When is training a waste of time and money? According to Steven Pereira, a CSP and owner of Professional Safety Associates, Inc., it could be when training will not solve the problem. Two nationally recognized training references, OSHA's Model Training Guidelines and the ANSI Criteria for Accepted Practices in Safety, Health and Environmental Training (ANSI/ASSE Z490.1-2001), both suggest that a training needs-assessment be performed to determine if training will correct the performance problem.

If personnel know what to do, when to do it and how to do it, but do not perform up to expectations, training may not solve the problem. It may be they don't have the correct tools, materials or equipment to do the job. Likewise, it could be a motivation or discipline issue.

What are the needs?

When you determine that training is needed, spend your training dollars wisely by performing a training needs-assessment. You should ask and answer a series of questions:

  • Who is the target audience?
  • What is it that they need to know? In other words, what do you want the participants to be able to do when they complete the training?
  • What constitutes successful performance? How will their performance be judged or measured?
  • Under what conditions will you expect personnel to perform?
  • Is it possible that different audiences will need different levels of training? For example, some people will need skills-level training, while others will need awareness-level training on lockout/tagout. It wouldn't make sense to put everyone through the more extensive lo/to training program.

Who's the target?

You also need to know something about the target audience. What are their abilities, including work experience and reading ability? Is literacy an issue? Likewise, is English a second language?

Consider previous training these workers received. How effective was it? Are you seeing evidence that it was forgotten or misunderstood? On the other hand, can you build on what they already know?

Are there constraints?

What constraints do you have? When does the training have to be completed? What is the drop-dead date? Can you train everyone at once or will the program have to be presented in multiple sessions. What training resources and facilities do you have?

What about stakeholders? Who is impacted by removing employees from the line for training? Will you have to train people on their days off? If so, you may be paying them at a premium rate. If you have to backfill a position, you may be paying 2.5 times the base rate for the position.

What are the objectives?

Now it's time to get to instructional design. Once the employees' training needs are identified, employers can prepare objectives for the training. Instructional objectives, if clearly stated, will tell employers what they want their employees to do, to do better, or to stop doing. There are five types of objectives:

  • Terminal objectives - Objectives that state the learning behavior a trainee is required to demonstrate on successful completion of a training course or program.
  • Critical objectives - Instructional objectives that, if not mastered, might result in significant injury to individuals or property.
  • General objectives - Instructional objectives that, if not mastered, could result in an interruption of operations.
  • Minor objectives - Instructional objectives that, if not mastered, will not present a threat to persons or property, and will not result in an interruption of operations.
  • Enabling objectives - Objectives in a set of objectives that support the attainment of a terminal objective. Each enabling objective represents a significant step in attaining the terminal objective.

Start with your terminal objective. It's what you want the trainee to know or do after the session ends. Be specific and clear. Don't include the "nice to knows" unless you have time. Stick to the "need to knows."

For an objective to be effective it should identify as precisely as possible what trainees will do to demonstrate that they have learned, or that the objective has been reached. Objectives should also describe the important conditions under which trainees will demonstrate competence and define what constitutes acceptable performance.

Using specific, action-oriented language, instructional objectives describe the preferred practice or skill and its observable behavior. For example, rather than using the statement: "The employee will understand how to use a respirator" as an instructional objective, it would be better to say: "The employee will be able to describe how a respirator works and when it should be used." Objectives are most effective when worded in sufficient detail that other qualified persons can recognize when the desired behavior is exhibited.

Once employers state training program objectives precisely, learning activities can be identified and described. Learning activities enable employees to demonstrate that they have acquired desired skills and knowledge. To ensure that employees transfer the skills or knowledge from the learning activity to the job, the learning situation should simulate the actual job as closely as possible.

What are the critical objectives you must train in order to meet the terminal objective? Are there additional general objectives that support what you want the trainees to be able to do when they walk out the door?

Now you can season the training with some minor objectives. These are training objectives that don't impact the terminal objective, but are good to know.

Accurate, realistic

Effective training combines performing a good needs-analysis and adding elements that ensure each trainee receives and retains whatever it is you decide is the terminal objective. Your training will be most effective when it's well illustrated using accurate and realistic videos or computer-based interactive training when it's appropriate.

SIDEBAR: Why train?

Reasons to conduct training include:

1) To inform personnel about a new policy, procedure or regulation. This is sometimes referred to as awareness type training.

2) To teach people a new skill or to solve a performance problem. This is often referred to as skills training.