Increasing Your Training Retention
BY DON TYLER
For many in agriculture, our training consisted of watching dad and grandpa do their regular activities and learning to do it their way through observation and the occasional explanation. “Teachable moments” (to be generous) came when we messed up and had to be taught the right way to do it. Not to take anything away from their instructional style, but mistakes and oversights were often our best teachers.
Today’s employees need something much more safe, efficient and effective. They probably don’t have the benefit of years of extensive agricultural experience prior to working with us, nor do they have the basic common sense that will protect them from hazards and help them understand regular procedures.
Traditional Learning Strategies
Until recently, the most common way that companies provided training for their employees was in a classroom or on-site training. They used the same methods that high schools and colleges use, which made their employees feel like they were back in class. This technique provided the content, but employees were bored, trainers felt they weren’t getting the attention the topic deserved and as a result, retention was low. When teaching safety, poor retention can lead to a serious injury or fatality.
In the last 5 to 7 years many companies have realized that their trainees, the learning environment and personal training preferences have changed significantly. Instead of a process where specific content is delivered and success is measured by the trainee’s ability to recite key points, they need to use a variety of technologies, training media, presentation styles and personal interactions to maximize the retention of the material.
Forward-Thinking Adult Learning
Many companies have modified their adult learning strategy because they realized most of their learners have short attention spans, are accustomed to watching videos as an element of their training, can absorb visual information rapidly, and their employees have experiences they want to share. Additionally, when they provide training during work hours they need the training to be worth their time. They need answers to today’s problems.
Here are specific strategies to enhance retention of all training:
• Know your learners at a personal level. What is their comprehension capacity? Is there a language or literacy barrier? Are they comfortable taking an individual, written quiz of the material? Do they prefer to learn as a group or individually?
• Use a Blended-Learning approach. Provide group/classroom training as well as individual lessons and personal coaching. This is very important to ensure that all types of learners get the information at their pace and style.
• Provide participants with ample opportunity to share what they know. Make it easy for them to contribute to the main topic being taught.
• Whenever possible, provide hands-on experience. Take the training outside to the area you are discussing. Don’t talk about machinery guarding in the lunch room, do it in the feed mill. Do your training on cattle processing in the working facility.
• Pose several questions during the training to draw out their experiences and get employees talking among themselves rather than the instructor or supervisor doing all the talking.
• Encourage them to talk about challenges or problems in their area and develop solutions during your discussion. Decide on clear action steps that they can take, and those you will take, to resolve that issue as quickly as possible.
• Leave them with an assignment to encourage them to continue learning about today’s topic and come to the next session with answers or observations. Possibilities include: “Keep an eye on the new cattle in pen 86 for the next month. How does their behavior change? What changes do you see in their appearance? When did they really start eating good?” Be sure to include specific areas of focus that you are trying to teach. You might even give them a weekly record sheet on pulls, feed consumption, growth projections, etc. to help them learn about these key factors.
To confirm retention, watch for specific examples that they are applying their learning in their everyday duties.