Nick Wilson, director of health and safety services at WorkNest, has more than 20 years of training experience, working with individuals from the top to bottom of organisations. Here he explains the steps you can take to improve the effectiveness of training and increased employee engagement when delivering courses.
Training team members and employees is an essential part of good health and safety management. When done well, it helps to develop workers’ competence and awareness, promote safe behaviours, improve organisations’ safety culture and productivity, and reduce the risk of workplace injuries, illness, or even death. Of course, it’s also a legal requirement.
Where trainers often fall down is at the point of delivery. No matter your subject knowledge, you can be communicating something quite mundane, so you must therefore make it as interesting and impactful as you can. To get people to value what you’re saying you must get across the ‘why’ they need to have the training, not just teach them the ‘what’. At the end of the day, you cannot make people learn, you must help them discover.
Treat your approach to delivering training like a muscle. You must build it up as you experiment with different methods and see what lands best.
Here are our top tips for training. Many of these points are quick and easy to introduce or improve upon and, when you do, you will see instant improvements in training engagement and desired impact on the organisation thereafter.
1. Avoid a one-size-fits-all teaching style
Simply reeling off regulations isn’t going to engage anybody. Individuals have different learning styles, so don’t alienate anyone by taking one approach. Instead, plan to use a combination of theory and practical exercises as well as telling stories, using analogies and adding humour where needed. Offer breakout sessions and get people up and doing, not just listening. Even consider mock trials to highlight the severity of undermining regulation.
2. Your slides should be prompts
Rather than reciting slides verbatim, use notes and photos on the slides as a prompt. This will allow you to better engage with participants so that they don’t switch off. It’s important that slides aren’t too text-heavy – the more text the audience is reading, the less they are able to listen to what you're saying.
3. Don’t use training to lecture or preach
Health and safety has an unfortunate reputation of being ‘boring’ and training can either reinforce or help dismantle this view. While we are passionate about keeping people safe and are all too aware of the consequences of not doing so, be careful not to preach. A calm, rational argument and illustrative examples, will have a bigger impact. Let the facts speak for themselves. Again, reeling off regulations isn’t going to engage anyone in the room.
4. Watch out for information overload
Plan how much content you need to fill the session and do a run through beforehand to determine whether it’s too much or too little, leaving space for questions. At WorkNest, we often observe that less is more.
5. Refresh content regularly
Training can easily become stale, so keep it fresh with new resources and examples including the latest statistics and recent cases that have been heard in the courts and serve to reinforce a learning point. IOSH magazine, health and safety forums, online groups and of course the HSE website are all good places to find new material.
6. Align training content to your audience
Team members from a mixture of departments and roles are likely to require different information, delivered in different language, especially compared to directors and senior executives. Similarly, dress for the delegates you are training – make yourself relatable. Read the room too, then be willing to alter your facial expressions, body language, speed of delivery, pitch and tone to your audience depending on their cues.
7. Encourage discussion and debate
If you start using more open questions in your training, you instantly invite discussion and debate which engages the audience. It makes them think more about the training and encourages people to reflect on their own experiences which will make it more relatable and understandable. But be mindful that some will be keener to contribute than others so try to encourage feedback from everybody.
8. Remember not to assume that people understand
Don’t forget that delegates likely don’t know what you know. Whilst OSH professionals love an acronym, your audience won’t always be familiar with the latest safety speak, so audit your slides and script accordingly. Check understanding as you go along so that important messages aren’t lost in translation.
9. Refreshers can be informal
Be sure that the knowledge and desired conduct resulting from your training is being retained. To keep this top of mind, refreshers don't have to be formal sessions. For example, they could be informal team coffee chat exercises.
A well thought out training session will set you up for success. Plan the resources you will use and endeavour to integrate something new into your sessions each time. After you have delivered your training, ask participants for feedback. Take stock of what has or hasn’t worked, applying your own learnings and the feedback from others. This will help you to fine-tune your training accordingly and improve future delivery.
And remember, to ensure that what you have covered in your training is being enforced, involve supervisors and other workers to pick up on someone when they aren't doing what they have been trained to do and ask why.