Workforce development is essential for businesses and other organizations in today's economy. And while there are many aspects to great workforce development, starting with successful onboarding of new employees, workforce development training is a key part of the effort as well.
Yet many organizations don't have an expertise in training development, and aren't familiar with the nuts and bolts of how to go about it.
In this article, we'll give you a simple blueprint to follow when developing workforce development training. Following these steps will get you far, and once you've got this down you can learn more and further refine your workforce development training as well as other aspects of your workforce development efforts.
You can improve your workforce development training by following a simple six-step process.
That process is illustrated in the image below, starting with "Design" at the noon position and continuing in a clockwise fashion through "Continuous Improvement" and back to "Design."
We'll explain these six steps more fully in this article, but take a moment to see what thoughts and ideas the image below brings to your mind before you read on.
Did you notice this is a never-ending cycle?
Did you notice it involves continuous improvement and then going back to the design phase?
If so, give yourself some congratulations. And know your workforce development training efforts will never really be done.
Just think of that as job security--it's a good thing, really.
Don't just rush into creating and delivering training. Step back and come up with a plan first.
The planning process, known as design, includes the following:
Let's look in more detail at each.
When you perform a training needs analysis, you step back and ask two questions:
Identifying the problem will help guide your efforts from here on in.
In some cases, you'll find that training is not the right solution. Maybe it's better to change a process, for example. In cases like that, stop the training effort and begin working on the other intervention. Of course, in some cases, it will prove that training is the way to go. If that's the case, keep going.
At some point, after the training is complete, you're going to want to know if the training worked. And by that, we mean you're going to want to know if it had a positive, measurable effect on one or more business goal. Because remember, companies don't train workers without a reason. There's always a business goal behind it.
But if you wait until the training is complete before you think about this, you'll be behind the proverbial eight-ball. You won't be able to measure and demonstrate the effectiveness of the training program.
Now's the time to:
Once the training has been complete, you can compare the previous metrics with the current metrics and look for a trend. Hopefully, a positive trend.
Remember that simply saying the training is complete, or that workers passed a test, or that workers spent a certain amount of time in training, is NEVER enough to justify the value of the training.
In some cases, your training may be focused on creating awareness or teaching knowledge to employees. Maybe it's a new company policy.
In other cases, though, the training will be intended to help workers develop new skills so they can complete a specific task or procedure on the job.
In those cases, you'll want to break the procedure down into a series of smaller steps. This will help you prepare to teach the steps of that procedure to workers.
This process is known as the task analysis.
Note: In some cases, the job task isn't a simple procedure with a series of smaller steps performed in the exact same order every time. For those cases, you may find this article on scenario-based learning, this article on helping workers develop problem-solving and troubleshooting skills, and even this article on motivating workers to be innovative of help.
The next step of designing manufacturing training is to create the learning objective(s).
A learning objective is something you want the employees to be able to do when the training is over. It's the entire reason for holding the training. It's what you want to help workers learn to do so that they can do it on the job and the business can therefore meet its business goals.
Once you've created your learning objectives, they should function as a road map for all the rest of your training. You should create training content to help workers satisfy those learning objectives. You should notify workers that the training is intended to help them perform those learning objectives. You should create assessments to determine if workers can perform those learning objectives after training. And you should observe on-the-job behaviors after training to see if workers are performing those behaviors, skills, and/or procedures on the job.
For more about learning objectives, download our free Guide to Writing Learning Objectives.
Your training should always be learner-centric. What does that mean?
It means you put the employees and their learning needs at the top of your list and you create training to match their learning needs.
As a result, you'll need to learn as much about the learners--the employees you'll be training--before you create the training.
There are many ways to do this. Maybe the best is to talk to them and ask them questions.
In addition, though, you might try having them complete surveys and questionnaires, observing them while they're on the job, or getting information about them from their supervisor or HR.
Here are some characteristics to try to learn about:
You can deliver training in different methods. What's a training delivery method, you ask?
Training delivery methods you can use for your manufacturing training include:
Mountains of research data shows that, in general, there's no one training delivery method (or media) that's more effective than the others. The research shows that all of them can be equally effective. What really matters is in the instructional method (for example, the instructional method of "providing helpful feedback" can be used in classroom-style training, in field-based training, during a live webinar, and even in an online eLearning course).
You'll often find that one type of training delivery method (instructor-led classroom training, for example) may be more appropriate for a particular training need, while a different training delivery method (online training, for example) may be more appropriate for a second training need. And in still other cases, you'll find it's best to deliver training in more than just method (such as introducing a topic with an online training course and then following up with an instructor-led classroom session).
Because of this, it's best to use what training experts call a blended learning solution for manufacturing training. In short, this means picking the best training delivery method, or the best combination of training delivery methods, for each training need.
Note: In addition to the blended learning article linked above, you may want to download our free Beginner's Guide to Blended Learning.
At some point, you'll want to think of how much training you want to create yourself and how much you want to create with professional manufacturing training providers, either buying off-the-shelf manufacturing training materials or getting custom manufacturing training created for your company.
The video overview below shows some examples.
Some of the additional things listed below may not seem all that sexy, but they're still important:
This stuff may not seem too exciting, but it's important. For example, it won't help if you create an award-winning, mobile-responsive online training program and your workers have no mobile devices.
Once you complete the design step, it's time to roll up your sleeves and develop your training program.
This means to make it, no matter what delivery method you're using (online training, written, video, written, PowerPoint presentation, instructor-led training, etc.).
Below are some tips for you.
Make sure the information you're including in the training is from reliable, credible, and accurate sources.
Work closely with subject matter experts (SMEs) and other sources to do this.
We already mentioned the importance of creating learning objectives and explained what they are.
So when you're making those training materials, make sure that the materials teach workers to satisfy those learning objectives and take out stuff that doesn't help them do so.
Remember that in training, less is always more.
Always incorporate adult learning principles in your training.
According to a generally accepted set of adult learning principles, adult learners like the employees you'll train:
Read this article to learn more about adult learning principles and how to apply them in manufacturing training.
The human brain acts as a limit to the amount of information we can process. Think 2-5 "bits" tops.
And we can only keep it in mind for a short time, too. 15 minutes, tops.
Everything else falls by the wayside. It's forgotten. Lost.
So keep training short and sweet and return for more later if necessary.
"Chunking" means breaking training into shorter parts and putting them in a logical order--or letting workers access them in an order that's helpful for them.
Chunking is a good way to help avoid the cognitive overload that comes with information dumps.
This article about chunking training explains why and how to chunk.
The language(s) that you use in training will be very important. Get to know your workforce and the languages they use:
Always take the time to get to know these language traits of the workers.
Many workplaces have workers that speak different languages, especially in global organizations. In cases like those, it may help to provide manufacturing training in multiple languages as well, as shown below.
You'll also want to speak in a conversational manner to the workers.
Try to avoid:
Our brains have separate processing channels for language and for visuals.
Using training materials that make use of both language and supporting visuals will make your training more effective. And remember, those visuals don't have to be super-fancy. Some of the tools below can help a great deal with visual creation.
In addition, training providers can supply you with online manufacturing training courses with visuals that are engaging and illustrative, like those below.
Even something like learning to read P&IDs can benefit from a visual approach, as this online course about Process and Instrumentation Diagrams (P&IDs) shows.
As we mentioned earlier when discussing adult learning principles, employees come to training with a lifetime of experiences.
If you have workers recall those experiences at the beginning of training, and then introduce new but related materials during the training, the workers are more likely to remember that new information.
For more on this, check out:
One way to help people associate new information learned during training with prior knowledge is to make comparisons using metaphors, analogies, similes, and similar language.
Learn more about the use of metaphors, similes, and analogies in manufacturing training in this article.
We're essentially hardwired to listen to and pay attention to stories. From Homer's Iliad and Odyssey to Breaking Bad, it's true.
And that's why you should include stories in your training. Don't just share information, facts, and rules. Put them into stories that touch on real life. That will make it all more attention grabbing and memorable.
For more about this, check this article on story-based learning and why you should use it.
People learn very well by doing.
And so you should create training that provides plenty of options for learning by doing.
But remember to let the workers see and understand the consequences of what they do (although in a safe environment), and be sure to explain how well they're doing (through feedback).
Hands-on training is great for this, and so is scenario-based training even when it's online.
People forget things. Quickly.
So if you're doing one-and-done training, you're setting yourself up for failure.
The technique known as spaced practice will make your training more effective by repeatedly introducing workers to concepts, keeping the knowledge fresh and active in their brains.
Metacognition means to think about your own thinking and learning.
Employees learn more when they perform metacognition.
As a result, build prompts into your training for this. Have workers ask themselves if they understand the topics. Give them low-stakes practice exercises. When they answer a question, follow-up by asking how certain they are.
All these help.
Now let's turn our attention to delivering the workforce training.
The biggest key to workforce development training is to deliver it with the employee's learning needs top of mind.
There's a lot to that, much of which we've already covered, but keep this set of adult learning principles central to training delivery.
When leading any form of instructor-led training, keep things active and conversational. As in a two-way conversation.
Try to avoid lectures like these:
Have the workers play an active role. Ask questions. Do role playing scenarios. See if they can lead the training. Have them complete worksheets or other exercises.
There's nothing wrong with trying a train-the-trainer course, too.
Mobile devices are great for training because they make it easier for workers to complete training on their own schedule and when they need the information.
Consider getting training that can be viewed and completed on mobile devices like the ones shown below or as explained on this mobile training webpage.
Mobile learning, also sometimes called m-learning, is best when kept short (see the notes on microlearning below) and when intentionally designed to be viewed on a mobile device. Videos also work well.
Mobile learning is great not just for assigned training but also for performance support at the work area.
In workforce learning & development talk, we often speak of the forgetting curve.
And one way to combat that is with spaced practice.
Spaced practice is pretty much what it sounds like. Introduce a topic more than once, keeping the learning content and skills fresh in the workers' minds.
Here are some tips:
There's a movement toward microlearning in workforce L&D.
But what is microlearning? It's training in short bits--as little as 1, 3, or 5 minutes.
In the right uses, it can be very helpful, including for microlearning (mentioned earlier) and performance support (mentioned directly below).
Training is great and can be very helpful, but sometimes it's better to skip the training and just get the information to workers when they need it on the job.
In a nutshell, that's what a job aid and what performance support are all about.
The basic idea here--and see if your own workforce experiences lines up with this--is that we learn much of what we learn at work from direct, on-the-job experience; a smaller amount from exposure to coworkers and their knowledge bases; and an even smaller amount from organized workforce education programs. That's EEE, for experience, exposure, and education.
This is also sometimes known as 70/20/10, with the idea being that at work we learn:
Don't give the actual percentages about too much concern. The idea is a lot (the 70), a significant amount but less (the 20), and a still smaller amount (the 10).
Your takeaway? Don't focus all your energies on assigned, formal training. Try to help facilitate learning on the job and from coworkers too.
Read more about 70/20/10 here.
You don't want to just delivering training and assume all is good. It's a good idea to evaluate that training to see if it was effective.
The common method for doing this, described below, is the Kirkpatrick Training Evaluation model.
The Kirkpatrick model is a four-level evaluation system.
The first level is about getting your employee's reactions. This is often done with surveys.
This survey information won't be perfect and won't be the end-all, but it's a good start.
The catch is that these survey questions are often written poorly. To learn more, read our article about how to write better level-1 evaluations/smile sheets.
The next level is about assessments after the training.
This may be a skill demonstration, or it may be a written test of some sort.
In some cases, you can create and deliver a test using a learning management system (LMS). Many even have built-in quizmaking capabilities, a shown below.
For skill-based demonstrations and assessments, you might want to try using mobile training apps out in the field.
Remember that all tests should focus directly on whether or not the workers can satisfy the learning objectives.
Here are some additional articles that may help with testing and assessment:
And here's a good podcast about testing with Connie Malamed and Michael Rodriguez.
Testing is fine, but just because a worker passes a test after training doesn't mean he or she will use that knowledge or skills on the job--or even retain the information for 24 hours.
As a result, you're going to want to get out in the field and see if workers are putting the training to use. You should also work with field supervisors to make sure they're observing behaviors and supporting training messages as well.
Give credit and support when you observe workers putting the training in action. Remind them of the training when they're not. And when they're not, investigate further to find out why--it may not be that the training was ineffective. Maybe something else is up.
Nobody trains for fun--nobody develops for fun, delivers it for fun, or completes it for fun.
The purpose is to advance a business goal.
So this level is all about measuring that business goal and seeing if the training helped the organization make progress toward that goal.
This article demonstrates using KPIs to measuring training effectiveness.
For a variety of reasons, you'll want to document your workforce training. Especially for compliance-based training. Other legal issues come into play as well.
In addition, new technologies will bring new uses to training documentation, including data mining, predictive analytics, and big data for learning and performance analysis.
For more information about this, see this article on Big Learning Data.
A learning management system can help you document and analyze your training data.
The new Tin Can/Experience API and learning record stores (LRSs) also come into play here.
Creating effective workforce learning & development training isn't a one-step process. Or even a single, multi-step process.
You'll have to keep going back to it. Expanding it. Revising it. Adding new parts.
This will happen when changes occur. When your evaluations suggest your need improvement. When you learn more about training.
That's all good. It's just security. Just keep up the process of continuous improvement.
None of this happens on its own.
It all requires hard work, resources, money, and effective management.
Here are some tips for managing your workforce training development process.
Someone has to administer, allocate, and manage resources. This means staffing, time, rooms, materials, and more.
All people should have clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
Someone's going to have to project manage this all. It may be the same person doing the management.
Keeping these six steps in mind should greatly benefit your workforce development training efforts.
Here are some training products to consider as well:
And don't forget to download the free guide below, too.