Whenever I have the chance to talk with mobile equipment trainers that have been at it for a while, they often ask the question; how can I make my operator training better? This kind of question always makes me feel good because I think it is great when an experienced trainer looks for ways to improve rather than taking the easier route of slipping into a routine or worse, a rut.
What is “Better”?
My reply to this sort of question usually starts with another question; what do you mean by better? This may sound silly but it really deserves some careful thought. Better for whom, you or your trainees? Are they not getting it or do you get the feeling your training is boring for them or is it you that is having trouble staying interested and/or getting your point across.
Training/Visual Aids are Key
In either case, there is a lot of information out there on how you can spice up your training to make it more entertaining and ‘stick’ with your trainees better but one of the most common solutions is in the use of training aids, or more specifically, visual aids.
It Starts With You
Now before you go running off to buy every gadget out there remember that you already have two of the best training aids available at your disposal already – you and the equipment you are using. As the trainer, you are the focal point of your training programs. When all eyes (and ears) are on you, it is important that you speak and carry yourself dynamically and with confidence. Here are some tips on how you can do this:
- Know your stuff! Knowledge is power so before you even think of trying to train others be absolutely sure that you are comfortable with your knowledge level with the equipment you are dealing with.
- Have a plan. You probably got hammered with this over and over again when you went through the IVES program but a lesson plan is vital for consistency, accuracy and continuity.
- Practice. If you know your stuff and you have a plan it will help you build the confidence needed to dive into the pool so to speak. Once you do that, practice and practice alone will build your confidence.
- Use your voice. Say it like you mean it! Alter your tone and volume to emphasize certain important points.
- Be Dynamic. Don’t just plant yourself on your soapbox and grow roots. The very definition of the term dynamic involves motion so move around. Use gestures and body language to support your speech.
- Engage your trainees. Instead of asking if there any questions ask some of you own. Just be careful not to put anyone on the spot or embarrass them. A good way to do this is by asking for opinions. For example: what would happen if you picked up a load and…, what do you think is the right way to do (something), Bill, do you agree with Sue? Why? Why not? Encouraging this kind of group interaction really gets things cooking in the classroom and listening to the responses gives you an excellent gauge as to the level of understanding amongst your trainees.
- Be interested! If you want others to be interested in what you are saying, you must be interested in what you are saying. If you are perceived by the trainees as just giving lip service to the topic they will give it the same degree of interest that you do. Be passionate about safety and let it show.
Don’t Forget the Equipment
Moving on from you as the primary training aid in your programs, let’s talk next most important visual aid that you have on hand, the equipment. When it comes to pointing out things like the various components, warnings, and decals on a given machine, there is nothing better to point to than the equipment itself. As soon as you can – get your trainees out of their seats and out to the equipment. A great way to acquaint them with the machine is to conduct a pre-use inspection. After that, you can head back to the classroom with everyone having a clear picture in their minds of all the things you will cover in the classroom relative to the machine.
You Get What You Give
We could go on here with all sorts of methods and information to better your training but it all basically comes down to the ‘garbage in / garbage out’ concept. What you and you trainees get out of a training program is proportionate to what is put in. If you can accept that and put it into practice, the x-factor of your training programs should increase dramatically.
Every Bit Helps
In my opinion, visual aids are a basic component in any operator training program. Materials like our operator reference manuals are a great core source of information and graphics during a program and, as an added bonus, trainees can take them with them to keep use as a reference long after the program. Supplements like models, videos, electronic training aids and images all enhance the overall learning experience and also serve a valuable purpose in a training program.
More is Not Always Better
There is no doubt that visual aids make a valuable contribution toward enhancing the effectiveness of, and interest in, a training program. However, if they are used incorrectly too much information can overload the trainee detract from his/her experience rather than enhance it. The use of visual aids should be planned out and timed to make sure their effects are beneficial.
To maximize the benefit of your visual aids, try using these guidelines:
- Choose Your Moment - Your trainees are subject to the phenomenon known as Circadian Rhythm. The amount of information on this topic is immense but to boil it down, circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that roughly follow a 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment. They are found in most living things, including animals, plants and many tiny microbes. Things like eating and/or being inactive for prolonged periods also have an effect on physical and mental alertness. So what does this mean to you as a trainer? Don’t show a video right after lunch unless you want everyone to fall asleep!
- Shut it Off - If you are using an electronic visual aid (like our Digital Training Aids) and projecting them onto a screen, put the projector on standby or somehow block the image if you know you will not be referring to it for any length of time over a minute or so. People will stare at a screen with an image forever if you let them, and then they are not focused on you or what you are saying.
- Put Them Down - If you pick up a model to point something out, remember to put it down when you are done. If not, you will find that some trainees will continue to focus on it rather than you. In fact, sometimes I find it more useful to refer to the model with actually picking it up. I find this to be the case particularly with the stability pyramid model used in forklift classes. Sometimes, just having it sitting there in full view of all the trainees while you are discussing the stability triangle/pyramid is enough.
Every trainer that cares about what they do wants to become better at it, which is a natural and admirable trait. However, before a trainer goes about trying make him/herself or the program better, some careful thought is required as to just what ‘better’ actually is. Training/visual aids are a very common solution that many trainers turn to enhance the enjoyment and effectiveness of their programs from the perspective of the trainees. Trainers must always bear in mind that they are the focal point of the program regardless of type and number of supplements used and as such, they become the primary visual aid of any program. It is also advisable for trainers to keep in mind that the benefits realized by themselves and their trainees are often based upon the effort invested. The equipment addressed during a given program is also an invaluable resource that can and should be utilized as a visual aid. Other training/visual aids can also enhance the learning experience of trainees but must be selected and used wisely otherwise they could have the opposite effect to what is desired. The bottom line on the use of training/visual aids; by all means use them – but use them well.
Director of Training
IVES Training Group
Did you enjoy this article? Sign up for our newsletter to receive more like this!