I was recently working with a client planning to completely overhaul their training program from start to finish. We had meetings with managers from HR, Continuous Improvement, Operations, Production and Maintenance. There was one major overall goal to be met and that was to improve organization-wide employee “learning”, especially with operators.
After some discussion, we all agreed employees NEED to complete knowledge and compliance training before they begin any form of hands-on training or job shadowing. It sounds pretty obvious when said out loud, I mean why we would put people into potentially hazardous situations without giving them as much information as possible makes no sense. Sadly many organization still follow the older learn only by doing mentality to training. Outside of minimizing risks there are a lot of good reasons to build a foundation of knowledge before having new staff start hands on.
When an employee completes knowledge training before getting close and personal with equipment and their work environment they make the most of that hands-on training. They now know most if not all of the hazards to look out for, the basic standard operating procedures, all of the equipment involved in their position and how their role effects production. This is especially valuable with employees new to their field. A new employee typically feels anxiety from a lack of knowledge and experience, which can adversely affect the information retention from job shadowing and hands-on training methods. Hands-on training is expensive and job shadowing hurts efficiency so businesses should ensure that they will get the most out of it. By providing their employees with the necessary preliminary information they’ll always get the best bang for their buck.
Being a new employee is difficult but it can also be hazardous. Awareness helps prevent accidents and there is usually a deficiency within new hires. They simply aren’t familiar with their work environment or the equipment and processes involved in their job. By completing training before going into potentially hazardous work environments employees can greatly reduce their chances of being part of an accident and really is there a worse way to start your career at a new organization? Nobody wants to see accidents in the workplace so it’s best to reduce the chances among your highest risk group with a thoughtful initial knowledge training strategy and good OHS practices.
Shorter Learning Curve
Hands on training and shadowing are quite costly and at times difficult to coordinate. When done properly though they are very effective as long as employees have the base knowledge to make the most out of this training. Employees need more than simply compliance safety training before getting started. When employees are trained on all the aspects of their job before “getting their hands dirty” everything covered in hands-on training makes more sense and they pick up the necessary information and technical skills at a much faster rate. This results in a shorter learning curve and more effective employee development. Not to mention it cuts back on the total costs of expensive hands on training. For different types of learners, this blended style of training also ensures that they have every opportunity to succeed since information is presented in all different manners.
Everyone has their way of doing things but when it comes to compliance, operations and safety there are expected standards. When all training is done hands on with a supervisor or manager then all of those employees will learn their role according to that individual. Normally this isn’t an issue but when it comes to an employee’s foundation of knowledge and understanding of safety and compliance, these things need to be consistent across the organization. This allows employees to start off with the best opportunity to succeed in their new position and reduces variances in training based on supervisors or managers. Best of all it prevents bad habits from being passed on to new staff that can lead to inefficiencies or hazards in operations.
I believe hands on training methods will always have their place in operations but as technology improves so must our methods of developing our employees. We must start looking at this as employee learning and development as opposed to simply employee training. If we want to get the best out of our staff then we need to ensure they’re given all the tools necessary for success and that they are able to make the most of the time we invest in developing their knowledge, skills and abilities. So look into your own training syllabus and decide if you are currently foster employee learning and development or if you’re simply training them, there is quite a difference.
Donny McGrath, Development Solutions Strategist