Guest post by Nic Weatherly, Ph.D.
If you were to look at how your organization provides training, at what point are participants considered “competent” in the material? Or, better yet, do you even have a means for capturing this type of information and is ‘being competent’ enough?
Take for example a family-owned injection molding company in the Midwest. They had a history of severe workplace injuries that had been detrimental to both the organization and the workers. After a series of process changes and thousands of dollars in failed improvement efforts, the senior leadership was convinced that the majority of the current employees were competent, but were just lazy and unmotivated. The employees had all received passing scores on their most recent competency tests so the senior leaders were convinced that this was not a knowledge problem. But was it?
When we started digging a little deeper we noticed that their current training strategies and safety assessments had allowed the senior leaders to misjudge the level of performance of their employees. Not only were daily safe and unsafe practices going unrecognized by supervisors and the plant manager, but timed safety drills showed that employees across shifts could not respond to emergency situations quickly and accurately. This was further proof that these performance deficits were significant and had drastically impacted the type and severity of previous injurious. The competency tests had simply assessed whether the workers could accurately respond to facts about safety procedures and dangers on the plant floor. The critical safety behaviors had been overlooked in their training programs and competency standards were too low to benefit the workers or the organization. The level of performance required in their current training areas did not consider whether workers could recall critical information accurately without hesitation whenever necessary. The workers were not fluent.
For companies such as this one, including those in non-safety environments, there is a solution to ensuring that training leads to both competent and fluent employees: the answer lies in understanding and learning from the science of behavior. Decades of research on effective instructional strategies has shown that training skills to levels of highly accurate and quick responding will result in rapid skill acquisition, high retention of skills learned, and a steady transfer from the training area to the workplace. Known as fluency training, this time-proven instructional standard uses the science of behavior to present clear instructional information, measure and reinforce objective behaviors, and ensure a level of responding that will maintain over time.
Through the use of computer-based fluency training, organizations can start to take worker competency to the next level:
- Positive reinforcement can follow each learner response, quickly and frequently.
- Performance can be tracked to ensure that all learners can follow their progress, set sub goals, and celebrate successes.
- Managers can ensure that learners have the essential prerequisite knowledge needed for a targeted job skill.
- New training can be provided in a fast, fun, and effective manner.
In today’s environment, it’s hard to find an individual that does not have a computer, gaming system, phone, etc.; sometimes even causing them to respond at an inappropriate rate. These were once new skills that, through the laws of behavior and the advancements in technology, have now become fluent habits. Fluency training can provide a standard of competency that can be achieved in any organization and the science of behavior has provided a model for achieving this expert-level performance. Isn’t it time you take control of your training standards and provide the valuable learning experience that both the employees and organizations deserve?
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