Build Better Introductory Training Sessions Using These Three R’s

Do you sometimes feel like your training sessions have become a dog and pony show, requiring you to play the manic comedian in order to keep your trainees engaged and interested? Maybe you’re working too hard. Here’s what your workers really need from your training sessions.

Workers don’t need you to put on a Broadway-quality song-and-dance routine every time they need training. What workers really need is for you to give them what they need to know to do their jobs, in a way that they can understand. So when you’re planning your training sessions, focus on these three R’s:

Relevance. Workers will tune you out if they can’t see how what you’re saying applies to them or will help them with their jobs. Make sure to establish early on exactly why they need to know the information you’re giving them. Does it pertain to:

  • A specific machine they will operate?
  • A piece of equipment they will use?
  • A job task they will perform or a hazard they will face?

If it’s something less obvious, you may have to draw the connection out with more care: Why, for example, do workers who will not enter a confined space need to know what a confined space is? They need to know because not knowing could put their lives in danger.

If they can see how your training matters to their jobs and their lives, they’ll pay better attention

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Repetition. When you’re learning a new skill, do you just try it once and then walk away? For example, if you took up playing the guitar, would you learn everything you needed to know in a single session? For any sort of learning, repetition improves the retention of the information, and practice improves the execution of a skill. Make sure that workers have more than one chance to hear information they need to know and more than one opportunity to practice skills they need on the job. Repetition spaced over intervals works better in the long run than closely spaced repetition, so don’t feel that you need to cram everything into an hour. Short training sessions at 2- to 3-week intervals will imbed the information into workers’ minds more permanently than a single, annual marathon session.

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Reinforcement. Another key to learning is not just to repeat the material but to reinforce it in as many different circumstances as possible. If you tell workers how to find chemical safety information in a classroom training session, go out onto the floor and ask if they have used that skill—or ask them to demonstrate it. If you catch workers using respirator cleaning wipes to wipe down their respirators properly before storing them, tell them you’re glad to see them using what they know to protect themselves. Training that never makes it past the classroom door is useless: Look for workers to apply what they know on the job.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at how to make retraining more effective