Y/N to training feedback for Compliance Training?

Aug 23, 2011

Perhaps some of the folks here can offer their insight into this one...

I've been involved with an ongoing disucussion/debate over the pros and cons of soliciting feedback from "the masses" on some specific compliance training they are required to take annually.

Current Situation:

  • No feedback mechanism exists at all
  • Target audience 20k+
  • Single course taken annually ~45 mins
  • Unspoken #1 goal is to meet regulatory/corp requirements

The debate breaks down along two lines...

Pro: It can't hurt to get feedback because it will only serve to make the courses better (or at least more palatible)

Con: Opening up feedback sets up an expectation that we will make the changes they ask for and/or we will get lots of feedback of a negative nature.

What do you all think?

10 Replies
Leah Hemeon

Hi Bob, we struggled with this internally as well although our audience is MUCH smaller - 1500 or so. We ended up compromising by adding a link to an optional short survey available on the second last screen of the course asking for feedback. The survey itself is very simple - 4 questions plus a free-form comments box. The top of the survey thanks them for taking the time to provide feedback and says something to the effect of we'll consider all feedback for possible inclusion in future development. We make no commitments.

We don't get a great response rate as it is optional and some of the comments are nonsense (I hate eLearning, you should have paid for me to travel to X location to get in-person training... this on a privacy & security awareness compliance course). We have had a few gems - the best was a suggestion to have follow-up reference cards available for download. This was something we'd though of but couldn't get support for actually developing them as it wasn't seen as important. With the learner feedback we were able to go back to the stakeholders and suggest it as an easy win.

All in all - I've been really pleased that we put the feedback mechanism in place. Learners are  used to filling out surveys for all kinds of things. Those who want a say may appreciate being asked.

Saenna B Ahman

Hello Bob, i am with Leah, it can be  very helpful to open up a avenue to get feedback even though there are a few headaches that sometimes go with it. (Certainly with an audience that large there will be a little work in sifting through the comments, right?) But as Leah mentioned, if you make it optional and only ask a few targeted questions, the information you gain might be well worth it.

Like Leah, my team had a simliar situation once where we were able to receive some funding for some enhancements to a training program based on some of the feedback we received in an optional survey on a management fundamentals course. The number of trainees who had commented was actually quite small (statistically speaking) but their feedback provided important anecdotal data that our stakeholders really paid attention to. If we hadn't had the feedback data, we probably wouldn't have been able to "justify" the expense of revamping a specific training activity in the course.

Good luck with this and let us know what you decide

Bob S

Thanks Leah and Saenna,

As an old-school training guy, you might expect that I agree with you two.

But what has surprised me in this case is the breadth of the opposition to the idea. From senior stakeholders right down to the existing training folks that produce the training currently. So like a good Covey-ite, I'm seeking to first to understand before being understood.

Can anyone here share some insight into the opposition's point of view?

James Brown


With feedback Leah hit it on the head. It's hard to get feedback and if you want feedback you need to do something to make users want to give you feedback. Of course that's just talking about getting the feedback. The second thing you must consider is what is the value of the feedback and are the questions you are asking going to give you the information you need to make the presentation better.


Mike Taylor

Leah Hemeon said:

.....We have had a few gems ....

Personally I don't think any course should ever NOT have some mechanism for feedback. Our experience has also been that the response rate is pretty low but of those who comment there are some really valuable  "gems" as Leah commented.  We also get great questions for clarification, etc that improve the course. As for negative comments they are really few and far between and definitely  nothing that would warrant turning the commenting ability off. 

Steve Flowers

Opportunities for feedback are priceless and worth the occasional rant you'll get from an open field. We add short surveys to the end of each of our compliance courses. These are optional and brief. Generally we only include one or two specific questions and we tend to take the opportunity to include one question from a more broad standpoint in each survey. We do get quite a bit of opinion that could be interpreted as complaining, but even within these rants there are insightful gems that help to inform future designs and the messages we use in announcements. Here's an example of the one-off questions we sprinkle into the L1 surveys:

  • Do you have special needs that this course didn't accommodate? If yes, please explain below. (we tend to stick with a consistent model, so if there's general feedback about needs that weren't considered, we can adjust the model and apply on revision)
  • How do you perceive the courses available on the LMS?
  • How does your management chain communicate the services available within the education portal?
  • Are you currently pursuing a degree or taking classes?

We usually only include one of these general questions per survey. Ideally, we want people to take time to provide feedback. So we don't overload the experience. By spreading out these "general collection opportunities" we also gain some insight into places where we often wouldn't have any viewport.

To gain real feedback on a course, you might consider soliciting for volunteers to sit on a "virtual council" to hold focus groups at various stages even without getting everyone in the same room. The first impression of a course after roll-out can differ from the feedback you get down the line. Lots of factors at play. Having a control group to help you with a learner's perspective can be really helpful. This can also be a helpful marketing point for the course. If your audience knows that you're not just firing torpedoes from a vacuum, that you're actually involving people *just like you* in the process of build and revision... it can take some of the pressure off.

Bob S

Thanks All.

So it's unanimous then? Not a single taker to defend or at least expand on the "con" side of the question eh?

Ah well, that's what happens when you ask a bunch of traning professionals about making training better and more tailored to the learner's needs...  we're all for it! 

My upcoming meetings with the stakeholders should be interesting...

Thanks again,


Steve Flowers

It sounds like folks may be viewing this instance as:

Exposure = Policy. Perception is irrelevant.

Maybe framing the benefits of collecting feedback in different terms could be helpful. Is there some other statistical impact to failure to comply with the covered regulation? Is there a "degree of goodness" to compliance that would benefit from practice and application? 

Framing the feedback collection in terms of improving impact of the training product might be the trick. This assumes that the training was developed with a performance outcome in mind 

Jim Young

I gotta be honest, I winced a couple of times as I read your first post, Bob.

Can we find a better #1 goal than meeting regulatory requirements?  I think Steve's on the right track with the "degree of goodness" idea.  Find a more noble goal and you'll find your reason for wanting to improve the training.

And "feedback of a negative nature" isn't all bad, right?  After all, at my age I don't want news of a "negative nature" from my MD but that doesn't stop me from getting my annual physical checkup (yeah I know I look younger in my picture but it was taken a few years ago). 

The check-up won't give me cancer, but if I do have it, I need to know about it.   In a less dramatic way, the feedback won't make our trainings bad, but if they are bad, at least we can know that and do something about it.

Actually, I thought Tom Kuhlmann's blog entry yesterday was pretty interesting.  I kinda like the idea of giving learners the chance to suggest their own questions. 

I guess in the end I'd rather have engaged learners who care enough to give feedback, even if it's bad at times, than apathetic learners who click "Continue" and move on.

Kelly Meeker

Bob, I think I can suggest a few reasons for the "con" point of view (to help you understand it!): 

  • If you ask for feedback, you do set up an expectation that you'll address the feedback. (And if you don't address the feedback, you'll end up with learners who are cranky that you asked them for answers you don't care about.)
  • If the goal of this program is merely to meet regulatory compliance goals, management probably doesn't care about anything other than how quickly it can be over - and how quickly staff will get back to "real" work. Asking for feedback and then (yikes!) doing something about the feedback just takes more time on your end and the learners' end.
  • They probably also assume that, because this is a regulatory compliance course and not something they perceive to be critical for meeting business goals, that all of the feedback will be bad. Not because you've designed a bad course! But because the content is inherently dry. If the course is boring, and you still have to do it, then why set up a mechanism for employees to complain? 

Those would be my best guess as to why people are against soliciting feedback. I expect you already have a ton of great answers to all of the above points!

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