OHS Canada Magazine

Safety Training: Making It Stick

August 26, 2015
By Tony Geng

Many contextual variables affect the impact of a training initiative. Components of both the training itself and the individual will affect the efficacy of training, usually on four levels.

Training efficiency depends on:

  1. Reaction
  2. Learning
  3. Behaviour
  4. Results

The methodology used in training to share the relevant knowledge and skills is one contextual variable that exerts control over these four levels. Methodologies such as e-learning, competency-based models, context-based models, presentations, hands-on, self-directed, apprenticeships and simulations have all been evaluated for their differential and additive effects on learning. Research in training and development has provided ample evidence for the idea that the impact of methodology is moderated by instructional elements and contextual elements such as desired learning outcomes, transfer of training and actual learning environment. Choosing the best training method is a complex intersection between intellect, skill and art.

The first thing to consider when deciding on a training method is the desired learning outcome. Outcomes are broken down into five categories:

What kind of outcome do you want to achieve?

  1. verbal information
  2. intellectual skills
  3. cognitive strategies
  4. attitudes
  5. motor skills

Methodologies can affect more than one learning outcome, but it’s important to make sure the instructional method mirrors the type of learning outcome that’s desired. There is a significant amount of overlap in learning outcomes across methods of instruction, and utilizing more than one type of methodology can help drive efficacy. After deciding which methodologies will foster development in the targeted outcome, it is important to consider cost. Both development and administrative costs should be taken into account. Deciding on a methodology is complex, but resources for bolstering your ability to make a smart decision exist. Empirical research has focused on comparing methods, instructional-design elements, effects of the learning environment, probability of transfer and learning outcomes. As technology becomes more prevalent in business functions, training specialists have begun to assess the benefits and drawbacks of taking training online. Computer-based instruction has become a trend in the training industry.

Research surrounding this methodology has three main focus points: general technology usage, employee development and e-learning use. Research has shown that motivation and interventions aimed at motivation have a strong impact on the use of e-learning just as it does on the efficacy of traditional training methods. This study also aligned with previous research about how the environment for training and learning in an organization has a large impact on the efficacy of training. Managerial support is key in initial and continued usage of e-learning programs.

It is clear that there is no one-size-fits-all for training. Sufficient pre-training research in the form of a needs analysis and planning should attempt to target the needs of the participants, their levels of motivation and relevant aspects of their personalities to measure and create targeted interventions aimed at these areas. Planning of the training itself should also go through sufficient planning and should attempt to integrate complimentary methods that will foster the desired learning outcomes.

Here are your key takeaways!

Steps to developing a safety-training program that will stick:

  1. Make sure training is necessary. (Is it a skill or deficit?)
  2. Do a needs analysis to find out what needs to be learned, and then create your objectives.
  3. Get the people who will be in the training involved in its development.
  4. Decide on a method of training that will foster the outcomes you desire.
  5. Train your workforce.
  6. Evaluate the training outcomes, and redesign subsequent training sessions based on what you learn.

Tony Geng is president of Superior Glove, an Acton, Ontario-based company that manufactures safety gloves for workplaces.

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