Get Black Belt Insights from the Safety Training Ninja! (Part 1 of 2)

Do you prefer to read rather than listen? If so, you won’t miss out on our latest episode of EHS on Tap! Read the transcript of our latest podcast, where we have a chat with Regina McMichael, president of the Learning Factory and the Safety Training Ninja, about how safety professionals can make their training sessions more engaging and effective for employees. And don’t miss Regina’s upcoming keynote at Safety Summit 2019—register today!

Safety ninja flying kick

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You can listen to the full audio of this podcast episode here.

Special Offer from the EHS on Tap podcast! Enter code SAFETY10 at checkout when you register for Safety Summit 2019 to take 10% off!

Justin Scace: Hello everyone, and welcome to EHS on Tap! I’m your host, Justin Scace, Senior Editor of the EHS Daily Advisor and Safety Decisions magazine. We’re very excited about the EHS Daily Advisor’s upcoming 2019 Safety Summit, and we hope you are too. Our latest annual event promises a wide variety of topics and speakers covering all safety aspects from compliance to culture, and among the issues we’ll be covering is one that is a constant concern for EHS professionals, no matter their industry or company size: Effective, engaging safety training.

So, in a preview of what to expect, we’re talking today with an expert safety trainer. She’s known as the “Safety Training Ninja,” in fact, about how to approach the common challenges associated with boosting and maintaining employee engagement with safety training. Joining us today on EHS on Tap is Regina McMichael, President of the Learning Factory and a world-renowned speaker with 28 years of experience as a safety expert.

In addition to leading a preconference session at Safety Summit entitled “How to be a Safety Training Ninja,” Regina will also be delivering the conference’s opening keynote, “The Wife Left Behind: The Making of a Safety Professional,” which will describe how her journey in safety began when her husband fell to his death while employed as a roofer. Regina’s work as a speaker and trainer today shows safety professionals how to transform safety from a dry, boring compliance issue into a living, breathing, vitally important human issue that can save lives. Now in today’s podcast, she’ll be talking with us about how this shift in perspective can help make safety training more engaging for employees. So Regina, thank you so much for joining us today on EHS on Tap!

Regina McMichael: Thank you. I’m glad to be here.

Justin Scace: Excellent. Now, the story you will tell in your opening keynote highlights the human side of safety, and it seems that’s becoming a greater focus overall for safety professionals as the industry approaches safety culture with the same level of importance as legal compliance obligations. Now, how can safety professionals strike a healthy balance there? Keeping up with compliance obligations while also fostering a strong culture of safety?

Regina McMichael: Well, to be honest, I think that if we start to care about people in a greater way, the compliance issues, they’re gonna fall into place. The idea of a process-driven program where we’ve got lots of policies and procedures and tons of details, they have their place. But we’ve also seen historically that massive safety management systems and written processes and procedures hasn’t always resulted in the ending of hazards, the ending of taking it live. And so the question is, what else can we do and what else are we missing as part of our safety process? And that’s where I think that compassion and humanity need to come into play.

When I talk to you folks and when I’m doing the keynote, I’m gonna talk a lot about love and about hugs, because I believe that if we don’t remember that it’s human beings that we’re working with, it’s regular people who have families, who are trying to make a living and pay their rent or feed their dogs or their children or whatever, that if we don’t remember that part of it, and we get a little too mechanical in our processes, you miss the greater opportunity.

I think sadly, there has been a lot of safety professionals who were mentored by people who historically went for that very rigid and compliance-based approach. And I’ve worked with people of all ages and from all over the world. And if you were mentored that way originally, a lot of folks don’t realize that there’s another way to tackle the safety profession and to tackle some of the challenges that we have.

And so my testimony is that if we’ve got more love and more caring and more positive treatment of people and remembering that it’s about humanity first and foremost, that we’re going to be able to create those stronger cultures. A compliance-driven program just doesn’t build the culture we need to take care of each other.

Justin Scace: Right. So clearly you have a particular focus on training in particular as the “Safety Training Ninja.” Now some mandatory compliance training has a reputation for being, well, boring. So how can safety pros bust this stereotype and engage employees while still conveying the necessary information in a way so that it’s retained and put to use by workers in the field?

Regina McMichael: Well the number one thing that we have to remember, and this is something I teach whenever I teach any course, and that is when you’re up there training, it is not about you, the trainer. It is about the learner, and it’s about the people sitting in the audience. They are to learn something. We’ve got to remember that the person standing up in front of the room, we’ve all been there. We’ve been in that training class where that person reads the information on the slides, or they try to convince you how smart they are because they know tons and tons of information and they feel the need to share every bit of it with you, even if that’s not exactly what the people need in order to learn. So, if we can remember first and foremost, that it is always, always about the learner. And when we go back and try to validate the training, and we can talk about that part a little bit later, but once you go back to validate, a lot of times we’re like, well the worker didn’t pay attention, the worker didn’t listen, and he didn’t do what I taught them. We have to look at ourselves and say, did we create an environment where that worker truly was able to learn?

Because if we are reading OSHA regulations off of a screen, we have not done our job. We are not doing the best we can. And I’m empathetic to the safety trainer out there. I have been one. I am one right now. I realize there is so much other work we have to do every day. And your boss or somebody else shows up and says, “Hey, we got to do this new thing, and you need to do it tomorrow.” You don’t get time to prep. You don’t get time to do your research. You don’t have time to make it exciting and interesting like you would in another circumstance. And so as a result, you’re often forced to deliver not-so-awesome training.

And so one of the challenges the profession has to struggle with and move towards success with is that we have to explain to the people who determine how much time and money we have to get this done, that bad training can kill. If we get serious about the discussion, I’m not talking about death by PowerPoint, I’m talking about we don’t take the time to truly train them on how to do the work safely, how to have the right safety mindset, how to truly understand how to operate the equipment or the machinery or to not bypass the guards or whatever it is we’re trying to teach them, if we don’t do that well, they can get hurt, they could die, and we have to look at it that way and not say safety training is just another thing on the list to check off. But instead, it’s a real opportunity to make a shift in behavior and a shift in knowledge that can lead to not only safe behavior, but better production, better quality, a better workforce overall. Serious stuff, right?

Register for Safety Summit 2019 today to experience Regina McMichael’s opening keynote as well as learn more skills to enhance your organization’s safety programs, training, and culture!

Justin Scace: Yeah, absolutely. So in this whole process of engaging with employees, there’s a wide variety of training techniques that people hear about and delivery methods out there from the classroom to webinars to e-learning. Plus, we hear things like, words like chunking and microlearning when people are talking about training innovations, and the list seems to get longer every day basically. So how can safety managers and trainers evaluate their specific workforce and identify the right training path for their employees?

Regina McMichael: It’s about knowing your audience, and that’s actually because the “Safety Training Ninja,” it’s a book now because people said, “Hey, we can’t learn everything you need to tell us all in one day.” So I put together a book that’s now available, and there’s a whole chapter just on the analysis stage because training development, and safety training development, should be part of an actual process.

And the process that I introduced a lot of folks too, it’s called the “ADDIE Model,” which is analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluate. And this model isn’t for safety specifically, it is from the learning community. It is from that world and has been used for years and perfected by the military and many others out there. And the idea is, is that just like many of the other processes we follow, PDCA, a Plan, Do, Check, Act, for safety, we need to follow the process for training development.

If we get that baseline down accurately, then some of that other stuff is going to make sense. But first we have to acknowledge that there’s a systematic approach that has a value for what our needs are. Because if we’re looking and we’re saying, “Well how do I know how to train our people?” The first thing you have to say is, “What do they know, and what do they need to know? Or what are they doing, and what do they need to do? What is that knowledge gap?” And that’s our analysis phase, and that knowledge gap is what we’re trying to fill. And one of the beautiful things about doing this analysis and spending some upfront time doing it, if you determine that your workforce already knows half of what you were going to train them on, because you’ve trained them on it last year, then if there’s no indication that they don’t possess that knowledge, you don’t need to train them again.

You look at the analysis and you say, “Okay, here it is.” Unless there’s a particular regulation that says, “Annual training, x number of hours,” something like that, and I’ve got tricks for that as well. But you know, unless there’s something very specific that says “It must be this long and they must sit there for this amount of time,” there are so many other options available. But it’s one out of first knowing what do they need to know versus what do they know now, or what do they need to do, what’s the behavioral change or knowledge change you are trying to impact with that safety training. If you look at just that bit of information, and it could be huge, it’s a busy regulation, yeah, there can be things that we’ve got to know, but the analysis allows us to focus just on what content you need and no more.

And the beauty of it is, is if you now find out, hey, my folks are pretty darn good at this particular topic, they just need to know a little bit more over here, then now you’re training isn’t as long, which everyone’s going to love you for that. We’re going to focus on just what you need to know.

The concept of chunking, for example, chunking is based on the idea that as human beings we can only keep so much stuff in the front memory. If you want to test this theory, have 10 things at the grocery store that you need to get and try to get them without a list. You’re not going to remember all 10.

Justin Scace: Yeah, I’ve been there.

Regina McMichael: Chunk them. Yeah exactly. We’re all like “Oh crud.” You walk out the door and you’re like, “I don’t have everything.” But if you remember there’s three things in produce, and four items in frozen foods, and three things in snack foods (or probably 10 things in snack foods!), but the idea is if you break them up, if you chunk them into categories, or if you make them some sort of a process or way to remember, that’s the chunking world; the other end, the other idea that is parallel to it is mnemonic devices. And that’s where we take unrelated items and we make them make sense together. The greatest example, that resonates in the United States is, what are the names of the Great Lakes?

Justin Scace: HOMES, right? [Editor’s Note: HOMES stands for Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior]

Regina McMichael: There you go. And I’ll tell you what, if I didn’t have HOMES, I wouldn’t be able to remember what the Great Lakes are, but I will know them for the rest of my life because of that memory tool. So we can create that. What if we created memory tools for your six-step process for entering a confined space? And if you had a 26-step process for entering confined space, you can’t teach people well enough so that they can memorize those 26 steps. What if we broke it up into five sets of five plus one or whatever the appropriate approach is?

The idea is, is that there’s different ways that we can deliver the learning. One of the things you do is you take that complex set of processes like confined space or lockout/tagout that are so life important and say, “Okay folks, instead of me telling you what the chunked material is, why don’t you tell me what it is,” and actually have the learner develop the chunking themselves. One, they’re a part of it, two, it’s so much better than a lecture, three, they’re gonna remember it, ‘cause they did it themselves. Those would be the types of tools that we can use in our training workplace that—okay, is it easier than than reading what’s on the screen? Probably not. But is it effective? Is it more desirable for your learners? Is it more likely to stick with them long term and, oh by the way, they might’ve done part of your job for you? That’s an awesome bonus. So all of those things together are the ways that we could start looking at things differently because people are like, well you know, confined find space. It’s very important. It’s a complex thing and we’re gonna have to teach one step at a time. But there are other ways we can do it to where it would stick with our learners beyond just sitting there and saying step one, do this, step two do this.

And then microlearning is a concept, and I’ll just pick the two you brought up and maybe throw in some more, but microlearning is this idea that in our world today we are very fast paced—and people like to try and make distinctions about age groups and stereotypes and stuff like that. But I know plenty of people in a variety of age groups that watch YouTube videos to learn how to do things. And I know people in the younger age that are know anti-social-media and anti-equipment and things like that. So it’s not unique to any particular age group. But the idea that a little tiny bit of learning, microlearning, is probably going to stay with someone better than eight hours of lecture in a classroom. I advocate to people, I’m like, “Hey, you want to teach somebody how to use a new piece of equipment, go out there and film them, with your phone, of them actually doing what they’re supposed to do. You can film them doing it the right way, and make it just a little clip.”

And then folks who are like, “I don’t know how to do that.” I’m like, “That’s okay. You can find people in your workforce that know how to do that.” Bring them in. Make them a part of the learning development. Now you’ve got another person on your team, but you also have an advocate for the learning, because if they helped create it, they’re going to be much more likely to tell others about it and go, “Hey, I made that. Look at this video I made on to operate this piece of equipment safely.” It has double value other than just “Here is the training.” But there’s so many tools that we can use other than lecture to involve people in the training and to pull them in so that it sticks, and if they actually understand it and can make those behavior or knowledge changes we’re looking for.

Justin Scace: That’s great. So right at the beginning of the last question that you answered, you brought up an acronym real quick about how to analyze. Could you mind repeating that again?

Regina McMichael: Yes. So it’s called ADDIE, and you can Google ADDIE, and you’re going to find tons of information on it (or you could get my book), and the idea is that ADDIE stands for Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate. It’s a five-step process, and it’s a circle. You just keep going ’round and ’round and make your training better and better.

It’s the idea of, first you gotta know who your audience is and why you need to deliver this training, whether it’s new or a refresher or a revision of something you’ve done in the past. And then how do you design it so that it’s awesome and so they actually learn? What are you going to do other than a lecture, and what information are you going to include so that you know, you’re just giving them exactly what they need, nothing more but nothing less?

And then then you go and deliver it, and then you figure out if it works. And the idea is, is that circular process you keep coming back to it, then you can deliver one class and evaluate it and go, “Okay, that didn’t go the way I wanted.” You go back to it, you figure out what you need to fix and then you improve it.

I deliver materials for clients, and we might develop the program and deliver it the first time and then I sit down with the client, and we do a little shredding and a little bit of changing. Then we do it again, and then we make some more edits. And quite honestly, by the time we’re done delivering it 15 or 20 times, it’s still the same guts, but it continues to get improved as we deliver it, and we see opportunities based on feedback and on interaction from the classroom, and we can continue to improve the product as we go along. And a lot of folks who have spent a lot of time developing a PowerPoint were like, “I spent a lot of hours putting this together, this is it.” That limits how great they can be. And again, I understand the time constraints and all those things, but I promise if you do more upfront work, it gets easier on the backside and it can stick better, which is ultimately what we’re looking for.

Continue reading the transcript in Part 2 here, or listen to the audio here!

Special Offer from the EHS on Tap podcast! Enter code SAFETY10 at checkout when you register for Safety Summit 2019 to take 10% off!

Regina McMichaelRegina McMichael’s safety career began at the age of 20 when she found herself planning a funeral for her husband after he died falling off a roof while working on a job site. Following her husband’s untimely death, Ms. McMichael dedicated her time to investigating the incident and took part in writing the OSHA fall protection guidelines that could have saved her husband. Today, she’s a world-renowned inspirational safety speaker and trainer whose energy, humor, and engaging style helps motivate others find their passion for safety. Her trainings and keynote speeches drive home the point that when we create a vibrant safety culture, we are creating a happier, healthier, and more profitable organization.

Regina will be presenting a preconference session, “How to be a Safety Training Ninja,” as well as the opening keynote, “The Wife Left Behind: The Making of a Safety Professional,” at BLR’s upcoming 2019 Safety Summit, taking place April 8 through 10 in Austin, Texas. Register Now!


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