Employee education supports organizational growth and development. Its benefits are generally well known, but how do you ensure that training, in any form, generates the outcomes and advances you desire? Measuring and benchmarking success can be especially difficult when creating customized training programs, which are often needed for international trade compliance topics.

Most international trade compliance training is developed either in-house or by third-party providers with the goal of customizing the training to company specifics. There are few canned, or pre-packaged, training programs available. This is primarily due to the complex and highly specific nature of international trade regulations. International trade compliance education often comes in three forms.

In-House Development: Many companies prefer to develop their own compliance training programs. This allows them to tailor the content specifically to their business operations and industry. It also enables them to update the training materials as needed to reflect changes in international trade laws and regulations. However, developing in-house training requires a significant investment of time and resources. Resources needed for in-house development often support policy, procedure, management, strategy, and day-to-day operations creating a vacuum in those areas when staff is engaged in in-house development.

Third-Party Providers: Other companies choose to outsource their compliance training to third-party providers. These providers are experts in international trade laws and can provide up-to-date, comprehensive training programs. They can also offer a fresh perspective and may be able to identify potential compliance issues that might be overlooked internally. Third-party providers may struggle to tailor training to the company's specific needs and operations if there is not a clear understanding of the company's expectations.

Canned Training Programs: While there are some canned training programs available, they are less commonly used. Canned programs may not cover all the specific regulations applicable to a particular company or industry, and they may not be updated as frequently as necessary to keep pace with changes in the law.

Several instructional design models exist to assist international trade compliance professionals. For this discussion, we will use the ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation) approach as a guide. ADDIE is a widely recognized instructional design model that offers several benefits in the field of learning. Each phase has a specific role and contributes to the overall effectiveness of the education or training program. Compliance professionals should match the time and energy spent in each phase to the needs of the program they are developing.

Analysis: This phase involves identifying the learning needs of the students or trainees. It includes defining the learning objectives, understanding the learners' characteristics, and determining the resources available for the training program. In other words, what will make the program successful? If you are developing training for classifying products under the Harmonized System, do you want general awareness training for purchasing teams, General Rules of Interpretation (GRI) awareness, or detailed classification of the company's products? A clear picture of the desired outcome is crucial to all future steps. Determining the level of training, the audience, and outcomes may require formal analysis or may have been identified through other compliance or audit processes.

Design: In this phase, the instructional owner outlines the learning content, instructional strategies, and assessment methods. The design phase results in a detailed plan or blueprint for the training program. This may be developed in-house or in conjunction with a third-party provider. Some organizations require specific branding in the design of internal training programs while others are more flexible. The design phase should also identify how the training will be delivered as it may impact the content design options. For example, will you deliver it in-person, on-demand, etc. This decision may also impact the tools you have available to assess the effectiveness of the training.

Development: This phase involves creating the actual instructional materials based on the design blueprint. This could include lesson plans, multimedia content, interactive activities, and assessment tools. When working with a third party, this phase is often significantly handled by the provider and should involve periodic meetings and discussions to ensure the development matches your expectations while keeping costs contained. Customizing content can be done in many ways. For example, case studies that apply core learning topics discussed can help learners recognize how the training applies to their daily job roles.

Implementation: During this phase, the training program is delivered to the learners. This could be in a classroom setting, online, or through a blended learning approach. The instructor's role is crucial in this phase to facilitate learning and ensure the training program runs smoothly.

Evaluation: The final phase involves assessing the effectiveness of the training program. This could involve testing the learners' knowledge, gathering feedback from the learners, and analyzing the results to identify areas for improvement. When designing the content, it is important to decide what evaluation will be acceptable. Is training attendance enough? Or must the learner pass an exam? If so, what percentage would be considered passing – 75%, 80%, 90%, 100%? What happens if the learner doesn't pass the exam?

Knowledge Transfer is a subset of the evaluation phase. It is often overlooked but provides crucial insight into the effectiveness of training. Knowledge transfer is often tested 30, 60, or 90 days after the completion of training. This can be very formal such as multiple-choice questions, or less formal such as a game or case study. However, the goal of Knowledge Transfer Testing is to measure how much information the learners have retained and how well the knowledge is being applied. This step is often overlooked but provides a critical picture of the effectiveness of the training. It also provides input on ways to further enhance future versions of the course.

International trade compliance training generally has a high Return on Investment (ROI). Fines and penalties in this arena can be high including $1 million plus per occurrence. Maximizing the benefit of training further increases the ROI, increases employee satisfaction, and minimizes corporate risk.

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The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.