How To Make Your Training Stick

Whether It Is Machinery Operators, Technical People Or Managers, Training Is More Than A One-Time Event.

By Steve Schumacher

Through my travels around North America, working with various companies, one distressing thing I have noticed is the lack of knowledge about how to make training last over time. That includes both soft skills and hard skills required to get jobs done in plants, quarries and offices.

Too often, training is seen as the responsibility for the Human Resources or Training departments. Would you say that safety is the responsibility of the Safety Coordinator? Of course not.

You want everyone responsible for safety. It is the same with training. In order to be most effective, all of your employees must see themselves as responsible for getting the necessary skills and abilities to be excellent at their jobs.

A few years ago, I was working with a manager who confided in me that one of his veteran employees just was not cutting it and he was considering letting him go. The employee had been with the company for more than 15 years and had never had a poor performance review.

When I talked to him, he seemed to have a good attitude and was positive about his career with the company. The manager just did not feel that the employee was doing what he was trained to do.

I had the manager list the top 10 things the employee was supposed to do, and had the employee do the same thing. We then compared lists.

The lists were not even close! At that point the manager realized that he had not kept up with making sure the employee was continually on track with his knowledge of the job. Rather than letting the employee go, the manager gave him some remedial training and committed to following-up with him on a regular basis.

When looking at an employee’s performance, there is no way you can hold that employee accountable for being successful until you have given them the tools to be successful. That does not mean you train them when they first join the company and then let them go off on their own.

Learning and long-term success on the job takes a focused effort on your part, as a manager, to make sure the learning sticks.

Get involved in building training programs.
If you have a vendor that supplies training to your employees, go through it yourself before rolling it out.

See if the vendor can customize it specifically for your situation. If it is training on machinery, make sure every aspect of it fits your needs. If it is soft skills, work with the vendor as a subject matter expert. Do not assume that an off-the-shelf training program will get you the results you want.

Make the training rigorous.
A lot of training programs teach people the basics of what to do. An effective curriculum will also teach them how to handle any and all problem scenarios.

Trainees should be well aware of what to do when unexpected things arise in the plant, in quarries, and on the road. There should be plenty of testing, role-plays and monitoring of the skills in training, prior to going out on the job.

Training is not a one-time event.
Equipment is becoming more complex and the skills someone learned five years ago may not be applicable today.

Set up remedial training programs, even for the most veteran employees. Do not let your workers get comfortable with how they do their jobs. Set up systematic, continuous refreshers.

Use adult learning theory in your training.
Get a professional training designer to work with you. They know how to structure training programs to be most effective.

Two hundred PowerPoint slides do not make an effective training program.

Trainees must be actively involved in their learning through simulations and practice. Training should be an active event that is spread out over time.

Give people some information, let them practice it, and then check for understanding.

See One – Do One – Teach One. This is a model to keep in mind over the long-term. Give trainees the opportunity to observe work being done correctly and ask questions.

Then, put situations together where they have to perform the tasks in front of an expert.

Once the expert is convinced that they can do the task, look for opportunities for the employee to teach others. Teaching others is the final stage of learning.

Identify best practices.
Over time, your employees will take the training they went through and improve it on their own. Look for those superstar employees who have taken the training to another level on the job.

Team them up with a training professional to build best practices training for other employees. It will enhance work capabilities at all levels and provide some recognition for your superstars.

In summary, to get a return on your investment in training, you must take a long-term view of it.

Training is not pixie dust, it does not make employees perfect overnight. Just like any other business strategy, it takes continual follow-up and evaluation to be most effective.

Effective leaders are the key influence in bringing about innovation and opportunity. Their search for ways to advance and grow the organization takes them far beyond the traditional structures, methods and concepts that have worked in the past. In today’s fast-paced market climate, empowering members to test new approaches and ideas is critical. This creates the innovation, creativity and opportunity needed to drive change.

The forces of change come from both inside and outside the organization: customers are the source of demand for product and service innovation; process innovation generally comes from within the organization itself and through its employee members. There are definite factors needed to create the innovation–in essence a willingness to break from past methods–to effect positive change and incremental transformations.

A major function of the leader’s role is to stimulate innovation and creativity, to bring about incremental transformations that improve an organization’s products, services and overall quality. This is necessary in order to meet both external and internal customer needs. Accomplishing this is done through developing an empowered environment that instills and reinforces innovation.

– Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

Steve Schumacher is a management consultant, trainer and public speaker with more than 25 years of experience in numerous industries throughout North America, including aggregates operations. He can be reached at [email protected].


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