Time Well Spent

...if time truly is of the essence you’ll probably find that investing it at the front end of a training program will save you more of it than dealing with the consequences at the back end.

Having been in the training world over the past 25 years, I completely understand and can personally attest to the value of using sound instructional techniques in the delivery of forklift operator training. Knowing the subject well, working from a plan, being observant in the classroom and in the field plus a host of other tried and true methods and procedures used by trainers and educators from around the world didn’t become the hallmarks of good training by chance. They are used because they work. Simply put, I believe that if a trainer can convey the what, how and why of a given task or procedure, like operating a forklift for example, then he/she can consider it a job well done.

In sharp contrast, take a situation I experienced following a job interview for my first “real” job after high school. The interviewer stood up and asked me to follow him into the plant, a very busy industrial production facility that manufactured high-end doors. I thought we were going on a plant tour but to my surprise I was led to a work station and put to work, still dressed in my interview clothing. He told to me to wait there until he could get a supervisor over to tell me what to do. The supervisor arrived about 15 minutes later and without introduction, immediately began to spit out work instructions for me with a heavy German accent in the midst of a very busy and noisy industrial environment. The only way I had of knowing or at least presuming he was done was that several seconds passed with him not moving his mouth while staring at me. Sensing my bewilderment in what I can only imagine was the look of utter ignorance on my face, he started to perform the job he wanted me to do. Slowly, I began to mimic what he was doing until, and again I presumed, he saw what he wanted to see and with the same cordiality with which he arrived, he departed. As you might imagine I did the job very poorly and only improved when others downstream in the production process sought me out and, shall we say, offered “clarification” on what I should be doing.

When I look back on what a disaster that situation was I realize how easily it could have been avoided using a few basic training techniques. Imagine how much better of a job I could have done had I clearly understood what was expected of me and for that matter, what the job actually was. Then how much more improvement could have been realized if the supervisor (trainer) had taken the time through practice and evaluation to ensure I understood how to do the job. Finally, and in my opinion most importantly, think of the grief that all of my coworkers downstream could have avoided if I understood why the job I was doing needed to be done the way it was. In this particular scenario I remember it was over a year later while working at one of the jobs downstream from the one I made a mess of a year earlier that I truly understood the importance of doing that job upstream the right way and I wondered why my “trainer” chose not to make the context of what I was doing known to me.

I never want my trainees, particularly the beginners, to feel the same sense of anxiety and dread I felt back then at being forced to do something important in the scheme of things with no clue of what, how or why to do it. It was very clearly exposed way back then and probably has been a billion times since that not spending the time to address the basic tenets of what, how and why in the context of any training scenario is a recipe for certain failure and while it may qualify as dictation, it is definitely not training.

I’m sure that the company and the people involved in my particular situation had their reasons for doing things the way they did. Back in those days training was not the front burner issue it is today and of course the usual constraints on time were as prevalent then as they are today. However, if time truly is of the essence you’ll probably find that investing it at the front end of a training program will save you more of it than dealing with the consequences at the back end.

Rob Vetter
Director of Training
IVES Training Group

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