Blog #3 for RTOs - Compliance and reporting

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After more than 15 years of working in IT and education and training, I’ve seen one challenge in particular experienced by just about every CEO or owner of the business.

And it’s a bit of a scary one. Every day, CEOs and management are signing off on compliance and reporting without being sure that it’s up to scratch.

It’s a tough business

Delivering education and training in Australia is complex, and at times, extremely difficult to navigate. I still remember the first time that somebody sat me down and explained precisely what’s required to start an RTO. The amount of sheer effort that goes into compliance is astounding, and at times I’ve wondered why anybody would even bother. But luckily for us, there are still people who are passionate about education and get great personal and professional satisfaction in passing on their skills and knowledge to the next generation.

But the question remains. As a CEO, you are happy signing away your life (and reputation) when you approve compliance and auditing, without ever really knowing that everything is up to scratch? And do you feel that the only way you’d ever be 100% confident that it’s accurate is if you took on the management of the entire business yourself?

Compliance is more than ‘just a job’

As the operator of an education provider, you rely on your staff to do their jobs. While this isn’t an unfair expectation of your team, you need to inject some reality into the assumption they’re going to be as dedicated to the details as you are. The reality is that, to most staff, helping you manage the business is “just a job”. When they clock off on Friday, they’re not worried about the compliance and reporting for the previous year. They finished that task before they walked out the door, so it’s job done.

The challenge comes when, as the person responsible, you’re faced with areas where your reporting isn’t up to scratch. Your training delivery has inadvertently become sub-standard, you’ve not tracked student activity properly, and reporting files have failed to upload or were incorrect. Or worse still, you’re being audited.

While most staff aren’t negligent in their activities, they’re only human. With the constant policy
and regulation changes, they can be forgiven if it all seems a bit overwhelming and difficult to keep up with. That said, I’ve seen RTOs come unstuck when their best intentions have resulted in non-compliance and their businesses have been destroyed.

Trying to accurately manage any business on spreadsheets, or using the cheapest IT systems, isn’t going to lead to success. Training organisations must make sure that they have systems that are built by providers that clearly understand the market and keep abreast of the continually changing regulatory and compliance needs - and the realities of running an education and training business.

Ask the hard questions

Knowing the difference between reporting data and being able to pass an audit is something you should quiz your business system provider/s on. If you find that you’re using a critical business application that merely ticks the compliance boxes without truly understanding the complexities and reality of running an RTO, it might be time to review both the solution and the capabilities of your technology partner.

Some forward thinking

Make sure you have Business Intelligence tools and reports that allow you to monitor your key business metrics in real time. It’s no use finding that you’re going to fail an audit after the audit has started. You need to be able to see small changes that could lead to bigger problems and take corrective action early.

Remember, technology is on your side. With machine learning and artificial intelligence, there are systems emerging that mean repetitive tasks such as reviewing progress, monitoring sentiment of students, and learning material can be automated and completed in a fraction of the time frame that it took even 2 years ago.

You just need to know where to look.

5 ways today’s RTOs can use technology to improve business outcomes

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