A new study reveals that failure to comply with workplace regulations, policies, and procedures costs UK businesses over £1.7 million per year on average, primarily due to employees either not knowing or not understanding the rules. Despite this, educating staff about compliance remains a comparative afterthought.

The study, titled “The True Cost of Rule Breakers in Workplace Compliance,” was released by CYPHER Learning, a provider of modern learning platforms for business and academic settings. The findings highlight the crucial need for effective employee education around workplace compliance.

The survey of 400 HR and business leaders, split evenly across the US and UK, found that nine in ten (91%) UK respondents believe greater employee accountability would mitigate business risks.

However, 74% of UK respondents believe staff don’t ‘get’ the importance of policies and procedures, so engagement is an ongoing battle – with 67% saying getting workers to comply with policies is a major headache. Furthermore:

  • Unknown risks: 69% of UK respondents think staff are likely breaking rules, but often don’t know until something goes wrong – with policies relating to HR, data sharing, and health and safety being the areas people believe employees are most likely to cut corners.
  • Lack of time and resources: 97% of UK respondents believe employees would be more likely to understand and comply with policies and procedures if training was more engaging. However, 89% of UK respondents said barriers such as a lack of time, funding, and urgency prevent them from making training more engaging.
  • A growing problem: In past three years, 45% of UK businesses have updated or created policies relating to sexual harassment, bullying and workplace conduct. Other areas such as hybrid working (41%), sustainability (42%), cybersecurity (39%), social media (39%), gender inclusivity (37%) and diversity (37%) have also featured highly. But 74% of UK respondents said they don’t have the time to regularly update policies and procedures.

One of the issues highlighted by the research was a lack of investment and focus on making training around policies and procedures more engaging. Just two-fifths (41%) of budgets assigned to policies and procedures is spent on employee education – equating to just £111,900 per year on average. Meanwhile, 62% of respondents admitted employee education is often an afterthought, with 63% complaining that training in this area is “one of the most boring things” they have to do.

The research also showed that:

  • Email updates and company newsletters (50%) are the most common ways UK employees learn about policies and procedures.
  • Less than half (48%) of UK companies conduct online training. Fewer still (34%) create explainer videos or interactive, gamified training experiences (24%) to drive the message home.
  • Only 57% of UK companies continually educate employees on policies, with 65% admitting to treating training as a ‘one-and-done information dump’ during the onboarding process.
  • Less than half the companies surveyed (47%) test employees’ knowledge to ensure they have fully understood a procedure, or educate them on the purpose of each policy to aid understanding (45%).
  • Even fewer (39%) tailor guidance to individual competencies and job roles to ensure relevancy.

Graham Glass, CEO of CYPHER Learning, commented: 

Reducing risk and increasing employee engagement go hand in hand. Making learning more interactive and engaging has been proven to increase information retention and engagement. Yet finding time and resources to think creatively about policies and procedures is a challenge. This is where AI can lighten the load, helping teams create timely, relevant, and engaging courses at speed – while making individual learning at scale a reality. By bridging skills and resources gaps, AI can give teams more time, more resources, and more freedom – with remarkable efficiency and economy.

Graham Glass, CEO of CYPHER Learning

Editor at Workplace Wellbeing Professional | Website | + posts

Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.