Normally on this blog, we deal with
academic topics and legal issues at the intersection of antitrust law and politics. From time to time, however, we also want to provide an insight into the practical work of antitrust practitioners. This post summarizes some key points which should be considered when conducting antitrust trainings.
One training to learn it all?
Practitioners who have been dealing with antitrust law for many years are aware of it: antitrust law is complex and has many aspects. And even though some of us have supposedly done nothing else since elementary school (or at least say so), for most people antitrust law is still relatively new. Attempts to explain all aspects of antitrust law within one training session are thus doomed to fail. The salesperson does not need to understand how merger control works. And for people in HR, certainly different aspects of antitrust law are important than for the M&A department. Therefore, one should make confirm in advance who is participating in the training and what their responsibilities are. The training should then be tailored accordingly.
Is there anything out there besides antitrust?
We as antitrust lawyers – who deal with antitrust law 365 days (maybe not on Christmas eve) – naturally believe the whole world revolves around antitrust. But surprise, it does not. Good antitrust trainings should therefore address the needs of the business. Hence, one should ask oneself in advance, when do the individuals participating in the training come into contact with issues where antitrust law could play a role? At what point could conflicts with antitrust law arise and how can they be solved, taking into account both the business needs and compliance with antitrust law?
It should also be kept in mind that participants still need to do their regular jobs. It is imperative to take this into account when selecting a training date. After all, who likes to learn the basic rules of antitrust law with a deadline for the annual financial statement breathing down their neck, or when a beach chair is waving at them?
Get the audience to join in
It has always been hard to attract the attention of the audience in times of smartphones and notebooks. The Covid pandemic and moving a lot of trainings into the virtual space have not made it any easier. Paying attention to the first two points in this blog is the first step to avoid looking only at “black” screens with corporate logos. It is also important that employees understand why antitrust is important to them personally. Any examples should be relevant to their everyday business environment, otherwise one finds the audience asking itself why a multi-billion Dollar company active in an entirely different industry paying a multi-million fine should concern them individually.
Leave room for questions
One disadvantage of virtual trainings (which also have their advantages) is that there is no coffee break
or beer afterwards. Participants often like to use these breaks to discuss questions that arise from what they have heard bilaterally with the person conducting the training. This was and is a good way of obtaining information about antitrust risks of the respective company on a low-key basis. In a large virtual group, people are often more reluctant to address such questions. Thus, it should somehow be ensured that participants get the chance to address any questions they might have and that participants feel that they are in a question-friendly environment.
Before the training is after the training
Who does not know it: What made sense six months ago is now forgotten. The best training is useless if the content is not repeated regularly, and it is ensured that the employees can address open questions at any time after the training. Employees should not only think about antitrust law when they read about the next multi-million fine in the newspaper. Needless to say, any accompanying materials should reflect the content of the training.
Feedback is important – also for antitrust trainings. A thorough evaluation of what the participants took away from the training and where questions still remained unanswered is almost as important as the training itself. This is an efficient way to check whether the content was conveyed properly and understood by the employees – and to change things next time, if required.
Antitrust training is that easy?
Of course not: The devil is in the detail. But since we really do like competition ourselves, we have kept this article rather short and do not claim to be complete. However, the following sentence, which was said to my oldest son by his teacher on his first day in school two weeks ago, applies also to antitrust trainings: Even if you start school today, you never stop learning and therefore need to learn throughout your life.
[Photo by Ivan Aleksic on Unsplash]
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