You are here

Improve the Effectiveness of Employee Training by Applying Lean and Human Factors Principles (Part 2)

Continued from Improve the Effectiveness of Employee Training by Apply Lean & Human Factors Principles Part 1

/HF Techniques For Training

One of the goals of lean is to increase the value to the customer, i.e. the trainee/employee and the employer who is providing/paying for the training.  Value in this case is for effective training that leads to the employee(s) applying the desired knowledge and skills at work.  With this in mind, let’s explore some of the lean and HF thinking tactics that can be applied to the 4 steps of learning information to make training for effective. 

  1. Lean/HF Training Techniques for the Sensory Memory

Recall (have you put this in your working memory yet?) that the sensory memory is processing all the sensory stimuli going on during training, and that most of this is automatically filtered out by the brain in a pre-conscious manner. Your goal is to make sure the brain isn’t automatically filtering out the stuff you want your employees to learn.  So let’s use lean’s focus on waste and HF’s focus on cognitive ergonomics right here.  First of all, a good trainer can help the trainees by removing all distractions—cold/hot temperatures, annoying noises, poor lighting, slow computers and similar things that are likely to “stick” in the learner’s brain.

The trainer can also improving the training by including things that draw and keep the trainee’s pre-conscious and conscious attention to the important aspects of the training materials. This can include things like arrows, circles and highlights in key points within a visual, for example.

  1. Lean/HF Training Techniques for the Working Memory

As you recall, the working memory is where your brain actively processes new information. Remember, it can process only a very limited amount of information.  Remember your limit is about four pieces of new information -- then work in some practice to reinforce the information, or a break, or both.  To create better training materials with the working memory in mind, follow these tips:

A. Keep to a set of “learning objectives” and only include training materials that support those objectives.  A learning objective is something you want you want employees to be able to do when the training is over. Always begin the process of creating training by creating learning objectives. Then create training materials, actual practice of those materials and knowledge checks that support those objectives, being careful to eliminate all the “waste” of unnecessary material you may want to add.

B. Break your training down into small “chunks” and organize those chunks in a way that helps your employees learn. This will prevent overwhelming the trainees and helps them process the information without “tuning out” and losing it all.  Next, organize those chunks in a manner that helps your workers build up the smaller pieces into an organized whole.  As a trainer you can use value process mapping as a way to diagram your information chunks to make sure you are on target with your training plans.  You can even diagram your chunks during the planning phase in a way that’s similar to value process mapping.

C. Keep it simple and short. If your goal is to avoid overwhelming your workers, it’s important to cut your training to the bone. Include the important stuff, but nothing more.

D. Keep the training active. The more your workers actively participate, the less likely they will be to tune out. Active training participation is one of several adult learning principles that will keep your workers more engaged.

E. Provide job aids when it’s not necessary to memorize things. Take a look at your training materials and see if it’s really necessary for workers to memorize all of it. If you can reduce the amount of pure memorization by providing them a job aid they can refer to on the job, do it.

  1. Lean/HF Training Techniques for the Long-term Memory

It’s very helpful to introduce new information by relating it to information your trainees already know. Things like comparisons, similes and metaphors are very good at helping workers take new information and relate it to things they already know -- and, as a result, store the new information in existing schemas.  By doing this we are adding something that provides value to our “customer” by making it easier to learn something.

  1. Lean/HF Training Techniques for Transfer to the Job

The final stage is often where training breaks down.  It’s fine and dandy if the employees now have the skills and knowledge but if nothing is applied to the work, then the training was “non-value added”. 

Consider incorporating the following during training:

A. Start your training by explaining to your trainees WIIFM (what’s in it for me)!  Tell and show workers how it will benefit them. This will create the desire to learn what is being taught. 

B. Provide lots of “hands-on”, real world exercises that let your trainees practice the skills they’re supposed to perform on the job. I like to have a 50/50 split, i.e. present new information half the time and have the trainees practice half the time.  Actually performing the skill during training will make it much more likely they will be able to do it on the job, too.

C. Provide training in the real work environment. Training people in a sterile, non-worklike environment will lower the transfer and application rate significantly.  I trained a group of health care workers on safe patient handling equipment in a conference room and another group in an actual patient room.  The result:  those trained in the patient room were much more likely to use the equipment.  When workers from the former group were asked why they didn’t use the equipment the common responses were that they didn’t feel confident in using the equipment in the confined space of patient room.  Given that, deliver training in the work area when it’s possible.

D. Provide realistic simulations in training when possible.  Let workers practice their new skills in realistic, scenario-based training when possible. For example, let a machine operator practice applying lean/HF strategies to his “simulated” or better yet, actual work area.

E. Perform knowledge checks along each stage of training.  Don’t wait until the very end to see if they are catching on.  If they pass the test and demonstrate the learning objectives then they are good to go. If not, you know you need to give them some additional feedback, help, and practice.


Training, Evaluation and Continuous Improvement (PDCA, DMAIC, ETC.)

It wouldn’t be complete discussion of lean/HF and job training if we didn’t include on continuous improvement (CI). CI is a hallmark of lean and HF and goes hand-in-hand with reducing waste and increasing value. Likewise, you should aim to continuously improve your training program as well. Why settle for how things are now when they can be better?  A key aspect of CI is measuring your key performance indicators (KPIs) and seeing if your improvement efforts are having a real effect on production, waste, quality, safety and value.

You should gather data about the effectiveness of your training program. The goal, obviously, is to see if the changes you make over time create more effective training materials. The effectiveness of training can be measured at four different levels:

1. Trainee feedback—measured with post-training survey sheets

2. Trainee learning—measured with post-training tests

3. Trainee job performance—gathered through on-the-job observations before and after training

4. Business goals—measured through business KPIs and analyzed to see if training is having a desired positive effect

Setting up methods to gather this data, keeping it over time and comparing your trends is a great way to see if your training program is truly continuously improving.


The Takeaway: Lean/HF Applied to Training = More Effective Training

For whatever reason, many in lean and HF sometimes don’t see how the same principles apply to training.  If you implement some of the tips above in your own training program, you’ll find the same positive benefits you noticed when you first implemented