We’ve all been there: a safety training course where the instructor reads from the PowerPoint® slides word for word – attempting to jazz things up with a laser pointer – while the audience struggles to keep their eyes open by sneaking looks at their phones or doodling.

These attempts at training are run at considerable cost to keep employees safe, yet student retention of information can be low when the focus of a class drifts in and out of the material. The net effect is a high investment in training with a low impact to real world safety. Many companies have very knowledgeable instructors with years of experience, and they also have good material developed, yet this low attention/low retention still occurs. Not in all classes, but we are talking safety, so it shouldn’t happen in any.

It’s in the delivery

Why are some classes highly engaging while others low?

To be direct, current training methods rely solely on the personality and teaching style of the instructor to deliver the knowledge, and each instructor’s personality and style is different. Think of it this way: a knowledgeable instructor, with good material, is not a guarantee of a great class. What will help guarantee a great class is a standard method for delivering the material, and this delivery method should be captured in the instructor’s guide.

Not only should the instructor’s guide contain notes for the instructor, it should contain several methods to engage the students and tests for knowledge retention. Think of the instructor’s guide as standard work for delivering the course instead of teaching the course.

Consistency counts

To ensure consistent delivery and a high level of engagement among all trainers and all classes, design engagement right into the instructor’s guide following eight guidelines for each slide:

1 Mandatory points

There are items that are required to satisfy legal or regulatory compliance. These are the things we can’t miss, as doing so could result in a significant safety incident. The instructor’s guide needs to detail the way mandatory points are presented to the class. For example, during the delivery of the mandatory material, should the instructor just talk about it? What questions should he ask? What applications should be discussed? What relevant story should he tell?

2 Key points

Let’s change the thinking here. Think key points from the delivery standpoint. Each instructor should be thinking, “What do I want the students to know after I teach this slide?” In this way, instructors can ensure the main learning points of each slide have been taught and the students fully comprehended them. At the end of each key point, the instructor should engage the students on the takeaways, either with questions or actual applications.

3 Physical actions

What physical actions should an instructor be doing while teaching this slide? Walk into the audience, pick a student on the left, ask “X,” then walk to the right and ask a student “Y” to get the discussion started. Other physical actions include simple demonstrations with props in the room and having students do role playing. 

4 Photos

 In the instructor’s guide, the purpose of photos is not to show the students the photo right away, but to trigger the instructor to tell a real-world story regarding the subject matter. Attention remains on the instructor rather than an image on the slide. Instructors can also ask questions about the relevant application they described to build even more engagement into the class.

5 Quizzes

Every instructor should know which slides contain material that will used later on in a quiz. The instructor should not only make sure this material is covered, but do a deeper dive into the specific concepts. The end result is that students do well on quizzes, feel good about the training, and indicate to the instructor that the knowledge has been retained. 

6 Flipcharts and whiteboards

Instead of putting all graphics in PowerPoint®, the instructor’s guide should dictate which concepts should be drawn on a flipchart or whiteboard. The instructors guide should provide how to engage with the students while drawing. Questions like, “So, what would I draw here?” or “Where should this arrow go to?” make the students part of constructing the illustration.

7 Instructor’s notes

Each instructor’s guide should contain instructor’s notes. These notes should be thought of as a mentor whispering into the instructor’s ear to guide them through the delivery of the material. This would contain such things as, “Don’t go too deep into this subject; we will cover more tomorrow.” Or, “Pause here to let the last concept sink in.”

8 Reference material

The instructor’s guide should have material about each slide that can be read by the instructor the night before the training. This material should give a detailed description to the instructor of the concepts conveyed on the slide. It can contain academic examples, real-life applications, in-depth background, and more. This is where we can go deep on the material and is especially helpful for instructors new to the training.

Consistent standards = consistent results

As you build your interactive instructor’s guide, it’s important to provide some balance with the frequency of the attributes created. To ensure great engagement, here’s an example of what the mix of attributes could be over ten slides.

Each slide should have Key Points and References. On each slide, we will always want the instructor to know the main takeaways and the in-depth background material that informs the slide. The remainder of the engagement portfolio available to the instructor would appear as a scatterplot on the chart. The exact pattern will vary from class to class, but assembling the engagement portfolio in this way will help the instructor understand if they have been leaning too heavily on one type of engagement at the expense of others, or neglecting to use one or more of the attributes.

Using the engagement guidelines like this create a mix of attributes to keep your training engaging and the instructor on track with a consistent transfer of important safety knowledge. Knowledge transfer will equate to worker competency and a safer workplace, and companies can make their safety training great by developing instructor’s guides that utilize these eight guidelines, creating attributes for each slide and standardizing the delivery process to improve the learning experience.

The result? What we all strive for: getting our employees home safely at the end of every day.