Helping Workers Acquire Basic Job Skills and Perform Standard Procedures


Teaching Workers Basic Job Skills and Procedures Image

In every job, there's a set of basic skills and simple procedures that a worker filling that job has to learn to perform.

For an organization to perform at peak efficiency, it's important that the workers in each job role know how to perform each of these skills and procedures.

But how does a company go about teaching those basic skills and procedures? How can employers help workers develop these skills and knowledge quickly and efficiently? And how does the company know if the workers can perform those procedures?

That's what we're going to look at in this article.

Blended Learning on the Job: An Introduction

Before we get too deeply into this article, let's set the scene a little more.

We join many learning & development experts in believing that a blended learning solution is the best way to train a workforce. If that's a new idea to you, it means using different types of training, such as instructor-led, video, e-learning courses, OJT, etc., for different training needs.

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But that raises the question: how do you pick the best type of training for each training need? That's probably a question with no single best answer. In a perfect world, you'd always pick the type of training that would lead to the best learning outcome every time. But in the real, imperfect world that we live in, where money, time, and human resources are limited, you sometimes have to shoot for something less than perfect (even if you will always shoot for as close to perfect as possible).

And so one idea is to use training types that are less costly and/or use fewer human resources when they'll still deliver good learning results, and to reserve more costly instructor-led training, and the limited human resources it requires, for the training needs where it delivers the most bang for the buck.

Here's a simplified view of that. First, we can break down the stuff people have to learn on the job into three general types:

  • Advanced job skills: The advanced skills that take a lot of time, experience, and practice to develop, and that create great value for a company
  • Basic skills and simple procedures: The important-yet-everyday stuff that people need to do to perform their job
  • Basic job knowledge: The basic knowledge people need to know before they can learn to perform the basic skills, simple procedures, and advanced job skills associated with their job

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And for each of these three levels, we can assume that certain types of training might be more appropriate or more advantageous than other types. In particular, some training needs (the more advanced ones) may require giving the employees more feedback and opportunities for practice, and other training needs (the simpler ones) may require less need for feedback and practice.

Here's how that breaks down:

Training Need Example Need for feedback/practice "Best" Training Method*
Advanced Job Skills
  • Principles of lean manufacturing
  • Troubleshooting
  • Process optimization
Extensive; continuous; repeated
  • Intensive one-on-one
  • Hands-on guided practice
  • Scenario-based training
  • Scenario-based "branching" e-learning
Basic Skills and Procedures Simple machine operation Probable, but not extensive and most likely only once or twice
  • Group instruction
  • Limited one-on-one training;
  • Job shadowing
  • Videos
Basic Job Knowledge
  • What is this work area?
  • What is this machine?
  • How does this machine work?
None or little
  • Written materials
  • Simple linear e-learning
  • Videos

(* These are general guidelines and not hard-and-fast rules you must follow every time. In addition, you may sometimes find yourself using a certain kind of training at different levels, but perhaps with greater or less frequency that at other levels.)

Got it?

Now that we've set the scene, what we're going to focus on is training to help employees at that middle level. Teaching employees the relatively basic skills and simple procedures that they need to be able to perform to do their job on a daily basis.

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Helping Workers Develop Basic Skills and Learn to Perform Simple Procedures

Let's take a moment for an analogy.

They often say an army marches on its stomach (I guess Napoleon gets credit for coining that one, according to my "close personal friends" at Google). What that means is that you've got to feed soldiers to keep the army moving.

In a similar way, you've got to teach workers to perform these basic skills and procedures for each job role to keep a company producing products. This is the everyday stuff people do to keep the company in business. So it's important, and it's worth giving some thought to how to do it well.

So let's do that.

Before You Develop Training: Identify Job Roles and Tasks Workers In Each Job Role Perform

It's never a bad idea to start at the beginning. Actually, I think it makes pretty good sense.

And in this case, for you, the beginning is coming up with a list of the job roles at your company and then identifying each job task that workers in each role have to perform.

These are the tasks for which you'll develop training materials.

Here's a longer article about identifying job roles and job tasks if you want to read more.

Next Step: Perform a Task Analysis

Once you've got a list of tasks a worker in a given job role has to perform, you'll want to step back and figure out how the task is performed.

It's worth doing this, because if you've got to train workers to do it, you'll want to know how to do it yourself 🙂

The basic idea here is to perform a task analysis. That means taking the task and breaking it down into the steps a person has to perform to complete the task (in order).

You'll use this list to put together the training for that task.

Here's a longer article about the task analysis if you want to dive into that deeper. You may also find this article about the Training Within Industry (TWI) Job Instruction method of interest on this point.

Develop Your Learning Objectives for the Training

Once you know the job roles, the job tasks, and the steps involved in completing each task, you're going to want to create learning objectives.

The learning objectives are the set of things you want employees to be able to do after they complete the training. If you don't create learning objectives, your training is likely to miss important items, including unnecessary stuff, or be generally off-point.

You can download our free guide to creating learning objectives here.

Design Your Training: Selecting the Training Delivery Method

Now that you know the tasks you want teach, and the steps of those tasks, and have your learning objectives, we turn to the topic of this article: What type of training (also called training delivery method, training modality, and similar catchy phrases) should you use?

As described earlier, helping workers to perform basic skills and simple procedures may take "a middle" amount of feedback and practice. It's not rocket science, so you won't have to give intensive, one-on-one training over an extended amount of time (as you might for something more advanced). But it's also not always super-simple, so your training should include some face-to-face interaction, feedback, and opportunity for practice.

This isn't true in all cases, but you'll often find that very simple types of training will do just fine, at least for introducing the skills and procedures. This can include:

  • Written training materials like PDFs and PowerPoint presentations (with photos or videos that show how to perform the procedure)
  • Simple videos (you can shoot these yourself--even with your smart phone)
  • Simple e-learning courses (you can have an e-learning provider make these for you or even make them yourself with an e-learning authoring tool)
  • Classroom-style and/or field-based training with a group of workers in which the procedure is demonstrated and explaine

In addition, because you'll want to provide an opportunity for Q&A, hands-on practice (with no real-world consequences), and feedback, you will want to build in some form of face-to-face training, too. This can include:

  • A quick verbal "check-in" or discussion to see if the worker understands
  • Individual one-one-one training in the field, including demonstrating the procedure, having the employee perform it, and evaluating their performance

In some cases, you can even build a scenario-based e-learning course that lets the person practice, see the consequences of their decisions, and receive instructive feedback based on their actions. That's beyond the scope of this article but check this article on scenario-based learning and manufacturing for more info on that.

Skill Demonstrations and Evaluations

It's also a good idea to evaluate the worker's performance to make sure they really are able to perform the skill or procedure.

That means having the worker demonstrate the newly learned skill (in a safe, consequence-free environment, remember) while an experienced, knowledgeable trainer or supervisor evaluates the worker's performance.

This is generally done by having the evaluator watch the employee while checking off items on a checklist or giving the employee scores on a rating scale. It's important to have some form of objective evaluation device, like a checklist, so that all people are judged fairly by any one evaluator and so that different evaluators don't hold different people to different (incorrect) standards.

To create the checklist that the supervisor will use while evaluating the employee's skill demonstration, go back to the task analysis created earlier and used as the basis for the training..

Digital Tools To Make Teaching Job Procedures Easier

Some companies even go so far as to make digital tools that allow you to break a task down into steps and explain each step with a video and/or written explanation. Your employees can watch these online--maybe even with their mobile phone or a tablet.

If you want to, you can follow that up by having a conversation with the employee, by demonstrating the procedure to the employee, and/or by having the employee practice while you give helpful feedback. Or you can do all of this.

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And you can even use those same digital tools to check the worker off for performing each steps of the task correctly and to collect signatures from the employee and the in-the-field evaluator (see an example, below). Even better, you can take these mobile devices with checklists into the field, where there's no Internet connection, check the worker off on the tasks and collect signatures, and later sync the training data with your LMS when there's an Internet connection.

Digital Device for Evaluating Employee Performance of Job Skill In the Field Image









What's more, you can even make these lists available to workers on the job, once they've completed training, for on-demand performance support. We all need a little help now and then, right?

Some devices can even bring up the relevant SOP by scanning a barcode placed on a machine or in the work area.

Who says technology isn't making life easier, huh? Click to read more about using mobile apps and devices for workforce training.

Summary: Teaching Workers Basic Skills and How to Perform Simple Procedures

So that's our look at using certain training delivery methods to teach workers to perform basic job skills and procedures.

Remember, this is part of a method for determining the "best" training type for each training need within a blended learning solution. We've already written similar articles on the best training type for other training needs, and you may find them interesting as well. Here they are:

Of course, we are interested in your opinions, too. Let us know your thoughts, below.

And why not download our FREE MANUFACTURING TRAINING GUIDE, below?


Manufacturing Training from Scratch: A Guide

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Want to Know More?

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