The major steps in preparing a training session include promoting the program to top management, preparing training materials, the training space, trainers, and trainees.
Promote Training to Management
Without top-level support, employees have less incentive to retain information and apply it to their work. When top management shows interest in the learning process, participants are more likely to apply new skills and knowledge to their work. Upper management’s influence on how employees react to training cannot be overestimated. Here are several ways to get your company’s top officers behind your training.
Talk Dollars and Cents
Here are statistics on the risks and costs of not training your employees to do their jobs safely and effectively:
- According to OSHA, several thousand U.S. employees die each year from work place injuries, and tens of thousands more die from illnesses caused by exposure to workplace hazards.
- According to OSHA, several million workers suffer nonfatal injuries every year at a cost to U.S. businesses of more than $125 billion.
- In one recent year, OSHA’s federal inspections fined U.S. companies a total of more than $80 million for violations; state inspections in 26 states fined companies tens of millions more for violations.
- Every year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) receives several thousand charges of sexual harassment, a significant percentage of which are filed by males. The EEOC annually resolves thousands of sexual harassment charges and recovers tens of millions of dollars in monetary benefits for charging parties and other aggrieved individuals (not including monetary benefits obtained through litigation).
All these numbers add up to a big expense for companies with poorly trained workforces. And they do not include the costs of lowered employee morale after co-workers are injured or killed on the job, or when harassment or discrimination lawsuits are filed or fines assessed against the company.
Well-structured, customized, and up-to-date training saves your company money.
Here are several reasons to maintain a qualified trainer or training staff.
- Know the organization from the inside
- Understand your goals and objectives
- Have direct experience with jobs in your facility
- Know what equipment, machines, and tools your facility uses
- Can customize training to match your specific needs
- Have a relationship with trainees
- Can be more flexible with the training schedule when situations occur that need to take priority over training
- Can conduct a broader range of training, including on-the-job, coaching, informal, etc.
- Are available to follow up after training
- Cost less
Conversely, the disadvantages of outside trainers are that they:
- Don’t know the employees or the operation from the inside
- May be costly
- May have scheduling problems (for example, arranging meetings with shift workers, employees in the field, etc.)–Are usually not around afterward for follow-up In short, be prepared to argue for and back up with numbers and acts whatever training methods you have determined to be the best way to keep your workforce trained and ready. This is the best way to get top management behind your efforts and willing to support a training mentality throughout the company. Their vocal and public support is critical to the success of your training program.
Prepare Training Materials
Preparing training materials in-house is more laborious than using prepackaged materials, but if done right, it only has to be done once. With a logically organized filing and storage system, you will have training sessions that are reusable and easy to update as equipment or procedures change. And you will have complete control over what is trained in your company.
Writing training materials requires several steps:
- Specify training goals and objectives. List your objectives and refer to them often as you prepare subject matter so that you keep on message and achieve your training goals. For example, listed goals for a back injury training program could include:
- Teach trainees safe lifting techniques.
- Provide trainees with a greater understanding of how the discs function in relation to the vertebra.
- Provide trainees with information about strains and sprains and how they relate to back injuries.
- Provide trainees with hands-on, supervisor-monitored opportunities to practice correct lifting methods.
- Written plans help ensure that all required information is presented.
- They document what is covered.
- They provide a library of customized training materials for your company’s training program. By retaining every plan in your training files, you make sure that no matter who does training, they will cover the objectives and goals that you have indicated need to be covered.
Prepare Training Space
The need for proper preparation cannot be overstated. Trainees will gather first impressions in the first few minutes of the session, and they will judge the material and the trainer on how prepared the training environment is. Even if your training space is a cordoned off part of the plant, cafeteria, or other work area, you need to get it ready for training. For example, make sure the area will accommodate the number of trainees for the session. If trainees have to stand or if they are packed uncomfortably tight, they will not be as receptive as possible to the material you present.
Prepare training areas by checking for:
- Adequate seating arrangements
- Comfortable environmental conditions
- Sufficient lighting
- Required equipment, such as a laptop, multimedia player, teleconferencing unit, video player/monitor, slide projectors, flip charts, and other media.
Make sure you have enough handouts or other materials for trainees. Ensure tools, equipment, machines, or other props for demonstration or practice are working properly.
As the person in charge of training, it’s up to you to develop standard preparation procedures to ensure a high standard of training. Every detail counts.
Each trainer has different qualifications, experience, expertise, and methodology of training. Even trainers who are intimately familiar with a subject must properly prepare for the training session. Since practice makes perfect, practice your presentation as much as possible. The best instructors always do at least one dry run before the training session. Practicing improves presentation skills and confidence levels. It allows trainers to foresee any technical or logistical difficulties and prepare back-up plans for any contingencies.
Many people are uncomfortable with public speaking even when they have a well-prepared presentation. Here’s a two-step process for overcoming stage fright:
- Prepare your mind by putting everything in perspective. Trainees are here to learn from you; they want you to be a good trainer, because they’ll learn more that way. Focus on them and making sure they understand the material. Don’t worry about your performance, you’re just the messenger. Deliver the message. Accept the fact that you will be nervous and, in fact, put that nervous energy into an energetic delivery.
- Prepare your body.Trainers need to familiarize themselves with the training environment, including the lighting, temperature, and layout of the classroom. You can do this during your practice session and also by arriving early on the day of training to check that everything is in order. Drink nondairy fluids to soothe your vocal cords and prevent a dry or sore throat from extensive talking during the session. You may also want to learn relaxation techniques and develop a standard ritual before training sessions to relax and prepare yourself.
To ensure the most productive training session, you also need to prepare trainees so that they are highly motivated before they walk through the training doors. Use these pretraining techniques to put trainees in a receptive frame of mind, get them geared up for the topic, and prepare them to learn.
- Distribute a session outline or agenda before the meeting. Trainees who might be anxious about training will be put at ease when they know ahead of time what will be covered. And since knowledge is power, all trainees benefit from knowing what’s on the agenda. You benefit when trainees enter the room already thinking about the topic.
- Distribute presession activities. Along with the outline, include fun and simple open-ended questions or situations, such as these:
- What do you already know about the training topic?
- Why do you think this training is needed?
- How will this training benefit you and the company?
- In this case, what would you do?
- What would you have done differently from the characters?
- Distribute an expectation questionnaire. Via survey, e-mail, group meeting, etc., ask what trainees expect from the session. Use the results to customize the session as much as possible to the audience while still meeting all training objectives.
Case studies involving the upcoming training followed by debriefing questions:
Ask trainees to be prepared for a brief class discussion on the case study. Take a few minutes at the beginning of the session to ask trainees for their answers.