David A Newsum B Sc.(Hons.) CEnvH FCIEH
Environmental Health Training Consultant, United Kingdom
As commercial trainers in food safety and health and safety, we are standing at a crossroads following a couple of years of huge disruption to our ‘normal’ business. Although e-learning and virtual learning had made significant inroads into the traditional face to face arena, that has accelerated massively, caused by the pandemic, so it is time for reflection and looking at what we should retain and what we should change. That will differ from trainer to trainer, and organisation to organisation.
However, this paper examines the key principles which can make professional training programmes the agents for real change in the workplace, regardless of the mode of delivery.
The purpose of training
At any time of the day or night there will be a worker, supervisor or manager somewhere who is trying to learn a little about some aspect of occupational health and safety or food safety. Why? So that they can understand a regulator’s requirements, or a piece of law, or perhaps because it is compulsory in order to get a license, or even possibly simply because they want to learn (the least likely reason?). They will be trying in a few days to learn what a professional practitioner takes several years to learn, and also probably trying to pass a test to gain a qualification. And then, if successful, they will be expected to apply this quickly obtained knowledge to make their business entirely safe overnight, and forever!!! This does not always work! And this training activity is expensive, not just in terms of the time of the worker or learner, but in the development of the programme, its testing, training of tutors, administration and other costs. While there are many questions in theory that a competent trainer will automatically consider before committing to a training project (and that of course is much more challenging with e-learning solutions) it often boils down to the 5 time-honoured ones:
Many people already know what makes a well delivered training programme, because we have all attended good and bad ones – the principles of good training delivery are well known, but they are not always applied. And, purely from a training perspective, the impact of training is not easily assessed, often coming to fruition (or not) many months down the line during an audit or regulatory visit, after an incident or accident or, worse still, in a court case.
Of course, now more than evermore, the options for learning in different ways have never been wider – from face-to-face lessons, online virtual classrooms right through to e-learning, the hybrid combinations really do represent opportunities. Whichever is the learning process, however, the same fundamentals can be applied, based on the three core perspectives of any work or business-related training: Learner, employer, and trainer. These roles and how they combine are further interpreted in this article.
Even if all parties work closely together in the same company (as with in-house programmes) the three parties are quite distinct and contribute to or can conflict with the training programme in their own way. Experience of the writer’s own training programmes, and substantial anecdotal evidence suggests that when training programmes are criticised for failing to be effective, a set of common reasons are offered. By analysing these, and matching them against features of successful training programmes, they fall into three groups. These groups of influences are described as the relationship between two parties. This leads to a series of questions or statements which can be assessed in a training project before commencement, and which can highlight potential negative indicators:
Trainer and learner
1. Does the trainer have information about each learner, including job role, previous relevant training, learning ‘difficulties’ and preferences?
2. Is the training structure designed to suit the experience, ability and responsibilities of the learners?
3. Has the trainer determined the best delivery model, and support material to suit the learners?
4. Are the training methods and training techniques suitable for the learners?
5. Is the trainer capable of establishing good rapport, trust and credibility with the learners?
Learner and employer
1. Have the learners been selected on the basis of necessary, relevant and achievable training?
2. Have the learners been properly briefed on the purpose of the training programme?
3. Have the learners been given suitable access to pre-course reading material or activities?
4. Has the employer/manager demonstrated commitment and enthusiasm for the training and indicated willingness to be an active participant?
5. Has post-programme support been established to ensure the implementation of the training in practice?
Trainer and employer
1. Has the trainer been selected on the basis of suitability, competence and track record?
2. Has the trainer been provided with details of the organisation, organisational culture, relevant standards and problems which might be raised during the training programme?
3. Have the trainer and employer agreed training outcomes, training style and how the programme will be evaluated/assessed/certified?
4. Have the trainer and employer identified potential barriers to the training being successful, and agreed appropriate solutions?
5. Has the trainer indicated to the employer the type of post programme support that will be necessary?
If these questions are answered honestly, the questionnaire gives a clear indicator about how well the training should work. This can be done numerically if desired, or colour coded in classic green, amber, red style, but the key issue is to attempt to satisfy all 15 criteria before embarking on a training programme. None of the criteria is less important. The protocol can be used by all three parties, to check the overall arrangements, but it is probably the trainer who is best placed to use the checklist when bidding for training or when first allocated a training project.
If all parties worked through this checklist positively it would provide a framework for successful trainings to have a greater influence on actual standards, rather than be remembered only by the certificates on the wall, gathering dust, as a dim and distant reminder.
The author is happy always to discuss any aspect of training with fellow professionals, at email@example.com
David Newsum is a freelance Chartered Environmental Health consultant, delivering local, regional, national and international inspection, auditing, policy and training services to clients in the private, public and voluntary sectors through his limited company, Newsum Consultants Ltd.
He started his career in enforcement as an EHO with Manchester City Council, before moving on to delivering professional development services for the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), and then subsequently set up his own consultancy operation. His main areas of expertise are in food safety and standards, health and safety, and professional skills development.
In particular, he has always specialised in channelling his services through training projects and has been commissioned to deliver several national training programmes for the Food Standards Agency on inspection techniques, food safety management and, most recently, allergen management and regulation. He has also delivered health and safety competence training for the CIEH, as well as designing a distance learning programme on the Enforcement Management Model for the HSE.
David continues to welcome innovative training opportunities and he also provides support and mentoring to trainers who wish to develop their creative training skills. He has written an e-book on creativity in food safety training and runs a personal blogging site to share ideas and experiences.
He has been virtually a life-long volunteer for the CIEH at local and national levels, including several periods as a trustee, and he also finds time once a year to sing and play guitar for his granddaughter’s birthday!
Training project success predictor
Trainer and learner
Response – Yes/Partly/No
Does the trainer have information about each learner, including job role, previous relevant training, learning difficulties and preferences?
Is the training structure designed to suit the experience, ability and responsibilities of the learners?
Has the trainer determined the best facilities, timing, venue and support material to suit the learners?
Are the training methods and training techniques suitable for the learners?
Is the trainer capable of establishing good rapport, trust and credibility with the learners?
Learner and employer
Have the learners been selected on the basis of necessary, relevant and achievable training?
Have the learners been properly briefed on the purposes of the training programme?
Have the learners been given suitable access to pre-course reading material or activities?
Has the employer/manager indicated commitment and enthusiasm for the training and indicated willingness to be an active participant?
Has post programme support to implement the training in practice been established?
Trainer and employer
Has the trainer been selected on the basis of suitability, competence and track record?
Has the trainer been provide with details of the organisation, its culture, relevant standards and problems which might be raised during the training programme?
Have the trainer and employer agreed training outcomes and how the programme will be evaluated, assessed or certified?
Have the trainer and employer identified potential barriers to the training being successful, and agreed appropriate solutions?
Has the trainer indicated to the employer the type of post programme support that will be necessary?