There is no doubt that companies care a great deal about EHS (Environment, Health & Safety) training. Budgets across EHS categories and company sizes are not only at the higher end of the spectrum but are also increasing year after year, according to recent studies by research firm Verdantix. Even so, as organizations prioritize engagement in EHS initiatives, efforts executed through traditional training programs unfortunately often don’t result in fewer accidents, incidents, and fatalities in proportion to the spend to prevent them. Why not? Standard one-size-fits-all training for today’s workforce simply isn’t as effective as it needs to be no matter how much money organizations throw at it.
It takes more than good intentions to implement effective training. In fact, companies with ineffective training programs continue to face fines that can reach tens of millions based on training issues. Of the top 10 most cited violations in 2020, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), six can be directly addressed with training programs as a preventive proactive measure for reducing occurrences.
The promising news is that organizations recognize these problems and are now seeking more engaging and accessible training solutions. In a 2021 Verdantix survey, 97 percent of EHS leaders indicated that the engagement of front-line workers in EHS initiatives would be a moderate-to-high priority over the next two years.
The challenge organizations face is just how to develop and implement uniform training programs that engage employees with different learning preferences and who comprise an increasingly diverse and decentralized workforce. Often, a single organization employs front line workers located across continents, speaking myriad languages, with varied education levels, and unique cultural sensitivities – social barriers that can potentially heighten their vulnerability to workplace risk.
Delivering the Right Training, to the Right Person, at the Right Time is Critical to Improving Risk Mitigation
So, the question is: How can an organization provide EHS training content that meets compliance standards and is technically accurate but is also so intuitive, accessible, and responsive to employees’ diverse needs? The following steps can help in the process:
- Simplify communications. EHS training programs that employ complex standards-based manuals or other dense texts to impart comprehensive, air-tight information ironically fail to convey even a fraction of their material to the intended audience. Organizations should start their EHS training overhaul by extracting the essence and key messages.
- Integrate visuals. According to 3M, people process images 60,000 times faster than text and further research has shown that individuals follow instructions 323 percent more accurately when illustrations are provided. (A quick example we can all relate to are airline safety cards that impart lifesaving actions to global customers.) Translating critical messages from words to visuals, such as simple drawings or animations, can help ensure the information an employee takes in also has staying power. Plus, the easier-to-understand materials can be activated across all levels of a workforce – overcoming common training challenges such as language, literacy, and cultural barriers.
- Digitize the delivery platform. How employees receive EHS training is critical. Organizations that put their employees in the driver’s seat of when and where they can learn rather than a mandated in-person training are more likely to find that the employees are more positive about participating and completing required instruction. Digital cloud-based platforms are an ideal solution, as they can provide a personalized learning experience, via flexible delivery methods (e.g. cell phones), in easily digestible amounts, at the convenience of the employee.
How to Translate the Redesigned Training into Implementation and Foster Greater Risk Management Success
Traditionally, organizations have measured the success of their EHS training programs by the training completion rate. If, say, 80 percent of employees were shown to have fulfilled the entirety of the training, then a training could potentially be deemed successful. However, this evaluation does not account for whether the training was understood, or more critically, whether the employees who completed the training were capable of implementing it at some time in the future.
Measuring success must begin with discovering whether any gaps exist in the training. A few ways to achieve this include:
- Providing a pre-training assessment to establish benchmarks and identify specific areas to address;
- Facilitating a quiz as the conclusion of the training in order to help identify if new information in the gap areas is being retained;
- Offering a series of activities that show the employee how he or she can apply the information learned, including the ability to teach peers and colleagues.
Ultimately, proof of success is best measured by an organization’s drop in fatality and injury frequency rates over time. Take Holcim, a leader in building materials and solutions with 70,000 employees at 2,200 sites in 70 countries. After utilizing a virtual learning management solution paired with illustrated content, it reported a 70 percent reduction in fatalities and 20 percent reduction in lost time injuries.
There’s no reason your organization can’t achieve a similar outcome. Thanks to a new partnership with Jincom EHS Communications, Cority is positioned to help your organization reimagine its EHS training program, with at-a-glance visuals and learning management software. Learn more by watching our recent webinar: Tips and Tricks for a More Effective EHS Training Program.