There's always room for continuous improvement in any safety training program. However, if your evaluation indicates the training program is effective in content, presentation and testing, yet employees are not following the procedures and practices they learned in training, it's likely the culture that supports the training program may need improvement.
In any case, continuous improvement in training, resources, enforcement, and/or supervision may be required when employees are not complying with safety policies and rules.
Ultimately, improving safety training is all about change management. Effective change management is crucial to long term success. We'll take a look at one proven change model that can be applied to safety training.
If, after evaluation, it is clear that the training did not give the employees the level of knowledge and skill that was expected, it may be necessary the training manager to revise the training program or provide periodic retraining.
To determine what should be done to solve the training problem, conduct a focus group or survey asking trainers and employees questions about the training they have experienced, and how it can be improved. Below are some questions that you may want to consider asking.
After completing the survey, analyze the results with training staff, and decide if training needs to revised or, if the training is adequate, you need to conduct retraining as necessary.
One last note: you may be surprised with the results about the training you receive from employees, but don't let pride get in the way. Remember, "the facts are friendly," and they will only help improve the training program.
After asking the questions in the previous section, you may discover that one or more improvements to your training program is necessary. If so, it's important to carefully develop and implement the change through effective change management principles.
One very successful and widely used change management technique is the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) Cycle, first developed by Dr. Walter Shewhart, and later applied by W. Edwards Deming, the father of total quality management, to transform the industry of Japan after World War II. He promoted the PDSA Cycle that was partly responsible for Japan's meteoric rise in manufacturing. He believed that statistics hold the key to improving processes, and that management must take responsibility for quality in the workplace because management controls the processes.
The Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle can be very effective, when followed systematically, in improving safety and quality. Once a team has been established and develops measures to determine whether a change leads to an improvement, the next step is to test a change in the real work setting. The PDSA cycle is shorthand for testing a change — by planning it, trying it, observing the results, and acting on what is learned. This is the scientific method, used for action-oriented learning.
Step 1: Plan - Design the change or test
Any change in the safety training process or program must be carefully planned to reduce the likelihood that unwanted results occur. We want training plans to work. They're less likely to work if not carefully planned, but rather built on hunches. Bottom line: small steps!
The purpose of this important first step is to:
Step 2: Do - Carry out the change or test
The purpose of this step is to formally implement the change or test. It's important that the test be conducted on a small scale to limit the number of variables involved. If the change is too large, and something doesn't work, you may not be able to pinpoint the variables that caused the unexpected results. If unexpected results occur, limiting the scope will reduce the negative impact of the change.
Step 3: Study - Examine the effects or results of the change or test
The purpose of this step is to record and study the effects of the change or test. We want to determine what was learned: what went right or wrong. Statistical process analysis, surveys, questionnaires, interviews and other techniques are important in studying the effects the change had on the quality of training.
Step 4: Act - Adopt, abandon, or repeat the cycle
The purpose of this step is to incorporate what works into the system and toss what doesn't. We need to ask not only if we're doing the right things, but ask if we're doing things right. And, are we doing it for the right reason. If we find we're doing the right things, the right way, for the right reasons, we're on the right track. If the result of the change was not as intended, abandon the change or begin the cycle again with the new knowledge gained.
Implementing change in training requires changes in processes, procedures, policies, and ultimately corporate culture.
As a result, it's important to understand the dynamics of change and transition. William Bridges, author of Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, emphasizes that, for change to be effective, employees must successfully transition.
The origin of change is external, usually viewed as an imposition, and can be quite scary. Change of any kind may actually be threatening to an employee. Change may require new expectations in expertise, knowledge and skills. New expectations make anyone nervous. To one degree or other, we all worry that we may not be able to meet those new expectations. To overcome the fear of the new "unknown" it's important that we successfully transition.
For change to be successful, employees must transition internally to the new way of doing things. There must be a change in internal thinking as well as external action. It's important during this period of increased anxiety and confusion to communicate often with employees so they understand why the change is necessary. Employees must let go of the past, adapt, and accept what is new.
So what's the bottom line when it comes to change. Make sure you communicate the benefits of a change in the training program. Don't just assume that the change has happened once it has been implemented. Remember, the number one reason we don't do what we should is because we don't know "why" we should do it!