Fast Training. Here’s How to Do It

With the ever-changing conditions trying to halt the advance of Covid-19, some businesses are hibernating, or closing down, while others are ramping up at a manic pace. Those ramping up need capable people as quickly as possible, while others need to evolve and retrain to maintain an income. So how do you train people quickly?

Plan First

First, take time to plan and get it right, or at least, close to right first time. It’s far more efficient to tweak a process than to scrap it and start again, or to keep doing things the hard way because that’s the way you started doing them.

Identify Tasks and Essential Background Knowledge

Identify the tasks that you want a worker to do and the background knowledge that they require to do their job. For example, in Healthcare you are going to need cleaners, meal services, nurses and doctors. For each role, you need to identify what you expect workers to do and what the job involves. All of these have specialised skills and general skills. For example, they all need to know how to keep safe in a Covid-19 environment. But each role has specialised skills that are relevant only to that role.

Allocate Repetitive Tasks to New Staff

If you have some experienced staff, leave the difficult or critical tasks to them and identify the simple, repetitive tasks that new employees can learn to do well in a short timeframe. Training for doctors and nurses takes years, and they need vast amounts of background knowledge. But even for them, some tasks are repetitive, and while you wouldn’t take someone off the street and train them to insert a cannula, a trainee doctor or nurse could learn how to do it and free up the more experienced people for less common or more complex tasks.

Create Quick Reference Learning Materials

Once you’ve identified the tasks that you can allocate to new staff, and the background knowledge that they need, create quick reference learning materials for each role. These are comprised of brief, step-by-step, visual work instructions accompanied by learning guides. The Work Instructions function like a checklist. They help people to learn quickly and provide reminders to prevent errors. The learning guide is a list of knowledge or questions that they need to be able to answer to perform the task competently. These learning materials are not meant to replace face-to-face training, but to define exactly what is expected, and be used as tools to ensure that people are trained consistently and effectively.

Healthcare Example

Work Instruction

Here’s an example of what a Work Instruction might look like for training a person to perform Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis (CAPD). (Click link to view)

Sample Work Instruction CAPD

The task may sound complicated, and it is critical, but it’s a process that can be broken into simple steps. If it is followed correctly, it is safe and effective. (Disclaimer: Don’t follow this process without medical advice – best practice may have changed since it was written.)

A few things to note about Work Instructions, both this example and the Work Instructions that you create:

  • Information is provided in the order that it’s needed
  • The task is grouped into main steps that summarise the detailed steps
  • Instructions are brief and written as commands
  • Photos are used to provide information allowing the use of less words
  • Information is limited to what to do and how to do it. It does not try to explain why

Learning Guide

Here’s an example of a Learning Guide to go with the Work Instruction.

Sample Learning Guide CAPD

If you train people but do not obtain evidence that they understand and can perform the task, you never know for sure that they’ve “got it”. If you want to ensure tasks are done safely and consistently, trainers must verbally and visually assess learners before they leave them unsupervised. The Learning Guide doubles as an assessment guide.

A few things to note about the Learning Guide:

  • Start with an orienting and motivating question. Leaners need context.
  • Ask questions about safety or critical aspects of the task, that cover consequences if the task is not done correctly.
  • Always include the need to demonstrate performing the task without prompting by the trainer. How many times you want them to demonstrate will depend on how complex or critical the task is.

The Training

Prepare the Trainer

Select trainers who know the job well, perform well, are motivated and are good communicators. Involve them in creating the learning materials and make sure they agree that the process described is the safest, most efficient way. If you have several trainers, check that they agree on the answers to the Learning Guide. Make it clear to them that they are to train people to do the job exactly as per the Work Instruction. Provide them and each Learner with their own copy of both the Work Instruction and the Learning Guide or place a copy in a prominent position in the workplace.

Do the Training

There’s no time to do a thorough Train the Trainer program here, but make sure your trainers know the basics. They should first develop rapport with the Learner and motivate them. They need to put the job in context and impress on the Learner its importance.

Experienced trainers may know the rhyme:

“Show them fast, show them slow, do it together, now off you go.”

In other words:

  • Demonstrate the task at the normal speed, as per the Work Instruction
  • Demonstrate the task slowly, one step at a time
  • Coach while the learner demonstrates one step at a time
  • Supervise while the learner practices and gets up to speed

Take note that every Learner must demonstrate the task. Ideally do one-on-one training, or at most, small groups of 2-3 Learners, with each Learner doing the task hands-on.

As well as demonstrating the task, Trainers will need to impart the essential knowledge. If you write the Learning Guide well, it will prompt them to provide the right information. Since you want to train quickly, the trick here is to impart essential knowledge and skills and not get caught up in “nice-to-know” information. That can come later, when you have more time.

Assess

In a busy situation, the assessment step can often be missed. You need to be sure the Learner has understood correctly. How do you know? A nod is not enough. The Learner needs to answer the questions in the Learning Guide verbally (not written – this is a not a test of writing skills) and physically demonstrate performing the task.

Keep Track

Keep track of who has been trained. This can be done simply on a spreadsheet, or for more permanent situations, in a training database. Give a particular person the responsibility of creating and maintaining a skills matrix so that it keeps its integrity. Supervisors can use the skills matrix to see who is competent in each task when allocating jobs to the daily workforce. Your process will quickly go downhill if untrained people start performing tasks, though if they follow a good Work Instruction you have more chance of them doing it correctly.

Fast Training to Prevent Serious Errors

Fast training can be done in a critical situation and prevent serious errors. It may sound like a lot of steps but provided you keep focused on the main game, they can be put in place quickly and efficiently. You can have a smooth operation in a very short time. Fast training is useful in times of crisis, for seasonal workers or even for long-term complex operations.

Need Help?

If you’d like help to identify tasks and knowledge or to create fast learning materials, or advice on setting up fast learning, call Rosemary at Techwriting on +61 412 302 055. Learn more on techwriting.net.au.

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