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Blame the environment

April 21, 2010

This third post on training program failures looks at the training environment i.e. the actual workplace.

A student is subjected to the same demands and complexities of the workplace as the remainder of the work staff, but without the benefit of the their experience, knowledge, familiarity and ultimately, their resilience. Large or constant fluctuations in the work’s complexity and tempo will affect the student’s progress, often considerably enough to alter the outcome less favourably. Unreasonable problems, insufficient practice opportunities or irregular training bouts can mean inconsistent, and therefore ineffective periods of training.

To identify if there were any ineffective periods of training and if so, how many, you need to look at three main areas.

The People: Each of us responds to challenges differently and will leverage our various strengths to tackle problems in our individual ways. This means that our supervisors, co-workers and even customers will achieve their objectives using unexpected or undesirable methods that we may not understand or have the skills to complete. Different personalities can also result in different management styles, varying levels of support for the student and inconsistent policing of standards. Not to mention how the team dynamic can shift when we are short-staffed, overstaffed or introducing new members to the organisation.

ASK: Was there sufficient staff to balance workload or Too many staff involved, getting in each other’s way or fighting for time on the floor? Were they sufficiently skilled? Was there always a trainer available? Was there adequate supervision? Was there support for the student? The trainer? What about the co-workers? Was there any other training going on? Was their a change in staff or staff numbers? Was there a change in management, any promotions or demotions during the period that may have caused a shift in power or reshuffle of priorities?

The Facilities: Equipment maintenance or unavailability can affect the amount of training time allocated to the student. Introducing new equipment or procedures during the training can add extra challenges, even if the student isn’t directly involved. Any difficulty faced by other team members can easily encroach on the student’s performance or alter the challenges they would normally face.

ASK: Were there any equipment failures, maintenance or upgrades during the training? Was the student forced to modify practices for any period to compensate? Were the training facilities shared and if so, where was the priority afforded? Were there sufficient tools for the student (in number and in quality)? Was there opportunity for remedial activities or additional training to target specific weaknesses?

The Work: Balancing the workload with the student’s ability can be difficult in a controlled training environment (simulation, classroom etc), but in an actual workplace, it can be near impossible. Surges can tax the student, leaving them disappointed and exhausted. Lulls can be equally challenging by not allowing the student sufficient opportunity to hone their newly developed skills. Priorities can also change as the organisation responds to the demands of it’s customers or suppliers. Anything that shifts the company’s goals away from the training objectives will result in slower progress for the student.

ASK: Was the workload consistent enough to allow the student to practice, but varied enough to be representative of their expected duties? Was it challenging, but not over-taxing? Were there any quiet periods? Did the complexity and intensity evolve with the student? Did the student spend any time on the sidelines (too challenging)? Did they need to maintain existing responsibilities or conduct other competing work tasks? Were there any risks involved that made autonomy difficult?

Ideally we want the student to progress by facing progressively more difficult challenges, in a workplace that must respond to a sometimes extremely volatile environment. It is an unfortunate reality that the fluctuating workload won’t shift to meet the student’s needs and will at times, hinder the training process.

Download my free e-book: “IMPROVING YOUR TRAINING FROM WITHIN” Using the ‘hot wash’ to refine your training program.

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