In association with our sister company Salveo Ltd we ask the question: How to Make Your Training Ergonomic?
This is Part 2 of an article that first appeared on the Salveo Safety website.
TRAINING DISCONNECTED! COMMON REASONS WHY TRAINING FAILS
If you are an employer, training and development practitioner or a manager, you would be familiar with the often huge amount of money spent on training staff in your organisation. You would also be familiar with the idea that some of your staff do not always see training as relevant, and worse still, others perceive it as a waste of time. This raises a question: how come the huge investment in training is not always reflected in a positive staff perception of the activity? Let us come back to that question in a moment; but for now let us consider ergonomics and how it might help to analyse and solve this problem.
What Does this Have to Do with Ergonomics?
For several decades ergonomists (human factors engineers) have considered the different aspects of human interaction with work, leisure and every day products, with the aim of producing a safe, comfortable and optimum outcome. Traditionally ergonomists aim to influence the interactions between worker, work task, workstation, work environment, work organisation and job design.
The worker is the individual engaged in a work activity; she may be a nurse or he may be a plumber. Her task may be to measure the patient’s blood pressure on the hospital ward or his may be to replace a faulty tap. His workstation may be a client’s kitchen but hers could be the bedside on a hospital ward. The lighting, temperature, humidity and ventilation on the ward and in the kitchen make up the work environments. The nurse may be in charge of twenty patients with two other nurses on a night shift and the plumber may be on the third call out of the day. The nurse is used to working in the company of other nurses and the plumber is familiar with being sent on lone assignments by his domestic property management employers. These work patterns describe both workers’ work organisation and job designs.
Why is Training So Unpopular?
Let me come back to our question: how come the huge investment in training is not always reflected in a positive staff perception of the activity? My answer is simple; poor staff perception of training often reflects a deeper feeling that training is disconnected with one or more of the key interactions between worker, work task, workstation, work environment, work organisation or job design.
Having this information makes it easier to design more effective and more popular training events. I want to show you how this plays out in each of the different interactions I mentioned above.
Disconnected With the Worker
Your trainer is unlikely to be successful if he wears a three piece suit to a course for plumbers. A similar result would be achieved by a nurse trainer, if she turns up in a tracksuit for a blood pressure monitor training event. There is nothing wrong in trainers wearing a three piece suit or track suit for that matter, but these outfits communicate the wrong messages to the plumbers and the nurses: ‘there is no common ground between us’.
Disconnected With the Task
Another reason why training is sometimes unpopular is that there is no connection between the event and the job tasks. For example, if the nurses’ blood pressure monitor training course is based on a high tech ultra modern device that is not available on the ward and that is not going to be purchased anytime in the future; staff would be frustrated and demoralised and worse still the course may produce a negative momentum. The subtle message from the employer is that there is a better device to do the job, but for whatever reason it has not been provided. That may not be such a problem, if the organisation was silent about this fact. However, providing training on the high tech device with no intention of equipping staff with the device is nothing but insensitive!
Disconnected With the Workstation
The training style is equally important; this must be dictated by the traditional approach adopted on the job. The training format must reflect the kind of job; if the job is hands-on, training too should be hands-on. Your trainer is likely to have a poor popularity rating if all she does during the blood pressure monitor training event is to get the nurses to sit down for hours listening to a lecture on blood pressure. Ultimately, the nurses need to know how to use this device competently at the bedside. The earlier your trainer gets them to practise on the device the better! Don’t expect your plumbers to be excited about a training event held in a classroom with power point and the latest smart board technology either. If you cannot secure training space in the workshop, try and reproduce the workshop environment at the training venue as best as you can.
Disconnected With the Bigger Organisational Picture
For most people, the reason for coming to work is bigger than just paying the bills. The nurse takes pride in her contribution to the general health and well being of the community. The plumber gets a sense of satisfaction from restoring hot water supply to a couple with a young family, whose lives have been disrupted for days by a bust pipe. The warm smile, complimentary cup of tea, and the look of relief on the young mother’s face at the end of the repair work, are as important as any other fringe benefit of the job.
Training must find a way of making this connection with the more significant reasons why the worker comes to work and why the organisation ultimately exists. A patient manual handling training event for nurses will resonate more with nurses if the trainer makes the point that the wider significance of the course is to avoid injury to staff and patients and to provide a better service to the patient. The trainer will score even more brownie points if she goes further on the benefits of this event i.e. avoidance of patient complaints and litigation and a perception of the hospital as a better organisation. This message would connect with the nurse and her values at a subconscious level. After all, she probably came into the profession because she wants to give something back to the society by helping people to recover from illness or to avoid illness in the first place.
Sometimes the problem is that training is disconnected with the immediate or present bigger organisational picture. Providing Display Screen Equipment (computer workstation) training to a group of legal secretaries in the middle of redundancies and down sizing may not be a smart idea. The trainer may work tirelessly to the point of exhaustion and still achieve little, because the real issue is not workers’ posture but workers’ future. A similar situation would apply to offering patient hoist training in the middle of staff cuts in a hospital; the real issue is not how many people you need to operate the hoist safely but the excessive workload on individuals due to staff losses.
You could save significantly on your training budget, improve staff perception of training and increase the effectiveness of training events just by checking that your training event is designed to connect with the essential ergonomic interactions between worker, work task, workstation, work environment, work organisation and job design.