Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a five-part series of articles that will explore each concept behind the five moments of need in training.
“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change,” so said Mary Shelley in her famous novel Frankenstein. This would be wise to remember when dealing with the fifth and last moment of training need.
In our industry, the moments of change are many: new science requires a change in risk validation; new formulas require a change in process; new regulations require a change in reporting and documentation; new equipment requires a change in process; and new product lines require a change in Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, or HACCP, plans.
And yet, according to Conrad Gottfredson, PhD, and Bob Mosher, authors of The Five Moments of Learning Need, “This moment…has been the least attended to, and yet it is the most challenging. And since we don’t attend to it very well, it is often the most costly to organizations.”
When training for change, the first step is to understand its impact on your workforce and tailor your interventions accordingly.
Some change initiatives are simple. They are modifications or improvements to existing processes and patterns that do not demand too much of the learner. For instance, one trainer told the story of watching day shift employees arrive for work at a client’s facility. “Either you’ve changed your process flow, or you’ve hired a bunch of ballerinas,” she commented to her host. The host was stumped. “Well,” she continued, “I’ve just watched at least eight people walk to that door over there, pirouette, and go in the opposite direction.”
The change in traffic patterns did not require a formal training program, though a well-placed reminder at key entrance points was a key requirement. The true challenge was not in crafting a kick-ass video job aid or micro-training moment; it was in having enough patience to allow the new learning to take effect. It takes on average three weeks to break a habit. Provide reinforcement and encouragement, and let the change grow organically.
Complex change is a different matter. It breaks the pattern and moves into brand new territory. And this is where training becomes more challenging. Humans like consistency. We like to be in control. We like feeling confident. We do not like to appear foolish.
A good training program addresses this fear by building a human sensibility into the program with these three steps:
- When the learner grieves for the old pattern, emphasize the benefits of the new learning;
- When the learner feels uncomfortable and not in control, provide a safe environment for practice and experimentation; and
- When the learner works hard to build the new skills, offer guidance and reinforcement until the skill is mastered.
1. Emphasize the Benefits
We’ve talked of Station WIIFM before. It’s the one all the cool workers listen to: What’s In It For Me. You will never succeed in convincing employees to adopt change unless you are on their wavelength. When the change is externally mandated, this task can be relatively easy: “We must adopt this new process because the regulators will shut us down if we do not” is a pretty compelling reason.
Internally directed change can be more challenging. You may think the new process improvement will increase efficiency tremendously, but it’s highly likely that not everyone will feel the same. Moving from paper to electronic recordkeeping is a case in point. This requires training not only in new documentation practices, but quite likely computer training as well. Depending on the computer literacy of your workforce, this can be a daunting task.
Implementing the following actions can help.
Involve everyone. Make a formal case for change and allow opinions to be voiced. You can then address any concerns in your training. If people are afraid that their workload will increase, show them how electronic record access and management can actually simplify their tasks. Explain the benefits of data mining that can happen when records are available in a format that allows you to easily analyze data and plot trends.
Create ownership. When workers feel involved, they become invested in the success of a project. Include a representative sample of your workforce in the pilot course. Incorporate their feedback into the project. You will then have a solid group of ambassadors who will promote training’s message.
Communicate. Nothing stalls an initiative quicker than a wall of silence. Let people know that the change is coming. Tell them how the training will help them quickly embrace the new requirements.
Speak to them as individuals. Change affects people and work units differently. Your training must take this into account. It may be possible to have a general introductory course that provides a broad overview of the new system, but be mindful that you may also have to provide targeted sessions for different work units. In our documentation example, the QA department will need a specialized course on data management, while operators need in-depth training on data input procedures.
2. Provide a Safe Environment for Practice and Experimentation
Change asks people to abandon the old way and embrace the new in a complicated dance of unlearning and learning. They need time to practice the steps. If they feel uncomfortable, they will resist. Create a learning room—be it factual or virtual—that celebrates best efforts and salutes fabulous failures. Share stories of your own awkward learning attempts. Remind them that an expert is nothing more than someone who has made all the mistakes that can be made in that field. In short, make the training fun. It is one of the best ways to build excitement for the change and enthusiasm for the learning process.
3. Offer Guidance and Reinforcement
At some point in the training, things may stall. Learners will become disheartened, especially if they’ve tried—and failed—over and over and over again. Sometimes though, the only solution is more practice. This is where you assume the role of wise cheerleader (and no, that is not an oxymoron). Offer guidance and suggestions, but know when to step back and let the learner figure it out. At some point, those training wheels have to come off.
There is no single foolproof method to train for change. The adopted approach will depend in part on the type and scope of the change, the number of people affected, the implementation timeline, and the business impact of the change itself. Whether you decide on a series of lunch-n-learns, a full training rollout, or a series of video tutorials accessible from everyone’s phone and tablet, the key ingredient must always be unwavering support. Remember that you need this change, and for it to be a success, others must embrace your vision. By providing training that addresses not only the technical intricacies of the conversion, but the emotional impact as well, you will be well on your way to making this vision a reality.
McCreary is technical manager, training services, for NSF-GFTC. Reach her at email@example.com. Lefaive is manager, instructional design, training services, for NSF-GFTC. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.