How many times have you seen employees roll their eyes when notified of upcoming training sessions? How many times have you heard the comment “what a waste of time?” As a safety professional, wouldn’t you feel much better knowing your employees gained valuable, actionable information during training?
It might surprise you to know that the while the specific content is critical, how you present it and what you do with it is just as important.
Several key factors drive the effectiveness of Safety training. Each of these factors must be incorporated to maximize the return on your training investment.
Employees must understand the information and be able to easily relate it to their daily jobs. They also must be open and willing to participate in the learning offered. Depending on the size and complexity of your organization, as well as the physical layout, shift structure, and other operational factors, you may need to conduct multiple, customized sessions for specific groups of employees. These sessions should be designed with a pyramid structure, with the bulk of the information specific to the group of employees in attendance.
Training sessions should open with a description and update of the company safety program and initiatives, even if they have been in place and unchanged for a long period of time. This gives the department- and employee-specific training topics context and value in the larger organization. The next topic should cover department-level initiatives across the company, with a focus on departments with whom your current audience interacts directly. These two topics should take up no more than 25-30% of the session time.
Attendee job and departmental topics should comprise the remainder of your session. Be careful not to pack too many topics into this period, or you will risk losing the focus of your trainees. Use language and examples specific to your operation and your trainees’ department, equipment, and job functions throughout the session. Make sure you present to groups small enough for personal participation from the employees. This may mean holding multiple classes to effectively reach everyone.
Incentive and Reinforcement
Give employees a reason to get involved during the class. Make it fun! Reinforce the learning by offering token rewards for correct answers, contests for group exercises, or give short quizzes. Your sessions should involve everyone in the room, and should integrate management and employees in the same exercises. Build enough time for questions and example sharing.
Examples of inexpensive and meaningful prizes include ball caps, t-shirts, pens, gloves, and anything that the employees will see daily in their work. Have a safety message printed under your company logo on these items, or integrate your safety logo if you have one.
While keeping the safety message in the forefront for your employees reinforces the presence of your safety program, your main goal is to imbed safe practices into daily operations. Teaching safety concepts in a classroom setting is very different from thinking, acting, and living a safety culture. One way to help employees retain the information you are teaching is role playing, using real-life situations and coworkers to play out situations pulled from your daily operations. Plan these exercises carefully, and act out situations that are truly representative of your operations. Use your employees and staff to help you design these examples, and show both incorrect and correct scenarios.
Before you conduct your training sessions, plan how you will put your employees’ new skills to work. Use the session to introduce new processes, procedures, and skills, and implement these immediately. There are two risks to waiting. First, you will get busy and implementation will not happen for days, weeks, or maybe it will never happen. During this lag students will lose all or part of the information you taught during your class. Second, waiting will diminish the importance of the information in the students’ minds. If you can live without it for even a few days after training, it must not be that important, right?
While training sessions are an event, they are part of a larger safety culture that integrates management and employees, formal and informal learning, and daily implementation and integration. Safety training is an investment in your operation, your staff, and your bottom line, and you should invest the time and focus in making it as effective as possible.
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