Training budgets can feel like an easy financial cut when things get tight, especially for SMEs, but budgets need to be ring fenced to secure success, says Louise Hosking
Training encourages individuals to fulfil their potential, work smarter, develop and be confident in their roles. Both employee and employer know what to expect from each other and training ensures organisations are sustainable because knowledge is not held by individuals alone. Work can be shared amongst colleagues, reducing the risk of micro-management (which is not helpful to anyone). People enjoy personal development and feel valued when they have been invested in.
However, training can be expensive and time consuming. Whilst individuals attend training, their usual work activity is on hold or a colleague has to step-in and cover. As people learn in different ways this must also be accommodated if training is to be effective. Training budgets can feel like an easy financial cut when things get tight, especially for SMEs.
Training for occupational safety and health (OSH)
Globally, governments recognise the need to provide information, instruction, training and supervision so teams clearly understand the hazards around them, the health risks associated with their work, and their personal responsibilities.
If people do not know how to protect themselves and those they work alongside, the employer will be responsible for any incidents or accidents.
Organisations need to ringfence their OSH training budgets. Identifying OSH training needs and the provision of training which fits the person to the work must be resourced. For example, forklift truck operators must be trained in the use of the truck. If they are not, they cannot use the equipment. Some OSH training needs, such as this, are clearly defined in statute or guidance but if it becomes apparent an individual is unsure of the controls associated with their work or how to discharge their duties safely, training must be provided.
Training needs will be identified from risk assessments, personal development plans and feedback. It can help to create a development plan for the organisation, for roles and for individuals.
At the time of writing, we have swiftly moved into a global health and economic crisis due to Covid-19. When organisations of any size face significant challenges they will reduce costs to survive. Clearly, if a need changes training needs will change but at volatile times well trained people can cover important roles for each other. They will step up when the going gets tough and bring the organisation out, through the other side because of the investment made in them.
Make it fun
The LOcHER project is an initiative created to immerse students in OSH principles, encouraging them to create experiments, video clips, posters and use social media to explore health effects from hazards relevant to their curriculum. They research and create their own learning which results in lifelong learning not only for the students but for staff too.
Coaching techniques and problem-solving scenarios encourage individuals to become responsible for the solution which they will subsequently own.
Inexpensive e-learning enables training to be undertaken by individuals at a time which suits them, and there are some great e-learning tools on the market. However, this method of learning cannot be used in isolation or because it is cheap and easy; it does not offer the flexibility to problem solve so trainees may report feeling told how to behave without participation.
Blended learning uses a combination of e-learning and contact learning. Contact learning by a qualified, engaging trainer will always be the gold standard especially if the training involves workshops, discussion and opportunities to share experiences. We use the type of techniques promoted by the LOcHER project to make training fun.
More recently, organisations are turning to immersive virtual reality (VR) training. This is especially useful for workers in high hazard industries. The VR experience can place them into a realistic environment where they can practice safely.
We cannot forget ‘supervision‘. I do not believe any amount of training can replace effective, collaborative leadership support and personal guidance.
I am a keen advocate for mentoring and creating champions for certain topics to whom people can turn so they become the solution. For this reason, non-technical skills such as project management, coaching and conflict management should also be included in training plans.
It is important to consider whether delivered training has been effective and met expectations and this can be determined by receiving feedback and work monitoring post training. If it has not, a different approach may be required.
People do not always stay in one organisation
or even one career like they used to so part of personal development should be
to encourage workers to identify and actively meet their own needs rather than
wait for a manager to do this for them.
Board room decisions
Following an incident, the initial questions generally asked are what training has the individual undertaken and where is the risk assessment?
As part of my work to advise a wide range of organisations I regularly attend board meetings. In one particular meeting, an FD had held back spend on training which had been budgeted at the start of the financial year. This training (IOSH Managing Safely) was planned to guide department managers through the implementation of risk assessments and to support them in their journeys to become more adept and confident in completing risk assessments.
I found myself explaining the knock-on effect of holding back this training which corresponded with the work others in my team had completed on their risk assessment refresh project. The FD was unaware that without this training we could not complete the project and he was not aware of the legal, financial or moral exposure to the organisation.
Managing OSH standards within a complex, changing, turbulent world of work is challenging which is why we need innovative people encouraged to make wise risk-based choices.
If the opportunity to make these choices is taken away because individuals do not have the foundation tools, as in this case, they cannot move on and the organisation is exposed.
The Healthy profit by IOSH has shown for every €1 invested in safety, health and wellness initiatives there is a return of €2.20. Within a small talent pool the best and brightest will not stay if they feel unable to make a positive contribution which enables them to grow personally and professionally.
This is why I advocate board and executive leadership OSH training. We are licensed to run IOSH Leading Safely training and it is rare for Directors to leave this 5-hour session with the same mindset they came in with. They are challenged to reflect on the standards within their organisations and to not just rely on a perception from board reporting (which might not be a true reflection on actual standards).
Without senior leadership drive, high standards are harder to achieve.
- Create a plan for training and development and be prepared to keep updating this.
- Be realistic about the amount of administration required to organise training and plan this too.
- Ringfence OSH training.
- Listen carefully to issues raised by individuals. Accept what is being said in good faith.
- Engage champions to become mentors.
- Look for ways to mix up how OSH training is delivered and make it fun.
- Encourage individuals to take ownership of their personal development.
- Include non-technical skills so people have all the tools they need to apply their new knowledge and manage well.
- Ensure the Board are included, and undertake OSH training, so they understand fully the impact of their decisions.
- Go back to point 1.
Louise Hosking is a Chartered Safety and Health Professional and Director at Hosking Associates. Hosking Associates is an IOSH approved training provider and develops personalised training for organisations.