Most health and safety training is memorable only for being boring and tedious. That’s a real problem.
From my 16 years of working in health and safety, I can tell you there were moments when even I dreaded delivering health and safety training.
You might be a health and safety advisor, a business owner or key person in your business.
But back then you weren’t interested in motivating the learner or worrying about their boredom levels.
You didn’t care if they even understood the content.
In fact, the number one goal was ticking the compliance box.
That means recording the fact that they had bothered to turn up and keeping my compliance numbers sweet for my next regulatory audit.
In other words, if the company hit a 95% completion and pass rate you were safe.
Does that sound familiar to you?
Because the problem is we’re now facing a crisis. Global brands are struggling to maintain compliance standards through training. And that’s not just for health and safety compliance, but also in areas like fraud and security.
- Think Volkswagen and its vehicles’ emission’s scandal.
- Bribery at Petrobras.
- Millions of fraudulent accounts at Wells Fargo.
If the best you can say is that ‘if employees finish the course then prosecutors, courts, and regulators are going to give the company credit for having an effective compliance program’, then you are in trouble.
And do you know what?
To make matters worse, employees still feel that health and safety training lacks learner engagement.
Some employees joke that new health and safety rules get together and breed new clauses and regulations at night! But the real truth is we must look at it differently.
That’s because health and safety training isn’t just a legal exercise, it is much more a of behavioural science.
We need more well-rounded people – individuals who can feel empowered, who can take calculated risks, adapt to changing situations and make a positive impact.
And that’s certainly not what we see from 99% of today’s health and safety training.
In fact, we’re more likely to tell people the obvious.
Like carrying too many hot drinks can lead to being scolded. Boring! Boring! Boring!
That’s why you need to think carefully about why your own health and safety training is failing.
And why you need to make a bigger impact. So, let’s get to it.
What Employees really want from compliance Training
#1 Know your learners’ desires
I can tell you one thing – being dragged from your desk to do a health and safety course isn’t exactly going to be on anyone’s bucket list.
Most people would rather focus on their own ideas, dreams and deadlines.
Recently a survey conducted by Kathy Caprino from Huffpost offered some ideas on how to make more your health and safety training more impactful.
In her blog, “The Top 10 Things People Want in Life but Can’t Seem to Get”, she gives us a powerful checklist:
That’s right, if people want this most of the time then you and I should be giving this to them – most of the time in our training.
- You need to provide a comfortable, safe place to learn, where the environment creates happiness, joy and freedom.
- You need to deliver your training with passion and confidence. Engage with them and draw them into your passion for the subject.
- You need to be delivering a rewarding experience.
And if you do, just see how your learners react.
#2 Higher Purpose
Providing information without telling a learner ‘why’ they need to know something is like pouring your best champagne down the drain.
In my view it’s totally pointless and a waste of money and effort.
Even if you mandate that employees needs to complete a risk assessment it still won’t give them the same sense of purpose.
No one does the right thing because there’s a checklist, procedure or a policy.
They do the right thing because they want to work at a place that has a higher purpose.
In Daniel Pink’s bestselling book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”, he explains that profits and a greater sense of purpose can help motivate people to do the right thing. He said
“Within organisations, this new “purpose motive” is expressing itself in three ways: in goals that use profit to reach purpose; in words that emphasize more than self-interest; and in policies that allow people to pursue purpose on their own terms.”
So, imagine you’re an officer on a nuclear submarine. No really!
Now imagine all those safety checklists. The complexity and the importance of everyone doing the right thing at the right time.And now you’re about to do some training. How do you make it impactful?
Of course, you want to focus on the complexity of submarine safety and taking the proper steps in the correct sequence. Think about fully engaging the hearts and minds of all 150 souls onboard, with confidence and assurance. It’s not going to happen by blindly following checklists.
- Link it to that higher purpose.
- Focus on world peace.
- Protecting their families, link it to developing individual skills and doing the right thing for your nation.
You get the point…
#3 Real-world application
I’m sure like me you get a little frustrated by this issue. You spend months or even years finding the right health and safety training solution for your company.
Launch the health and safety course and see both attendance and assessment rates hit all your Key Performance Indicators. And yet it’s a big fail. Why?
As Rae Feshbach (Learning Experience at Cornerstone OnDemand) said in her recent blog, we’re often surprised when employees complete our online training, do well on our assessments, and then fail to successfully implement all the great stuff they learned in the real world.
Rae tells you to go further. You need to help your learners implement these new behaviours by creating structured opportunities to try the new behaviours out.
Think about it. Compliance training isn’t about creating robots.
You need to help people react to dynamic situations.
They might need to save lives, or get out of a burning building, or just stop unsafe behaviours.
So, think about some way that you can add some form of “interactive follow-up” or practical application.
For face to face training that could be role play. And for your online training, get teams and departments to discuss what they’re taking away from the course and how it can support the purpose and culture of the business.
Rae points out that no matter what training intervention you’re implementing the interactive follow-up piece is key.
It holds teams accountable for completing the training. And the best bit is that it helps you promote Real World Application within their working environment.
- You can ask for feedback from teams on their learning experience and how easy it was to implement within their role.
- Set a scenario using Lego to simulate real world issues
- Ask individuals to present the key learning points back to your team or department
- Grab feedback during and after real world application. Don’t just wait for feedback to appear go and find it.
#4 Health and safety fun through “gamification”
You might not think fun and Health and Safety go together. Well that’s not entirely true.
Listen, the reason why health and safety and fun don’t go together isn’t your fault.
It’s more click-bait than fact. And it’s a fact that negative headlines sell better than positive ones. But this is where you have an advantage.
Your learners will already have a negative bias towards your course. They’ll be expecting you to stand-up and show them slide after slide of 90’s clip art.
That’s where you need to be brave. To take a risk. Add some “gamification” to make a real impact. Wow your audience or online users.
And good gamification encourages interaction, problem-solving, scenario-based thinking, and effective communication.
I know this sounds weird, but just listen to Terry Heick Director of TeachThought.
He tells us that you don’t need to make your training like a video game – that’s just not feasible for compliance.
In fact Terry’s gives away his 10 Strategies To Make Learning Feel More Like A Game
So, go on then, be brave, be different and try it out in your next training session. And let me know if they work.
#5 Make Soft Skills a Priority
It only seems like yesterday when I was teaching two young site managers how to carry out health and safety site inspections.
I’d been appointed as the health and safety advisor on a massive civil engineering project but needed extra resources to cover all the site activities.
But one thing really scared me.
Those mean-looking groundworks contractors.
They had hands like shovels and came from the school of hard knocks. In fact, they probably taught at that school too!
These were men who worked on price and didn’t take kindly to being stopped because of a potential near miss or unsafe act.
I genuinely feared that these young site managers would struggle to cope with conflict. Especially if they had to deal with it on a daily basis.
Now this is exactly the issue with health and safety training – you rarely see it combined with developing soft skills.
And the problem is talented people with complimentary soft skills are scarce.
The 2018 Workplace Learning Report by LinkedIn shows how employers are feeling the crush of skill gaps across all industries.
In fact, LinkedIn has prioritised soft skills as one of its six key priorities.
What does this mean for you?
You need to build in opportunities to develop soft skills in your training content.
- Critical thinking
- Stakeholder Management
- Conflict Management
You see, employees with a greater well-roundedness are also more likely to have an appreciation for continuous learning.
Needless to say, I didn’t just train these managers to complete the checklist. I taught them to communicate, negotiate and work with conflict.
So, now’s your chance – when you create your next training course, make sure you integrate soft skills into your own learning.
#6 Change your format – Face to Face / Online
There’s many horses for courses, as the saying goes. And you as a trainer need to develop your content with that in mind.
Not everyone likes to learn in one way, and so to maximise the impact of your training you need to develop it for your audience.
Don’t deliver training in the same format every time. That’s the way to boredom and indifference.
Be your own metaphorical training “dating app” – match your training with your audience and let them swipe for the type they like.
Research the different training courses available, like on-site sessions or online courses, to find one that matches your business’ risks and employee preferences.
Sounds like a lot of hard work? Maybe it is, but the impact you’ll have is worth the effort.
And it doesn’t need to be all slog and sweat.
- Re-use existing content, but present it in a different way.
- Consider adaptive learning – not everyone learns at the same speed or in the same manner.
- Be collaborative, and encourage feedback and change your approach to engage with your audience.
Benjamin Franklin said: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn.”
Publisher, Statesman, Inventor, and one of the authors of the US Declaration of Independence
One of the best ways to engage with your trainees is to get them involved.
You remember those awful days at school when Mr Greyanddreary droned on about subjects in your history lessons – a long, tedious list about the field boundaries in a medieval landscape… and you fought with boredom and the urge to snooze on your desk. What was missing from those lessons?
No one likes being taught something by simply sitting there and listening.
Our attention span is at its lowest ever (thanks to technology!) So, you need to do things to capture your audience’s attention. Get them engaged, get them talking and sharing.
Motivate your trainees to share their points and views regarding the topic.
Do exercises that get them out of their chairs, and interacting.
Use tactile props and teaching tools such as Lego to boost hand, arm and body connection – I use loads of this at Pro Safety Management.
Use characters to bring to life your sessions. Give those characters to trainees to act out subjects or make points.
Embrace modern times and incorporate social media – let them share their learning experience with their social networks.
Add in ways for people to interact with others taking the course.
#8 Add in the Health and Safety basics
It’s not all about the bells and whistles.
It’s not all about innovative mind-blowing content.
No matter what I said above!
Yep, that’s right, don’t forget to add in the basics.
So make sure the course relates to your company’s health and safety procedures!
Sounds simple right?
Buying off the shelf courses might make it easy for you in the short term but in the long term it’s going to cause you more pain.
Honestly, its bitten me before.
You need to think about how you can sign-post your company’s risk assessments, checklist and procedures in an effortless way.
- Make the procedures, information sheets, risk assessments and checklists the main focus.
- Don’t shy way from the fact that checklists need to be completed.
- Talk about accountability across the business.
- Buy an off the shelf course like IOSH Managing safely add slides showing your own checklists etc
- But make sure its simple. Don’t overcomplicate things.
- It’s also important to review these systems before the course. Are they easily understandable?
If you can teach someone to follow a checklist quickly and easily, you’re more likely to get compliance activities done.
9# Feedback & Testing
Do you worry about feedback? I know this was a barrier for me. All I wanted was amazing feedback or I’d be up all might pouring over every last comment.
But the truth is you need both negative and positive feedback. And out of all the books I know on launching a product…. yes your course is a product… the best explanation of how to do this right is “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries.
Whether you work in a large corporation or an SME. Eric Believes that products (courses) are really experiments.
And any business needs to understand that learning about how to build a sustainable product is the outcome of those experiments.
For you, as the course owner, that information is much more important than having a bigger budget for compliance, because it can influence and reshape your next set of ideas.
So how do you really get the best out of feedback?
Take a look at Eric’s principles for a great grounding in the topic.
It’s one of the only sure fire ways of improving your training.
That’s because you can then change, tweak it. And at some point you’ll have it nailed.
If you can do that, rather than anything negative you’ll start to be known as delivering great training.T
Now you try it.
I hope you can see the potential to make health and safety training more engaging, focused and able to drive behavioural change in your people.
Yes, you’ll need to engage in some experimentation and innovation.
Yes, it takes hard work to create a great course. But with these strategies you already know will below mean your hard work is going to pay off (unlike buying generic, off the shelf solutions).
You’ll get more positive feedback and people recommending your courses.
Ready to get started?
Leave us a comment below if you have any other tips.
For more free expertise on Health, Safety & Environment, make sure to subscribe to the Safeti Podcast!
- How to Assess the Risk | Health and Safety Masterclass - March 22, 2021
- Hazard Symbols COSHH | Identify the 9 Classes of Hazard - March 18, 2021
- Health and Safety Templates | Free Stuff & Pro Support Bundles - February 5, 2021