better negotiator. You need to live and breathe your message before, during and after the legal training.
Before - Send a list of the personal benefits to employees along with the meeting invitation.
E.g., Contracts training:
Next Friday, you are invited to the legal department’s Contracts Training presentation. We understand your schedule is extremely busy, but please make this a priority as we will be helping you build some new negotiation skills which will help you get that next big sale or promotion!
What new skills will I learn?
1. How to read a commercial contract (or, how to show my boss I know what I’m doing)
2. How to be an expert at negotiating pricing
3. How to avoid the “big surprises” that get you noticed in a bad way
Please let me know if you have any questions in advance.
During - Make sure to highlight the new skills you mentioned where applicable. It is best to include them as slide titles and address them specifically during the meeting. In fact, these skills should be the highlight of the presentation.
After - Follow up with a summary and additional resources to feature the skills you have discussed.
By following the guidance above, you will create more engaging legal training which will benefit both employees and the company.