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Training the trainers

By by Todd Phillips

Don Sayers has been in the training game for longer than he’d care to admit. And he’s learned a thing or two along the way about what makes training effective.  

Sayers, the principal force behind Don Sayers & Associates, presented a three-hour workshop on effective safety training at the CSSE event in Victoria, B.C.

Wandering effortlessly across the stage, Sayers is clearly comfortable when he’s teaching and training — even training trainers. Get him talking about safety training and adult learning, and you’d better be ready for a far-reaching discussion.

    Sayers talked about the benefits of “effective” workplace training, including:

• boosts employee retention;

• enhances skills and knowledge;

• optimizes versatility;

• enables synergy, teams and collaboration.

Canada needs training

Why do we need to boost our training? Because we aren’t doing so well.Canada’s per capita safety performance ranks 22nd out of 24economically mature nations, globally, he says, and the United Statesis 20 per cent better than we are at workplace safety. Our productivityis also dropping steadily.

Meanwhile, there are some major shifts to the world of occupationalhealth and safety that are affecting all practitioners and require themto keep boosting their skills and be more accountable for their safetyefforts. These shifts include:

• shift from staff to line “ownership” of safety systems;

• shift from blame to systems failure (i.e. risk) causation models;

• shift to integrate quality and environmental elements; and

• shift to leadership from management paradigms.

Staff support services must be seen as adding value to the organizationthat directly contribute to organizational goals. Safety istraditionally seen as a cost, not benefit.

Americans are already spending about twice the amount on training asCanadians, and it’s coming under increased financial scrutiny. Thereporting relationships for safety personnel are increasingly shiftingto chief financial officers and these are money people, he says, andtraining is seldom seen as a strategic investment within anorganization.

He says safety professionals should be prepared to answer questionssuch as: Does safety training contribute to corporate goals? How and byhow much? Show me how the training investment pays?

Sayers says effective training provides skills and knowledge so thatemployees can be fully-contributing partners with the goals of theiremployer.

Sayers then took delegates through things like overcoming the barriersto effective training, the difference between training andinstructing,  the importance of measuring the effectiveness oftraining, the need to apply it right away, and for training to closelyresemble an actual working environment.

Sayers advised delegates to be cautious in buying off-the-shelf safetyprograms and transplanting them into their organizations. It’s hard tosustain the changes over time, unless the programs are a fit with thecompany’s DNA. “It’s a different DNA,” says Sayers. It’s like a kidneytransplant, he says, hard to pull off and it requires a lifetime ofanti-rejection drugs.

He also said e-learning is playing an increasingly important role.“There is a lot of suspicion, fear, and angst around e-learning,” saysSayers. But he says well-designed e-learning results in more measurable learning transfer than face to face learning. “With well designed e-learning,the learner sets the pace,” says Sayers.

Sayers says 74 per cent of companies in North America already use someform of e-learning, according to a recent survey. “There’s a lot offear and loathing around e-learning and online training. Get over it.It’s here to stay and growing rapidly,” says Sayers.

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