An incident this week at a local community pool resulted in twenty-two people being sent to hospital when a worker accidentally mixed chlorine and hydrochloric acid. News agencies reported that Occupational Health and Safety is reviewing the facility’s safety procedures.
As a person who designs workplace learning programs, I immediately thought about the importance of providing training for employees involved in risky situations such as mixing dangerous chemicals. At the same time, what comes to mind are the challenges associated with workplace training.
I don’t know the specifics of the training provided by the community pool, but I’d be surprised if they do not face the same training hurdles of many organizations, such as:
- Lack of availability of training that meets the specific needs of their staff
- Inability to release staff to attend training sessions
- Difficulty to provide simultaneous training to staff working a variety of shifts
- Limited budgets to cover training costs and costs to replace staff away on training
- Staff turnover requiring ongoing provision of training
- Insufficient staff resources that restrict time off for training
- Need for high-quality training for employees to retain knowledge and apply learned skills on the job
Despite these obstacles, there’s a practical method to provide on-the-job training to employees, without the need to attend off site training sessions.
Here’s a seven-step process for practical workplace learning that delivers optimum results. Studies show that 70-90% of workplace learning occurs through mentoring and informal on-the-job training (Munro, 2007). The commitment of senior management to continuous training is key to making this strategy work.
Step 1: Identify job competencies
Identify the competencies shared by a group of workers. Job competencies list all the tasks involved to perform a job satisfactorily. The tasks should be “units of work”, that is, something with a distinct start and stop. Ideally, get the top performers to help you identify their job competencies.
Step 2: Do a task analysis
Identify the equipment, knowledge, attitudes and specific steps required to perform each task well.
Step 3: Prepare a checklist for each task
Make a checklist of the specific steps that describe the right way to do each task. Assemble in one place all the available resources (e.g., procedure manuals, visual aids, other learning tools) that support the employee in performing the task.
Step 4: Delegate an in-house trainer
Assign a supervisor, mentor or knowledgeable peer to coach the employee in how to perform the task correctly using the checklist and resources as a guide. Peer tutoring is an effective training tool, as exemplified by Canadian Forest Products Limited’s Learning and Education Assisted by Peers (LEAP) program (Conference Board of Canada, 2002).
Step 5: Reinforce best practice
Make the task checklist readily available to the employee as a useful reference. This could be in any accessible form best suited to the employee’s work environment, such as a pocket checklist, or a printed or online manual.
Step 6: Evaluate employee performance on the job
Use the checklists for supervisors to assess employee performance and provide guidance as needed.
Step 7: Retrain
Provide retraining opportunities to address performance gaps observed by supervisors. Retraining can occur on the job, during regular team meetings or through peer training.
Conference Board of Canada. “Employees Helping Employees at Canadian Forest Products Ltd.” December, 2002. Accessed from: http://www.conferenceboard.ca/temp/ab70864c-0cd2-4f52-b73a-8c1db08dd6bb/CanForest-CS.pdf
Munro, Carolin Rekar. “Learning that Sticks: Enhancing Business Impact of Training through a Team-based Approach.” Canadian Learning Journal: 2007. Accessed from: http://www.cstd.ca/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=AxYTiWUUdR8%3d&tabid=298&mid=742