A new report offers benchmarking data for ethics and compliance officers looking to see how their training program and objectives stack up against their peers.

According to a survey of 677 ethics and compliance professionals conducted by NAVEX Global, the top three training trends that companies are applying to their programs are adding courses to cover more risk areas (42 percent); measuring training effectiveness (41 percent); and placing additional emphasis on training middle management (34 percent).

Another emerging trend, coming in a close fourth: 33 percent of respondents said they are developing a multi-year training program (also known as curriculum maps), more than double the 16 percent of respondents from last year. “This kind of multi-year planning will help organizations ensure that they are training the right audiences at the right time on the right topics at the right frequency,” the report stated.

Although many respondents said they are adding courses to cover more risk areas, most respondents said they are not assessing and assigning training course topics based on an organizational risk assessment. Only 15 percent or respondents said that they plan their program this way, according to the report.

Once again this year, “creating a culture of ethics and respect” is the top training program objective, cited by 46 percent of respondents, as it was for last year’s respondents. The second most cited objective at 31 percent was “complying with laws and regulations.”

The report also found a decline in the amount of training time being given to senior leaders and board members. Senior leader training times dropped by nearly 90 minutes to 4.4 hours. Board training times also declined by an hour to two hours.

“Losing training time for boards and senior leaders is a disconcerting trend, particularly because without the most senior leaders setting the right tone-at-the-top, compliance professionals will find it very difficult, if not impossible, to meet their stated top objective of creating a strong culture of ethics and respect,” NAVEX Global said in the report.

In comparison, annual training time for non-management employees rose by about 60 minutes from last year, to 7.1 hours. Training times for middle managers stayed about the same at 6.5 hours.

Training Challenges

In a new benchmark this year, NAVEX Global asked respondents what their biggest challenges are to training program effectiveness. Their number one challenge was employee cynicism (37 percent), with employee fear of retaliation for speaking up about misconduct a close second (35 percent).

“Progress can certainly be made on reducing fear of retaliation through training, but combatting cynicism is a tougher issue to tackle, requiring organization-wide alignment between stated values and actions, along with consistent, authentic efforts to create a healthy organizational culture,” NAVEX Global said in the report.

Another challenge that gets in the way of training programs is fragmented and flat budgets. Respondents indicated that “not enough budget” is the fourth greatest challenge to their training program, and one in four respondents indicated they do not have a dedicated training budget at all. Additionally, the majority of respondents (71 percent) anticipated their budgets will stay flat over the next 12 months.

Of those respondents who do have a dedicated budget, it is often sourced from multiple departments, according to the report. Without a dedicated budget, it is “extremely challenging” to plan properly, or demonstrate a return on investment on training.

“In a time of tight budgets and increasing scrutiny, ethics and compliance training programs are not immune from the expectation to maximize ROI and show a tangible return on investment,” NAVEX Global said in the report. “Compliance professionals must continue to mature their programs, demonstrating and creating value by measuring and reporting on effectiveness, maximizing efficiencies and ensuring strong senior-level executive support of—and funding for—program goals.”