To train (verb)
How much does your company spend on training each year? Whether it be for safety, process or mechanical training, industry-leading organizations provide up to 10 percent of working-hours equipping their employees with new or refresher training to ensure employees have the necessary knowledge and skills to perform their daily job tasks effectively. But how much of this training truly provides the value for which it’s intended? How much of your company’s training budget is wasted on ill-conceived or ineffective training?
As a professional instructor, advising you to stop wasting money on training may seem like an odd topic for this column. However, like most people, I take pride that the job I’m performing on any given day is the best that I can do, and perhaps more importantly, is making a real difference. Essentially, I don’t like to feel that my clients are not receiving full value for their training dollars. Unfortunately, as an instructor, I have become aware of which courses I’m teaching have the desired effect, and which are simply wasting the time and money a company has invested in that training. In fact, I usually know within the first 30 minutes!
Training and Educating – What’s the Difference?
So how can you make sure that you are not simply wasting money when organizing a training class; be it lubrication, oil analysis or any other subject area? First, the difference between “training” and “education” needs to be recognized. Training is about imparting new skills. Teaching a technician how to visually inspect the oil level in a gearbox or how to use an ultrasonic device to assist in regreasing are both examples of new skills that can be taught, and when put into practice provide tremendous value to an organization. The key here is “put into practice.” Unless the new skill is practiced it is likely to atrophy over time, rendering the training valueless.
In organizing skills-based training, a direct one-to-one correlation needs to be made between the tasks a technician will be asked to perform, as well as an appropriate training module to provide the skills and ability to complete the task. Optimally, a job-skills assessment should be completed in advance. This typically involves assessing which tasks technicians might be asked to perform during the course of their work. Once complete, each technician is assessed on his or her ability to perform the allotted tasks, so that remedial training can be provided to complete any gaps in the technician’s skills-base. After completing the training, the same gap analysis should be performed to ensure that the training has achieved the desired effect and closed the gap on any skill deficiencies.
Education, on the other hand, is a little more ethereal. It is about teaching why certain tasks or activities provide value, and perhaps why a change in the way a task is currently performed is important. Take for example a visual oil level check of a splash lubricated gearbox. The education component of training a technician for this task is explaining why the correct running oil level is maintained, and how observing the visual condition of the fluid (color changes, cloudy, opaque, aerated etc.) can all help diagnose early warning signs. Training, however, might be able to provide further diagnostic value through qualitative or quantitative assessment of the situation, perhaps by conducting a simple field crackle test for water or a static sit test for aeration.
Education is just as critical to success as training. While there can be little dispute that knowing “how” to perform a task is important, in my experience understanding the why, ensures a commitment to the task. Few of us like to be told to do something without some explanation of why it is necessary. Few of us like getting up five minutes earlier in the morning to brush our teeth, but we learn from an early age that it provides us with that “minty freshness” (or so the ads say) and more importantly, helps to prevent tooth decay. Just like training, education should be tailored toward the intended result. Similar to the modularized skills-based training advocated, knowledge-based education also needs to be centered on the functional areas any technician may be responsible for.
Training and education are an important part of achieving continuous improvements. But with cost-cutting and training budget cut-backs, make sure your training is truly tailored to meet the objectives for which it’s intended, and quit wasting money!
As always this is my opinion; I’m interested in yours.