Does this sound familiar? You invest thousands of dollars into your safety training each year. You gather your team monthly and present life-saving information to a room full of slouched body, zoned-out employees that are probably thinking more about the ham sandwich they are having for lunch than how not to cut their hand off. You purchase computer equipment so your employees can take online training courses at their own time, but rather than taking the time to learn, they click through the course at lightning speed and make best guesses at the correct answers.
We can talk a long time about employee engagement, adult learning theory, and creating better training courses…in fact, we’ve done that on this blog. But, at the end of the day, employees tend to be apathetic when it comes to training. According to Fast Company magazine, to employees, training is often viewed as irrelevant, dull, and compliance-oriented. Leaders sometimes make the mistake of thinking training is a waste of time and money when they don’t see dramatic results right away.
More than likely it’s not the training content or subject matter itself that is the issue, it’s the approach of the organization. And when U.S. organizations are spending over $70 billion a year on training, a growth of 15% in 2014, it’s time to pay attention to how workplace safety training and employee development is valued in the workplace. There have been a number of articles, blogs, and seminars on how to “sell” executive leadership on the value of workplace safety training. Tips and tactics that you as the safety professional can take to prove the worth of the investment in workplace safety. Safety as a whole has struggled to get a seat at the table to drive an organization forward and is often times regarded as a cost center that executive leadership only pays attention to when there is a problem. Maybe the lack of day-to-day C-level engagement isn’t as big of a problem as we make it out to be? We’ve gotten so focused on the idea that it’s critical for the top dogs at an organization to get involved with safety and send the message down through the organization that we may have lost sight of the importance of leadership at the ground level. We certainly believe it’s important that the organization as a whole care about safety, pay attention to it, and support it, however, the employee’s direct manager has the most impact on the employees reception of training – not so much the CEO. We know from our conversations with organizations of all sizes and in all industries that the CEO, COO, and CFO are not involved with the decision for safety training, or employee training as a whole. Frankly, as long as things are working, they are happy to see a line item in a report showcasing how a kick-ass safety program is adding to the bottom line. It’s a compliment that they’ve entrusted you to make the decisions necessary to make safety training work.
Perhaps it’s time to shift the focus away from the C-level to your management team, including those managers that aren’t directly tied to the EH&S department. The vast majority (some sources say as much as 90%) of learning and development takes place not in formal training programs, but rather on the job—through new challenges and developmental assignments, developmental feedback, conversations and mentoring. Thus, employees’ direct managers are often their most important developers. (Harvard Business Review) Positive engagement while on the job from supervisors and managers will have a positive effect on your safety training efforts. We can’t make promises that employees minds won’t drift to that ham sandwich during training sessions, but when employees can interweave the training into their jobs and make the connection, chances are they are going to be more engaged in the training.
How does this all come together? When employees are receptive to the training, and your entire management team is on board, then positive things happen – like a reduction in accidents, lower costs associated with accidents, etc. This makes the C-Level happy. I think we can all admit that workplace safety training isn’t always the most exciting, but, when we make it part of the job and engage direct managers, rather than making it a completely separate event, we should see employees that care a little more.
One expert recommendation to engage employees in training is to mix up the format. Evolved Safety can help you mix up the formats, from onsite to online, and the training content. Let’s talk about how we can create an engaging training program for your employees. Contact us today!