Want to know how to design, create, and deliver effective manufacturing training programs at work? The kind of manufacturing training that truly helps workers acquire new knowledge and develop new skills they can perform on the job? The kind that will have a real, measurable effect on key business KPIs such as average time to onboard a new employee and even production, revenue, and profit?
We've got a pretty simple, six-step formula for success for you to follow in this article. Just put these six steps into action at your manufacturing facility and you'll have more skilled workers before you know it. The employees will thank you for it (after all, they want to know how to perform their jobs well) and so will your bosses.
This article explains each of the six steps in a good bit of detail below. But if you really want to take a deep-dive, know that we've provided links throughout the article so you can explain various aspects even more.
There are six basic steps to pulling together a manufacturing training program at your work that really---well, works.
For starters, check out the image below. It illustrates a process starting at 12:00 on the clock and moving in a clockwise fashion.
Now that you've looked at the graphic, we want to point out a few things.
First: The image above represents a never-ending cycle. And that's true of manufacturing training programs, too. You'll never really be "done."
Second: The phase at the end of the cycle, before you go back to design, is Continuous Improvement. You'll never be done with a manufacturing training program because you always can (and should) keep trying to make the program better and more effective. Think of it as job security!
Rather than just jumping in and starting to create training, it's important to work through the initial design phase. In short, that means planning your training.
The design process includes several steps, including:
Let's look in more detail at each.
There are two points of a training needs analysis.
The first is to determine the "problem" you're trying to solve. Do employees not know how to perform a specific job task, for example?
And the second is to determine if training is the right solution. Sometimes you'll find that training is appropriate, but in other cases you'll find that other solutions would be more appropriate (read more about this here).
If training isn't the right solution, do whatever is and stop the training process.
If training IS the right solution, 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 your content is from credible sources.
You're probably already aware of this, but you shouldn't include stuff in your training just because you heard it "somewhere" or because you read it on the Internet.
Instead, make sure you're getting your information from credible sources:
We already mentioned the importance of creating learning objectives and explained what they are.
And we explained that the learning objectives should act as a guide for your training. Your training content should fully teach the learning objectives and teach nothing else.
Remember this when you're creating your training materials. Once you've created them, review them again to check and see if you've got it right.
Did your training materials include everything necessary to help the employees satisfy the learning objective? If so, great. If not, go back and add more.
Did your training materials include stuff that doesn't help the employees complete the objective? If so, go back and get rid of it.
The employees you'll be training are (most likely) adults. And there's a set of adult learning principles that help adults learn. As a result, you should try to include those 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.
As a training designer, it's notoriously easy to get overly focused on your content or your training technology and forget about the people who are supposed to learn from the training and who will need to change or improve their job performance once the training is over. But all that focus on training content and perhaps training content can lead to training that's less effective, not more.
After all, the training is supposed to help employees learn. Why shouldn't your training design, development, and delivery focus primarily on the needs of the learners?
There are many ways to do this, and a good solid learner analysis is a great way to start.
You might also want to consider some alternate methods of learning more about the learners--this introduction to design thinking might be a fruitful path for you.
The human brain acts as a limit to the amount of information we can process and store at any one time. It's only a small amount of information--about four "bits" at any one time.
And we can only keep that information in our working memory (you might think of this as short-term memory) for a very short period of time. About 15 minutes, tops.
As a result, training that goes on for an extended period of time is your enemy and works against you. Keep it short and sweet and return for more later if necessary (this is related to the next section about chunking).
To "chunk" means to break up training materials into shorter, organized parts and put them in a logical order.
Chunking helps people learn because it's a good way to avoid overloading them with too much information at one time.
This article about chunking training explains why and how to chunk in much greater detail.
When you performed the worker analysis, one thing you investigated was the language issues relevant to the employees who will complete training.
It may turn out that you have a multi-language workforce. If so, you may want to provide your manufacturing training in multiple languages as well, as we've demonstrated below.
In addition to speaking in the correct language(s), it's also important to speak in a casual, conversational tone that's appropriate for the workers who will be receiving the training.
Try to avoid:
You can think of the brain as having two separate but complementary "processing channels" for learning information. One is for language, and the other is for visual images.
If your training materials provide well-designed visuals in sync with spoken language, your employees will learn much more effectively. It's like the old saying about how "the sum is greater than the whole of the parts." A training multiplier comes into effect.
Be sure your training includes both audio and visuals so you can take advantage of this training maximizer. This doesn't mean you have to do something super complex. It can be as simple as drawing on a white board or flip chart, or using the SmartArt inside Microsoft Office software programs. Some ideas are below.
Although you don't need fancy graphic tools and skills to make useful images, this is nonetheless one of the strengths of online manufacturing training courses, as the images below from some of our manufacturing health and safety training courses demonstrate.
For another example, check this sample from an online course about Process and Instrumentation Diagrams (P&IDs).
Earlier, while discussing adult learning principles, we mentioned that the manufacturing employees who will complete your training programs come to the training with a lifetime of knowledge, skills, and experiences.
As learning experts and cognitive psychology have explained to us, when people are exposed to new information, they try to relate it to prior knowledge (these "packets" of knowledge in our memories are known as schemas). Once they've integrated the new information with the prior knowledge, they then "store" it all together in a newly modified packet of information (or schema).
You can greatly aid this process, and create a more effective learning experience, if you do something to trigger the employees to open up, access, or begin thinking about that prior knowledge at the beginning of training. This will help with the process of integrating the prior and new information, and it will help with long-term storage of the new information.
For additional information on this, check out:
It's easier to make sense of new information if it's presented in relation to stuff we already know and understand (this is related to the point above about awakening prior knowledge).
Using what's called "figurative language," including metaphors, similes, and analogies, makes this easier. And so it will make your training more effective.
Read more about the use of metaphors, similes, and analogies in manufacturing training.
People are basically hard-wired to appreciate, listen to, and anticipate the twists, turns, and ending of a story.
And as a result, it's a great idea to present your manufacturing training in the form of a story when you can.
Want more tips on this? Check out this on story-based learning and why you should use it.
People are active learners. That means we learn by doing.
As a result, you should create training that includes built-in chances for employees to practice new skills, see the consequences of their performances, and receive supportive, helpful feedback. All in an environment that's safe and protects them and others from any negative results that would result from making a mistake in a real work environment.
Hands-on training is a great way to do this. Scenario-based online training as described in this video can help, too.
Read more about scenario-based eLearning courses here.
Here's a truth you probably already know about training: people forget stuff. They forget a lot of stuff and they forget it quickly.
If employees at your company do this, it's not because they're bad learners. And it doesn't necessarily mean they weren't paying attention during training. It's just that they're human--which is probably a good thing, right?
That's why training shouldn't be a one-and-one, once a year thing. And that brings us to the importance of refresher training and something called spaced practice (which basically means giving employees repeated chances over time to practice new skills).
Hang in there with me here, because this gets just a tiny bit abstract.
People learn better when they think about what they’re learning and how well they are learning it (or how well they understand it).
This process of thinking about what you’re learning and how well you’re learning is part of what is known as metacognition. There’s a lot to say about this topic, but just knowing that your employees are more likely to understand and remember manufacturing training if they self-monitor their own learning during training will help.
To help employees with this, you can build-in moments into the training where you invite workers to ask themselves how well they understand what’s being discussed. You may even provide pen and paper so they can write notes to themselves. This can be a useful way to make sure you’ve had a chance to address any confusions and uncertainties as well.
Low-stakes or no-stakes testing during training is also a good way to stimulate metacognition and enhance learning.
We’ve listed several evidence-based training practices above, but there are more. We recommend you research them and use them.
Likewise, there are many “learning myths” out there–things that people THINK help to create effective training even if there’s no evidence to suggest it’s true or if there’s evidence disproving it.
For more on evidence-based training and learning myths, check out the following three articles plus one recorded webinar:
Let’s consider some aspects of delivering the training now.
As with all training, it’s important to remember that manufacturing training should be matched to the learning needs of the employees. Keep this in mind whenever any kind of training is being delivered.
But what does that mean? Well, delivering learner-centric training means a LOT of things, but one biggie is the set of adult learning principles we already mentioned. Be sure to put these to use during your training.
Want to take a deeper dive into information related to this training delivery? You might want to check this article on Robert Gagne’s nine events of instruction or this article about a similar, more recent list of steps of training based on cognitive psychology.
If you’re leading face-to-face training, either in a classroom our out in the field, it’s important to keep the employee’s learning needs in mind (and central).
Remember to create an active, engaging experience for the learners. For one thing, that means you want to avoid long, one-sided monologues or lectures. Don’t let your training become one these common and cliched training worst-case situations:
Make sure employees play an active role. Ask them questions. See if there are opportunities for them to lead discussions. Have them break up into groups to discuss things on their own. Have hands-on exercises or written exercises for them.
A train-the-trainer course might be a good idea.
As is true with face-to-face training, it’s important for online and virtual training to be engaging and interactive as well.
Avoid passive, boring online training. Looking for practice tests, interactivity, compelling visuals, short and crisp audio narration, and scored assessment tests.
Here’s more information to help you look for online manufacturing training that’s right for your organization’s learning needs:
Many people in the workplace, maybe most, carry a mobile device such as a phone or tablet with them. In addition, many workplaces make these available to workers while they’re on the job.
And there’s no reason to think this trend will do anything but continue.
As a result, it makes sense to deliver training online to mobile devices like those shown below or as demonstrated on this mobile training webpage.
Mobile learning, also sometimes called m-Learning, can be a great addition to your manufacturing training program. When creating or evaluating mobile learning products though, remember it’s best that the learning activities be short (remember our mention of microlearning before, and see more below) and that they are intentionally designed to be viewed on mobile devices.
It’s also important that mobile devices include some form of interface that makes it easy for workers to find the specific training materials they’re looking for, as demonstrated above.
To learn more, check out our article Mobile Training at Work.
It’s basically human nature to forget training almost instantly. In learning & development circles, this is known as the forgetting curve.
And as a result, it’s a trainer’s job to fight against that natural tendency that we all have to forget. Training must be specifically designed to combat the forgetting curve.
Fortunately, there’s a great deal of research showing that spaced practice is a great and proven way to help combat or even reverse the forgetting curve.
But what’s spaced practice? It’s pretty much what it sounds like. Introducing the employee to the training material, and allowing them to practice their mastery, at different points spaced throughout time. If you’re familiar with the idea of refresher training, you know the basic concept.
Some tips for spaced practice include:
The book Make it Stick has a lot of great material on spaced practice, and so does this Spacing Learning Over Time white paper by Will Thalheimer. We were also lucky enough to get to talk with Dr. Thalheimer about Spaced Learning in this interview.
An exciting new trend in the learning and development work is the movement toward microlearning.
Generally, this means training in short bursts–as little as 1, 3, or 5 minutes.
Research has shown it’s very effective. In addition, it’s great for training delivered to and completed on mobile devices, and it’s a great tool for spaced practice (both mentioned above).
It’s great to train people, but sometimes it’s even better to just get the information that they need to perform their jobs into their hands where and when they need it: on the job, on the floor, in the field, etc.
That’s what performance support is all about.
Learn how to use mobile apps for performance support here.
The idea behind 70/20/10, which is also sometimes known as Experience, Exposure, and Education (or the 3 E’s), is that workers learn only a small amount of their job knowledge and skills from formal training.
The idea is (and the numbers below are just rough estimates–don’t get caught up on them), that workers learn:
So in addition to trying to do everything you can to deliver the best training possible, don’t forget you may be able to impact the organization even more by working to facilitate learning that occurs directly on the job and learning that occurs when coworkers share information.
Read more about 70/20/10 here.
You can’t just deliver training and walk away. You should evaluate it to see if it was effective. And if it wasn’t, you should revise it to make it better.
This starts when you’re delivering training (if you’re the instructor in the field or in the class). Are people confused? Are they glassy-eyed? Are they bored? That’s one level of evaluation, and something you should be observing real-time.
But on top of that, there’s a well-known, four-level method for evaluating the effectiveness of training.
For those of you in the know, you’ll recognize the four-level evaluation method below as being based on the Kirkpatrick Training Evaluation model.
You may be familiar with the idea of handing out surveys so that employees can tell you how good a training session was. These surveys are often referred to as “smile sheets.”
These evaluations don’t provide perfect information, but in general, they’re a good idea. It’s a piece of the puzzle.
However, they are traditionally written in a poor manner that makes the information we receive from employees less helpful than it could be.
Here are a few tips for writing them more effectively.
Click the link to read our more detailed article about how to write better level-1 evaluations/smile sheets.
The next level is to have an assessment, or test, to determine if the employee can satisfy the learning objectives when the training is over.
In some cases, a “knowledge” test of facts and ideas will be what’s called for. These tests can be performed orally, on paper, or electronically using a learning management system (LMS). Many LMSs will even include tools to create your own custom online quizzes, as illustrated below.
In other cases, especially if the learning objective is skill-based, you’ll want to see the employee perform the procedure or job task correctly. There are mobile training apps and devices that can help with this.
A few additional notes about testing before we go:
We’ve written a number of articles about workforce testing. They’re linked below for you.
Also, we recently discovered, enjoyed, and learning from this podcast about testing with Connie Malamed and Michael Rodriguez.
Tests are part of the puzzle, but it doesn’t end after the test. Especially given people’s tendency to forget training quickly.
Once the training is over, you’ll want to observe workers on the job to make sure they’re performing the new skills correctly.
If they are, great. Give them recognition and support for doing so.
If they’re not, remind workers or help them relearn the skill(s). Also, try to find out why. Maybe it’s because there was a problem with the training, and they either never learned or they have forgotten. But maybe there’s something else going on–maybe a manager is telling them to ignore the training, or maybe a work process makes it difficult or impossible to implement the training.
Of course, if it IS clear there’s a training problem, you’ll want to remedy that. That may be as simple as a simple verbal reminder or some refresher training. Or maybe you’ll have to go back and modify the original training.
Near the top of this article, we mentioned the importance of:
Now that training is over, you’re going to want to measure those goals again, and create a system for measuring them over time to prove that the training was effective (or determine it wasn’t).
This article demonstrates using KPIs to measuring training effectiveness.
In this section, we introduced you to the well-known and commonly used Kirkpatrick four-level training evaluation method.
However, it’s worth knowing a few things:
To help you consider all this, please check out the two following recorded webinars/discussions:
It’s also important to document your manufacturing training.
There are lots of reasons for doing this, including legal ones. But what I find most interesting about documenting manufacturing training is that the information it contains can be analyzed to learn more about what makes for effective manufacturing training.
I’m talking in particular about 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.
Creating effective manufacturing training programs is a process that never really ends.
Because once you’ve got through the five steps above, you should take that evaluation information and use it to improve your program. Plus, there will always be new things that occur at work and changes to account for too.
So manufacturing training, like so much of manufacturing, becomes part of a continuous improvement cycle.
Effective manufacturing training programs don’t spring up from the ground on their own.
Instead, they require dedicated effort from many people and the allocation of resources and time.
And that requires an element of management.
Let’s look at some important considerations for managing a manufacturing training program.
Resources, including time, money, supplies, and people, must be allocated to the training program. Goals must be communicated and understood. Roadblocks and obstacles have to be cleared.
People have to have specific roles and they must know what those roles are.
Someone has to ensure that the different stages, processes, and tasks related to manufacturing training programs are completed and on schedule.
Keeping these six steps in mind, and following them, should help you create effective manufacturing training programs at your work.
Let us know if you have any questions, and check out the following articles if you’re interested in learning more about online manufacturing training:
Also, feel free to check out our manufacturing-related training courses and tools by clicking the links below: