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LMS Can Help Regulate Good Ethical Practices

Written By: David Clark
Published On: June 5 2008

When we talk about the benefits of learning management systems (LMS), training and employee competency usually come to mind. For that reason, LMS is often considered a less-than vital business activity (since it doesn’t address “core” business issues). Add to that the fact that nobody really enjoys training, and you’ve got a recipe for, well, no LMS.

However, when it comes to compliance issues—that bugbear of service industries—you may find you haven’t got much of a choice. Learning management systems are favored by regulated industries (for example, financial services and biopharmaceuticals) where compliance training is essential.

Compliance issues, of course, come in several shades:

  • regulatory compliance (financial services industry, legal, accounting, other professional services)

  • industry compliance (such as certification and licensing requirements in the insurance services)

  • good ethical practices


The advantage of an LMS in these cases, of course, is that you can record the state of your employees’ knowledge. Not only does this demonstrate to regulatory authorities that your staff has been properly trained, it also provides a measure of protection: should any of your employees violate a compliance requirement, you will have ammunition to demonstrate that the employee rather than your organization is at fault.

If you’re looking for an LMS to handle these sorts of issues, your shortlist should consist of vendors who specialize in the core compliance area. Another vital component: the learning management system’s ability to integrate with your human resources system, to allow tracking of historical training and performance management data.

But the most important criterion: the ability to audit. Not the ability to audit your financial integrity, should those ghastly government revenue people need to see reports of your accounts. Rather, an LMS allows you to audit your employees—or at least their behavior, in order to determine if it reflects the training the employees have received. In some cases, this criterion may have to do with the employee’s integrity, as the following examples demonstrate.

For over 40 years, companies in the United States have had to self-regulate workplace sexual harassment, and they must be able to demonstrate the efforts they have spent on preventing it. In 1996, as Ed Cohen discusses, an Illinois (US) auto manufacturer was unable to prove its employees “had been adequately trained and informed about corporate sexual harassment policies.” The pay out: $34 million (USD) in compensatory damages.

Another large American auto plant had to settle a sexual harassment charge against an upper-level executive. The employee filing the suit also blamed other executives, whom the plaintiff claimed had not taken sufficient action to protect her once they had been told of her complaints. This case was settled out of court to the tune of $190 million (USD).

For both of these companies, a learning management system could have helped show that the accused parties had been given training on workplace sexual harassment. “The burden of proof” Cohen explains, “was on the companies to demonstrate to the courts that employees had been trained and agreed to behave in accordance with a specific code of conduct.” LMS could have helped demonstrate that the employees in question had either not absorbed that code of conduct or had chosen not to agree with it.

With a learning management system, you can be assured that although your employees may not be ready for the real-life tests thrown at them on the job in spite of your best efforts to train them, your company doesn’t have to suffer the consequences.

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