How Your Compliance Program Benefits from User Experience Design

“User Experience” may be a term that is only tossed around amongst engineers and developers, but its role in compliance is critical for a modern program to succeed

Design is one our core values as a company and is exemplified in our software. We care deeply about how software looks and feels for the employee. Sure, you want your product to look nice, be on brand, etc., but it comes down to the experience and user interaction. By keeping the employee in mind it’s about creating a product that is non-threatening, easy-to-use and intuitive. You shouldn’t need an engineering degree to work any type of software. When it comes to creating and choosing the right compliance software for your organization and needs, it shouldn’t be intrusive when it comes to disclosing sensitive information — an act many people already see as highly intimidating.

Let’s get in your head
UX is about psychology. It’s about what connects with the end-user on an emotional and intellectual level to drive them to do X or Y action. If your compliance software’s font, for example, is in ALL CAPS AND IN RED how would that make employees feel? Intimidated? Scared? Like they were already being yelled at? Don’t forget, as the compliance officer, you want that employee or employees to disclose more, which in turn, makes software with an excellent UX design a wise business decision.

Scientifically backed benefits of User Experience
Cognitive and social psychology may be terms we heard about in our psychology 101 classes in college, along with the man who revolutionized them – Daniel Kahneman – but let’s revisit these quickly. (Food for thought: Kahneman’s name also came up in my economics class…) In short, the Nobel laureate teaches us and begs us to question our ability as human beings to think. In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman blatantly outlines his goal of the book, which is to equip people with a new way of thinking; a way in which allows us to understand our subconscious biases and decisions in hopes to behave better.

Connecting this economical and behavioral science to design may not be immediately obvious. Put frankly, a mindfully designed product is not designed for one user, but with many modes of thinking and personalities that may exist across an employee roster.

Using Kahneman’s System of Thinking, we can then break it down from a design approach.

System 1: Fast, Automatic, Intuitive and Associative
Think of multitasking and different levels of distraction – for example, you are writing an email about a new policy to your employees, but remember you have to pick up dinner for the family before heading home. You stop the email composition, and start looking up recipes for dinner. This system of thinking switches off and on quickly, but allows you to also go back to writing that email.  

System 2: Slow, Effortful and Thorough
You may be day-dreaming on a Wednesday in a long Board meeting about your annual family vacation. System 2 thinking forces our mind to be focused on the Board meeting and deliberately switches you back. This is the more difficult form, Kahneman argues, of thinking and expends more energy, which triggers a user to be tired faster and thus, dismissive.

The book outlines five systems of thought, but the first two apply most to interface design. Users are likely in Kahneman’s System 1 of thinking, however, with System 1 users are more prone to make cognitively drawn conclusions (i.e. “Our compliance program is either a success or a failure.”) This all-or-nothing mindset doesn’t leave room for mistakes or learning or innovation and provides a distorted sense of the true state of the compliance program.

Since compliance is finally being focused on (and depended upon) in many organizations after a decade of making its case, its supplemental software must help hone the importance of compliance and foster its success. If your software crashes in the middle of an employee disclosing sensitive information, they could make a cognitive choice and bluntly say, “Our compliance program is a failure. I’m never disclosing anything, ever again.”

Moral of the Kahneman story = make sure your compliance software provides a cohesive, welcoming and intuitive experience for your employees. Your program’s success depends on it, and user experience in the software is the core variable for sustained success. 

Good UX creates trust, increases connection and encourages behavioral decision-making
In the saturated space that is software development and design, inside Silicon Valley and out, there is an extreme emphasis on designers to reduce the chance of an end-user getting frustrated by not finding the right button or hassle-free way of entering requested information. Not only from a mature technology standpoint but from an abandonment standpoint – that customer can just choose the next best software option.

Good design seamlessly flows and moves the user from step to step without missing a beat.  If the software has trouble even opening or freezes or lacks a “Save” function, for example, the user is going to begin to lose trust in your brand. If the interface doesn’t look and feel like the way they view the organization, they will lose trust. Essentially, if the program doesn’t do what it’s advertised to do, they will loose trust in your organization. This, all in turn, decreases the likelihood of more (and better) information being brought to your attention. Starting to get it all now?

Another view on design and psychology comes from Abraham Maslow and his infamous Hierarchy of Needs – see Pyramid of Trust below. Maslow was a leading mover and shaker in human psychology alongside Freud and Adler, but a much different train of thought on how we self-actualize and prioritize human needs.pyramind of trust

I promise we will get back to compliance in a minute – bear with me.

Maslow argued that individuals must have basic trust needs met before being able to progress to higher and more frequent levels of interactions. Establishing this with a website or a piece of software is slow-coming and does not happen overnight or right after installation, similarly to building a relationship with a human being. It evolves, goes through stages and each interaction builds on the previous one.

Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) took Maslow’s Pyramid and applied it to our relationship with websites (at Convercent, we apply the Pyramid to our relationship with software).

“At each level of commitment, people have different needs. Once these needs are met in a satisfactory way, users will be more likely to trust your site, honor your demands, and progress to the next level,” says Katie Sherwin of NN/g.


Balance Matters
Software should get to know each employee on an individual level, and not in the creepy predictive sense. Rather, it should gather enough information from the employee that triggers a sense of trust in the software. Keep the trade-off balanced, in respect to how much you ask the employee and how much the employee inputs. By having a fair trade off, the employee is not annoyed by so many questions or fields to fill out and starts to see its impact (routing the disclosure faster to the appropriate person, for example, or closing the case quicker than usual due to improved data input from the employee).

How this all ties together in our end product

levels of committment

At Convercent, we must design and build experiences that meet the needs of often disparate sets of users. We have three overarching user categories: Administrators, Moderators, and Participants (the latter being the end-user employees at an organization). Within each of those groups, we have users not only with varying levels of skill with technology, but also varying degrees of trust.

By interviewing lots of users, then grouping them into meaningful categories based on their feedback, we’re able to think through the design of optimal workflows for each. An admin who’s a data-savvy “power-user” will have vastly different experiences and expectations working in our application than an entry-level employee who has only a moderate degree of computer literacy. Our challenge is to design and deliver the right experiences for each of these users while offering each an appropriate level of assistance and reassurance along their path.

In this latter capacity, communication is king. Users (your employees) have questions: “What happens to the information I input? Who can see it? Is there potential for me to get into trouble?” As a compliance officer, this is where you step in not just as the enforcement voice to get your employees to disclose more via your software platform, but assure them that it’s safe, secure, private and discrete; take out the element of fear that has traditionally stopped reports from coming to surface. It not only discourages an employee away from saying anything but in the long-term can harm your organization if the conflict falls to the wayside.

Better design, better experience, better compliance program
Your employees are your first line of defense against wrongdoing. However, stepping up and filing a report about having witnessed a fellow employee doing something unethical or illegal can be immensely intimidating in a workplace setting. “What if they find out it was me? Will they seek retribution? Could I lose my job?” By offering the right information just in time to meet the user’s questions as they arise, we assuage a great deal of the trepidation that accompanies sticking one’s neck out in the name of the greater good.

The heart of User Experience Design lies in understanding the goals, emotions and motivations of your users, then iterating your design relentlessly to give these users an experience that rises to meet the expectations of the most demanding users while also being capable of shepherding your base-level users to feel comfortable and empowered in taking meaningful action when needed.

WEBINAR: Don’t Let the Tail Wag the Dog
How to Manage Conflicts of Interest and Mitigate Compliance Risk
March 30, 2016 at 1 p.m. EDT

This interactive session will help you get to the bottom of each issue and features experts from Forrester Research, Convercent and USAA to present:

– Types of Conflicts of Interest and the risks they create
– What a well-designed COI management program looks like
– How to elicit, review, clear, monitor and manage disclosures of COIs
– Building the case (and budget) for COI management
– Reporting on results to proactively mitigate misconduct