by Phil La Duke
I was torn as I sat down to write this week’s post between following up with last week’s condemnation of the abysmal state of safety training and a rant about the ingratitude of the bitch and whine safety generation. I have chosen to write a follow up to last week’s post, but before I do I want to take on some of the ass-hats who emailed me or posted negative comments because I just complained about the problem but offered no suggestions as to how to improve things.
For starters, I am under no obligation to provide free consulting to a bunch of mouth breathers who acknowledge that they don’t have the requisite skills, ambition, or opportunity to DO quality training yet they continue to do so. I thank all that is holy that these people aren’t heart surgeons. I hear daily about the millennial attitude of entitlement; how participation medals and praise for mediocrity has fostered a sense that the world owes them. Before anyone jumps on this particular band wagon let me point out that the barrage of criticism came not from millennials new to the trade, rather people who had been in the profession long enough to know better. Personally I see this not as the millennial effect but something older and more loathsome—the Napster Effect. The Napster Effect works like this: why buy something when you can steal it, and if someone gives you something for free you have a God given right to complain and criticize it; well you don’t. If you don’t find value in my blog don’t read it. You have no obligation to save people from my hearsay or to shout me down—not because you disagree or that what I am saying isn’t factually correct but because I haven’t given you enough free information.
I continue writing this for the handful of people who have written to me and have told me that they found something I wrote meaningful, helpful, or inspirational. I don’t write this to be famous (trust me if I wanted to be famous it sure as Hell wouldn’t want to be famous for safety), or for money (nobody pays me for this), or for marketing (the only time I reference what I do in safety is to provide a context for what I am saying). In short if you want more than you get for free pay me or shut up.
Whew. Glad to get that off my chest. Okay here are some basic things that you can do to improve your training without spending a ton of money and without a whole lot of work ranked in order of impact (let’s call it tips for the cheap and lazy).
- Understand what people have to DO. Training is about providing people skills or improving their proficiency applying those skills. You have to ask yourself what skills do people need to successfully do the job. Most of the crap spewed in the name of training is actually education (teaching people ABOUT something). I was once told that the best way to understand the difference between education and training, is that you may not mind if your 12-year old daughter receives sex education but you probably don’t want her getting sex training.
- Recognize that much of the education you received was crap. Typically untrained trainers, or those who learned on the job emulate their teachers. What’s wrong with that? Plenty. There are two types of learning Pedagogy and Andragogy. Pedagogy is the practice of teaching children and unfortunately most college professors still employ those practices because they aren’t trained in Andragogy (the practice of teaching adults). Research has shown that children and adults learn very differently. Children are like sponges soaking up pretty much whatever they are told (which is why every college grad with absolutely no work experience KNOWS EVERYTHING), while adults come to the learning event with a lifetime of experience. Adults like to share their experiences, but more than that, it’s important for adult learners to tell their stories so that they can process the information and so that they can see how it fits into their worldview.
- Ask yourself what bad thing will happen if you DON’T provide the skill. Julie Dirksen, in her terrific book, Design For How People Learn, makes this point. We have a tendency to teach people how to operate a lathe by beginning with the discovery of lumber. We love to show off how much we know, it’s borne out of the insecurity of teaching adults; we feel a need to establish our complete and other command of a subject so that the adult learner will respect us and accept what we are telling them.
- Show; don’t tell. There is a book out there, Telling’s Not Training. The title says it all. Demonstrating the skills you are trying to impart and then allowing the learner to practice those skills is hands down the best way to provide training. Unfortunately, WE want to do the talking. Stop thinking of yourself as a teacher and start thinking of yourself as a coach and sensei. If you have to watch The Karate Kid over and over again until you get the message then do so, but whatever it takes learn to create situations where the learner experiences the lesson instead has it force fed the lesson. Adult learning should be guided discovery—there is nothing so powerful or enjoyable than the “aha” moment where you finally get it because you experienced it. This kind of learning is more meaningful, visceral, and lasting; it isn’t something someone said in a boring classroom, it’s something you experienced and discovered for yourself.
- Move to micro-lessons. Every so often the training profession trots out an old concept in a new package, and that’s how single-point lessons came to be called “micro-lessons”. The underlying theme between the two is that teaching someone a single point, one skill is more effective than trying to cram everything you think the learners need into a 1–4 hour block of time. Some of you are about to cry foul—how can you release someone to a job without giving him or her the full compliment of safety training. To that I would say, “follow the law, but where you have the discretion to spread training over time, do so”.
- Cut the time you currently spend training in half (or more). Take a look at your course and ask yourself what can I cut out of this in the interest of time. Before you shout “impossible” think of the times where you started your four-hour training 45 minutes late and still finished on time. What did you cut out? Did the world end? Did the moon fall out of the sky? Or how about the times you taught a class over and over again and the eight hour class eventually becomes a six-hour class because you recognize that the things that you thought were essential weren’t even necessary?