With training, as with so much else in our industry, verification is critical. You must ensure that your employee doesn’t demonstrate a task to a buddy until you are confident in her abilities. Make sure that she properly demonstrates the skill. This is particularly important for mission-critical tasks.
In cases where learners are expected to share the knowledge with their work group, a training debrief is in order. Bring together the learner group and go over the main points of the training. Quiz them for understanding, or ask for a demonstration. This will help you identify potential problem areas, and provide you the opportunity to tailor task procedures to the specifics of your operation.
The degradation effect. Have you heard the one about the British message sent up the line during the World War I? What started as “Send reinforcements, we’re going to advance” was eventually received as “Send three-and-fourpence, we’re going to a dance.” It is probably apocryphal, but it illustrates an important truth: Knowledge passed down from person to person loses accuracy with each transfer.
It is in our nature to adapt any task procedure to our needs and personalities. How many of us, for example, regularly alter recipes? This may not have disastrous effects, but veering from food safety practices can. To guard against this, buddies must be regularly calibrated, either through supervisory oversight, retraining, or skills demonstrations. Create a formalized process and document the results. Most important, be sure to include accountability for competency assessment within the process.
The amateur expert. Not everyone can train. This is true whether in a classroom setting or one-on-one. Some are naturals, while others move into full lecture mode so quickly a learner is left in a state of dazed confusion. The buddy might be the acknowledged topic expert, but he’s an amateur when it comes to sharing that knowledge.
Remember that you want buddies who can demonstrate how to perform a task at the moment of need. Their job is to help someone move toward competence. Buddies can be trained—and we most emphatically recommend that you have a training program in place—but what you do not want is someone who is overbearing, dismissive, or critical. In the final analysis, the buddy selection process is as much a matter of personality assessment as it is competency evaluation.
We do a disservice to learners when we do not support their performance after a learning session. Whether using a job aid or a coaching buddy, the goal is the same: to provide workers all the supports possible to help them be the best that they can. It will enhance job satisfaction, reduce workplace errors, and improve productivity. Bottom line: On-the-job performance will help you meet your business objectives. What’s not to like about that?