August 26, 2015 Anil Saxena

Teaching The Old Dog – That’s Not Going To Work…Really

The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. Although there is a ton of evidence to the contrary, training being developed today still follows a broken methodology.

Is this insane, or what???  

In a recent project with a client, I was asked to develop training on a new safety system and protocol that was going to be rolled out to all 15,000 or so employees across the world. This new “initiative” was designed to solve an issue regarding incidents that occurred around staircases in their manufacturing facilities. The objective of this training was to reduce those incidents by at least 50%. This outcome would save the company money.
And a side benefit is that it would allow people to work more safely and probably enjoy work more.
The solution that was developed prior to my arrival was a three-day intensive course on safety focusing on this specific incident. This was followed up by two computer-based training courses and a subsequent test.
To my client surprise, the solution didn’t work. As a matter fact those same safety incidents actually went up.
Although shocking to my client, it was evident to me that this was another case of the best intention falling far short of the objective.
There are really three main reasons that this training was insufficient and was actually the wrong solution to solve this problem.
1. The training did not involve action. Three days of classroom training and subsequent computer-based training may be effective in some cases, but for this instance, it probably was the worst solution that they could have created. Correcting issues regarding activity requires activity in the training.

2. The training was too long. There is no reason that training like this should have lasted anymore than 90 minutes. If it was necessary to have a longer training regarding safety, it probably should have been broken up into smaller bite-size chunks. Let’s face it; our attention spans are minuscule nowadays. Some statistics say that it is anywhere from 5 to 7 minutes. Therefore having a training that is three-day long about one subject encourages the participants to not pay attention and only desire to be out of the class as soon as possible.

3. Training probably was the wrong solution to begin with. Training is a great solution to teach someone a new skill or introduce them to a new behavior. Generally speaking for reducing incidents regarding safety training doesn’t help to solve the problem it only highlights that there is one.
The solution we suggested was counterintuitive coming from someone brought in to analyze training.
Here is what we did:
• We talked to the people that had either witnessed and or “participated” in one of the incidents
• Created warning signs and placed rubber mats around the area where the incidents began to occur
• Created “talking points” for supervisors, line managers, and all other leaders to discuss the safety incidents and to highlight the new precautions
• Created a 5 min. activity showing the incident and allowing discussion about how to avoid it as part of monthly plant meetings
What Was the Result?
In one month, the safety incidents were reduced by 50%. Within 60 days the safety issue was almost nonexistent. Of course, there were rare times that it did happen. On further conversation, the client and their work team decided to make the activity we created for the plant meetings a part of all new employee training.
Training is a powerful tool. It is important to have opportunities to develop employees utilizing training and often times it is a crate tool to introduce new concepts, skills, or things that employees are going to need to do in a new way.
However, training is not a catchall solution for every incident. Therefore, it’s important to make sure to look at the issue and determine what is the simplest, straightforward and high-impact method to correct the situation.
Where have you seen training being used incorrectly? What might you have done to solve this problem?

Anil Saxena is the President of Cube 2.14, an organizational development consulting firm that works with clients to increase both customer and employee engagement while decreasing turnover, improving customer retention, and increasing profitability within organizations.

Saxena is a certified High Impact coach and trainer and a Joint Application Design facilitator. He is also certified by both Rush Systems and IBM as a focus group facilitator. He is an inaugural member of Northwestern University’s Learning and Organizational Change program, and he earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology.


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