Safety training in the new millennium requires you to remember that many of your trainees are a generation more attuned to MTV and “Survivor” than “American Bandstand” and “Gilligan's Island”. Know your audience! Here are 21 tips to keep you on track.

1) Take into account how work gets done in your facility. Know how your employees are compensated, production speeds they work at, educational levels, their number of years with the company, their shift hours, ages, and any physical and cognitive challenges. This not only helps you understand the questions of your audience, but it gives you the base knowledge necessary to come up with solutions to their questions. This also helps you understand the purpose behind the training, and brings to light the goals that must be achieved.

2) Focus on goals. Goals are tiny steps formulated together to fulfill the purpose. Goals are achievable in the “real world”, while purpose may never be completely achieved. When employees are able to achieve their goals, they desire to grow and will continue to try to grow.

3) Conduct a job task analysis to evaluate your employees’ training needs. Study and record each step in the work process. Identify existing or potential hazards. Then formulate one or many solutions aimed at reducing or eliminating the risks. Injury and illness records can help you identify risks and solutions.

4) Have trainees document their perceived job responsibilities. This should include a description of the task performed, the tool(s), equipment and materials used. Your employees are your best resource for training material, and by interviewing them you are able to see safety through their eyes. Once you understand their mind set, a training solution can be developed.

5) Focus on the steps needed for improved performance. Eliminate unnecessary training and focus on the relevant needs of your workforce.

6) Document the training goals that should be achieved, based on the training solutions you identified. Before training starts, outline measurable objectives so you can later evaluate whether or not your training was effective. Objectives should describe how the employee is going to demonstrate competence, and you’ll need to document what an acceptable performance will be. Document objectives and goals in a format that focuses on taking action, describing the job skills and attitude desired from trainees.

7) Your curriculum needs to identify and describe learning activities. These activities will help students demonstrate they have the desired knowledge, skills and understanding associated with the job task that they are being trained to perform.

8) Technology does not make an instructor. You may use an overhead, video, lecture, demonstration, chart or other instructional aids to help inform students. But your ability to coach students and guide them toward self-recognition of “at risk behaviors” is the first step in the learning process.

9) Your instructional skills need to be diverse. You may find yourself teaching people of diverse age, race and sex. Adults present a challenge to train, especially those who do not want to be in the class in the first place. This is why you need many learning techniques to engage your audience.

10) Coach employees through positive feedback from discussions, class interaction and participation. Lecturing adults is rarely ever a fruitful learning experience.

11) Use the talents of the individuals who make up your classroom (or team). Let the team come up with achievable goals necessary to “win the game” — to fulfill the purpose or underlying reason for the training.

12) Give an overview of the purpose, goals and objectives of the material to be learned when you first begin training. Relate your training materials and presentation to the interests and experiences of your audience. After each module or training section reiterate what the desired goal was for the session.

13) Repeat your instruction three times in three different ways so employees can retain the information.

14) Outline the benefits of the training to further captivate your audience.

15) Always involve your audience in the training by encouraging discussions, continually asking if there are any questions, asking for personal experiences, having hands-on demonstrations and, on occasion, involving employees in role-playing exercises.

16) Personalize your approach. Customize your training curriculum to focus on the specific work processes and employee demographics you studied. This meets the learning needs of employees and strengthens your company's overall safety program.

17) Understand the differences between your students. Coach students in a way that they want to be taught so they can absorb the material. Try to “touch” every person so they understand the value of what you’re teaching, and the value that they add to the rest of the class.

18) Don’t duck the age issue. Don’t worry about being perceived as too young or too old — it’s your material that matters in the end. Since many words change meaning over time, you must be aware of the language gaps and paint a picture in the minds of the students while at the same time expressing the concepts you want to convey.

19) Read the body language of your audience to confirm that your message is getting through. This lets you know if you can move on with the session or if you need to try a different approach.

20) Don’t offend trainees with comments about race, sex, and religion. Comments and lecture materials must be universal and your statements must never make negative connotations about any ethnic background or religious practice. Try to use the phrase “he or she” when appropriate. If it’s perceived that you as an instructor have a bias, you’ll lose some or all of your audience as well as your credibility.

21) Don’t categorize your students strictly by their outer appearance. Each student is an individual that, like you, does not need to be prejudged. Students need to be listened to and continually observed to assure that the knowledge, skills and understanding have been absorbed.

Remember these keys

  • Study your audience demographics — age, educational background, work experience

  • Develop training goals and objectives that relate to real workplace problems

  • Tailor your training so it emphasizes the need to take action and problem-solving

  • Avoid undue lecturing

  • Try different techniques and technologies to engage employees in training

  • Stress repeatedly the benefits of your training

  • Show employees the value of their contributions to training discussions and problem-solving

  • Don’t stereotype or prejudge your students

  • Check their body language — know when you’re losing their interest

  • Be aware of age differences, but don’t get hung up on it

  • Customize training material to bridge gender and generation gaps and other areas of diversity.