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The No. 1 waste of time and money in training

28 November, 2019

Like most things in life, there are many ways to waste time and money in the training sphere.  Training people on things that they don't need, giving them way more detail than they need to do their job and retraining someone because of an incident or performance issue that had nothing to do with training are just a few.  But the one that I see again and again is duplication of information through a number of different courses.  When a new employee starts work, they can be required to complete a corporate induction, then a site induction, then an area induction, then a job induction along with various other courses on different topics.  And in many cases, the same information is repeated through every induction.

Some common examples of repeated information in resource company training include detailed content on isolations and explosives in every course from the corporate induction through to the area inductions.  For people who deal with explosives or may come into contact with them, they need that information.  But why does the receptionist at head office need to know how to conduct a group isolation and what the characteristics of each type of explosive are.  Even if he does visit site for a familiarisation tour, he is probably not going to be involved in a mill reline or tie in a shot.

So why does this happen?  Well, many of these courses are developed by departments in isolation.  And everyone thinks that their information is the most important.  And often, people don't remember the content of the other courses and they don't check.  And people still believe in the theory that more is more.  Remember the story about the teacher who would take all the projects to the second-floor balcony and drop them over the edge.  Then they would be graded according to what order they hit the ground, with the heaviest being first.  That's the equivalent of a 120 slide powerpoint being better that a 10 minute conversation.

But is this a problem?  After all, there can't be any harm in repeating important information a number of times, even if people who don't really need to know get to see it.  Well, the problem is that we are human.  Humans have a limited attention span.  So we can only absorb so much information before our mind starts to wander.  We may be paying attention to the information about explosives which we never see, but then tune out before we get to the section on office evacuation routes.  And, if we think we are covering information that we have seen before, we usually won't pay attention.  But that means there may be some slightly different, critical information that we miss.

The easiest way to minimise this is to work with the training department and follow a strategy for delivery of content.  Think about what people need to know, and at what level of detail.  For example, you could mention that the company uses explosives in the corporate induction, show what they look like and who to call if you see them in the site induction, cover some safe handling tips for people working in areas where they are more likely to come across them, and give detailed information for anyone who handles, transports or uses explosives.  Taking some time to think about the level of information that is necessary will save you more time in development of the training material.  And your trainees will thank you for it.