Training for trust and loyalty

November 5, 2009
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Treat trainees like adults.


It is easy and, at first glance, more cost-effective to keep safety training quick and cheap. Due to the economy and OSHA re-emphasizing compliance and fines, safety training becomes more necessary. Save money in the long run by making training effective and long lasting.

Understanding and involvement are key goals in any training and especially in safety. Employees are even more uncertain over the future of their jobs, and loyalty is running lower than ever along with these uncertainties. Trust between management and employees has always ridden on shaky ground. Loyalty comes only when management truly shows they value the contributions of their employees. If training is de-humanized, the opportunity to demonstrate this value is lost. It is time to rehumanize training at all levels. Some practices to remember in this process are:

Refocus on the personal (human) side of training. While technology in training is a great tool, don’t abandon human interface and interaction. Most of the technology-based training cannot address the involvement portion of true education. Instructor-based training can meet the needs of individuals as well as group/team. An instructor can use technology-based training within the class structure.

Encourage and elicit employee experience. In safety, there is no more value received than information gained through employees sharing experiences. What better way to educate others and correct potential critical events than employees relating the “what” and “how” things happen to them and others. Near-miss reporting is an excellent example. This exercise affords a good opportunity to prevent accidents and promote awareness; a very powerful training and problem-solving tool.

Honor and respect trainees; treat them as adults. Unlike children, adults decide for themselves what is important to be learned. They need to validate the information based on their beliefs and experiences. They expect what they are learning will be useful immediately. They may have fixed viewpoints and may have to be persuaded regarding the information imparted. Significantly, they have the ability to be a knowledgeable resource to the trainer and others being trained. This must be honored and respected.

Understand the culture of the facility. Every facility and work environment has its own culture. Before beginning any training, the culture must be defined and understood. The best way to accomplish this is to conduct a cultural survey and study. This study will reveal what is happening, what is believed to be happening and often generate suggestions for improvement. While this can be done in-house, the most objective and truly revealing studies can be produced through anonymity and using outside neutral resources.

Management and supervision involvement in training is critical. Management and supervisors can show employees a great deal by being involved. “Involved” is not simply “in control.” It means actually participating in the training itself. Management and supervisors become part of the training class. They work right alongside the other trainees, all operating at the same level; no bosses. Management often learns exactly what people do on the job and what they know. Other employees learn the pressures and demands of their managers and supervisors.

Acknowledge obstacles and accountability. In training, there will always be obstacles, from funding to personnel difficulties. Especially in these economic times, there will be difficulty in justifying the humanized approach. However, using the more personal approach can help gain trust and more participation. There will always be difficult employees who will attempt to sabotage the process. You may never pull them into the team, but usually these employees do not last long anyway. Accountability needs to be defined and spelled out for the entire workforce population. It is an important goal to convince the entire workforce that they are part of the whole safety process, and their role is critical in making not only themselves safe but their co-workers. Employees cannot get this message from electronics.

Non-threatening training environment provided. Unless a trainee is out of hand or confrontational, the greater percentage of a training class need to be heard and listened to. Offer positive reinforcement for this participation.

Involve all – use exercises. Avoid preaching and straight lecturing. The use of learning exercises that promote participation and emphasize particular concepts and critical points are invaluable. The key to capturing the attention of those being trained is to provide them with as many opportunities to become involved as possible.

Zero in on practices (behaviors) as well as technical. When training in safety, pinpoint and define all desired practices (behaviors) as well as the technical aspect of the safety subject at hand. All the technical information and requirements are provided to facilities by experts and government agencies. However, no one but the people who work the job know better what are the safest practices in performing a job, in an area and plant wide. A great deal of statistical information reveals that up to 95 percent of all accidents are the result of unsafe behaviors. In all our experiences, we have determined an average of 90 to 95 percent results through near-miss and accident analysis.

Establish goals of all involved in training process. The goals and objectives of everyone involved in the training should be established at the beginning of training. This includes all trainees. It should be jointly agreed by the entire training group and the trainer what each and everyone expects and wants out of the training.

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