Getting the Most out of Your Training Process

December 1, 2020

How many times have you learned something new and within hours forgot it?  “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”   Hence, training must be delivered like a good inventory practice “Just in Time” of its use and application.   We do not always have the luxury of training reinforcement and application immediately following the delivery, but we can plan for it wherever possible.  Let’s talk about some of the ways in which these concepts can be implemented.

On-The-Job-Training (OJT)

This works well in almost any situation where there is a script or a plan for how individuals are trained and shown job activities.  It also requires the order in which each activity will be presented, and the training delivered.   Most of what I have seen in my experience involves the trainer, often someone who is unfamiliar with good learning techniques, showing the learner how to perform an activity by simply showing them how to do it.  A better technique would involve showing the learner, asking them to complete the task and then providing feedback.  

In our business we move steel almost exclusively by cranes, hence, if we train a new crane operator properly, we would start by demonstrating the use of the crane box in some situations, and then asking the learner to repeat the activity and providing feedback.  We would work in an open space and practice moving steel to help the learner adapt without feeling pressured and putting others at risk. An ineffective method would consist of the trainer using the learner only to help them to hook the steel without any benefit of practice or feedback.  

Coaching/Mentoring

This approach works best when a learner has learned a new subject and needs direction for better application.   We recently hired graduate level Industrial Engineers who took some online data science classes in Excel and Tableau applications.   We identified an immediate application where there was abundant data but no dashboard to present the information in a meaningful way to our Management Group.  They worked on developing a dashboard and used their new skills in the process.

Role Playing

This method of training works well in situations where a learner is entering into a situation with another person(s) and needs some guidance on how to fulfill the assignment.   For example, you might ask a Junior employee to take on the responsibility to lead a group project that includes representatives of higher Management personnel.    The Mentor asks the Learner to provide an example of the agenda to be used for the first meeting and then ask him/her to respond to specific questions or situations that could occur during the meeting.  Feedback is given by the Mentor.  This form of training provides the Project Leader with confidence going into a new endeavor.

Observation

Observation is combined by asking a learner to perform an activity that they have recently been trained in.   Feedback is given immediately after the activity is performed so that the learner has a sense of right and wrong. 

Testing

A post test combined with a pre-test provides instant feedback on what has been learned.   Testing by itself without other techniques provides feedback but does not guarantee effective application of the learned concepts. 

Microlearning

A means of delivering content to learners in brief, specific bursts and through short-term learning activities (Infograix).  Microlearning allows learners to receive the what, and when they want it type of training.  This is often the structure used by many of the LXP and LTP software.  This form of training is directed at developing a single skill; hence, the duration is short.   This type of training can include but not exclusive to job aids, scenarios, email, blogs, etc.  An entire article will be devoted in the future to this form of learning.

Application and Combination of the Above

We had a problem getting Machine Operators qualified in an acceptable period.  It used to take us approximately one year of unstructured OJT training to qualify a Machine Operator for one of our Cold Drawing lines.   We assigned a new individual to an experienced operator and thought this would be sufficient to obtain satisfactory results.    The job market started to tighten about 5 years ago and we identified that our ability to grow in the Cold Drawn market would be dependent on our ability to train operators and qualify them in six months or less.   We looked at our training and adopted a strategy of pre-testing for mechanical aptitude, assignment of online courses for the learner with testing, use of a train-the-trainer for the OJT operator and continual observation and feedback at various stages of the Machine setup and operation.   We hired an Organization Development Consultant and Trainer who helped us combine the above components.  After implementation of this structured training and development process we were able to reduce the time to qualify a Machine Operator in four months – a 66% improvement.   

In summary, training supported by follow-up, feedback and application driven techniques provides maximum impact to the bottom-line.  It enhances the learner’s overall training experience and effectiveness to the organization.  The techniques above are not exclusionary but merely a snapshot of what have worked well for our company and others who have adopted them. 

Meta Desc: We do not always have the luxury of training reinforcement and application immediately following the delivery, but we can plan for it wherever possible.  Here are some ways these concepts can be implemented.

David Verville

David is a Consultant, Educator, Coach and Mentor and currently works as a Manufacturing Executive in the Steel, Automotive and Heavy Equipment Industry. He has had and successfully completed assignments in Operations, Engineering, Quality, Finance and Human Resources. He has multiple degrees in Business, Finance and Engineering. He is a life-long learner and is continually looking for ways to improve the organizations he works in. He resides in the Greater Detroit area.

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