Opinion: Create a Successful Employee Training Program

A picture of Shawn Smith of KPA

Safety is a primary concern for many workers applying at RV dealerships. In today’s tight labor market, you can stand out to job seekers by demonstrating a commitment to their well-being. One way to do so is to invest in your training programs.

A comprehensive training program helps limit incidents at your dealership, boosts productivity, and gives you a clear example to show when discussing your dealership’s safety initiatives with candidates.

Here are five best practices to use when building an RV dealership’s employee training program.

Tailor Lessons to Your Audience

Want to ensure your training sticks? Make training specific to your employees. You have three ways to do this.

  • Consider your industry. You need to meet all your industry’s regulatory requirements. You must also help employees address job-specific hazards and challenges. To incorporate these needs into a training program, consider focusing on common Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) pitfalls or violations. One example: Inadequate hazard communication, the top OSHA violation for dealerships in 2021.
  • Adapt the training to include various learning styles. Learners will naturally tune out training that entails long lectures or a wall of text—even if they want to learn. So, mix it up. Ask attendees to interact by answering questions or practicing a task. Adding video or images can make training more dynamic and provide helpful context. Learners have different accessibility needs and learning styles (auditory, visual or kinesthetic). Accommodate these styles to connect with a more diverse learner range. Everyone has the right to be safe and fully trained on the job.
  • Think from your employees’ perspectives. Consider these questions.
    • Why does this topic matter to learners? What could happen if they lack the information you are sharing? Inform attendees early on why the training is relevant.
    • Which tools would be helpful? If learners need to remember a long, detailed process, a single talk-through is not memorable. It might even be overwhelming. A better strategy is to offer learners readily accessible resources like a policy or checklist. Give them ample time to practice the process. Given ample time and practice, learners can check crucial information when needed.
    • What experience does your team currently have? Many employees already bring knowledge and experience to the table. Give them an opportunity to show what they know.
    • Do training sessions allow learners to ask questions or discuss? Posing questions and drawing independent conclusions are important aspects of learning. Open communication is vital for learners to feel personally connected to the safety culture and comfortable communicating safety issues.

You can tailor training material in many ways. If you are unsure which is best for your team, ask the employees. Your employees have a vested interest in ensuring your training program is relevant and beneficial.

Feature Real-Life Examples

In addition to tailoring lessons to your audience, include real-life scenarios your team might experience at your RV dealership. These examples serve two primary functions.

First, they enable your team

to make mistakes without the consequences they might experience on the floor. Failing a question on selecting the correct PPE has a far different outcome than, say, failing to wear the right foot protection and dropping a piece of heavy machinery on your toes.

Your RV dealership is filled with lifts, chemicals and equipment. So, let employees make and subsequently correct errors in a “low-stakes” environment first.

Second, real-life examples encourage employees to use critical thinking skills and employ the lessons they just learned.

Some example-based training for your RV dealership might include asking employees to select the correct PPE for the task at hand. You could present a hypothetical incident where an employee gets hurt after failing to follow safety procedures (with a follow-up question asking what that worker should have done differently).

Whatever examples you choose, make sure they address experiences at your RV dealership. Let your daily operations inform the scenarios you create. If you notice employees repeating a mistake, notify your team and consider building a training session around that error.

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Studies show that repeated and spaced learning strengthens employees’ training session memories. However, you should not repeat the same lesson over and over. People remember information best when the details are relevant, which is why continuously tailoring lessons and integrating real-life examples are so important.

You can maximize repetition’s positive impact in three ways:

  • Adhere to a regular training schedule. Most employees spend less than half an hour weekly on training. Maintaining a training schedule underscores safety’s importance to your team and eliminates the huge hurdle of making the time.
  • Reinforce the lesson with different activities. If your training module involves a team-wide discussion, follow up with a demonstration of what you discussed, like preparing your service bay before lifting an RV.
  • Immediately apply the training to the job. If your team just completed a job-specific training module, have employees perform the procedure immediately after. Eventually, repetition creates safe habits, which contribute to the safety culture at your RV dealership.

You also can use spaced learning within a training module. For example, quizzing employees well after introducing information is more effective than immediately quizzing them on the training module.

Make Training Bite-Sized When Possible

Short training sessions are not always possible due to regulatory requirements and subject complexity. However, whenever you can, take the opportunity to divide training into shorter sessions and modules.

Limit your training to small blocks of time, maybe five to 15 minutes.

The change benefits your employees for a couple of reasons:

Training is more memorable. TED Talks are limited to 18 minutes for a reason: people tune out after a while. The longer the training, the more likely the details will be lost. Short training sessions will not sap your employees’ attention span and will help them retain the essentials.

Learners will be less frustrated (and more willing to learn): Training, by nature, interrupts work. Long training sessions can make employees feel they are wasting time and increase the pressure to return to work. If learners impatiently rush through the training, they are less likely to retain information. Shorter training sessions feel less invasive and provide greater scheduling flexibility.

Continually Assess Knowledge

Dealerships hire talent ranging from novices to experienced professionals. Assessing knowledge helps keep employees engaged by:

  • Delivering challenging and comprehensible training. Once you identify your employees’ strengths and weaknesses, you can personalize your team’s training, such as suggesting an additional session on wiring safety after a low test score.
  • Empowering learners to show what they know via tests, exams or tutorials. Without assessments, employees will find it difficult to demonstrate mastery of a subject, other than actually completing the practice.

For knowledge assessment ideas, consider giving an exam asking learners to identify hazards in a picture of your shop floor (spilled materials, exposed wiring, faulty equipment, etc.).

You also could have employees conduct a practice walk-through, such as wearing the correct PPE

or using the right tool. Score each process phase to see how your team members perform.

A training program is an investment. If you do not make training programs a priority, your employees will not experience

their value.

An incident leaves employees and your dealership vulnerable. Fortunately, effective safety training programs equip your team with the information they need to protect themselves.

Yes, establishing a culture of safety takes time but is well worth the effort.

Shawn Smith is the product director of training for KPA, an EHS and workforce compliance software and services provider for midsize businesses. KPA solutions help clients identify, remedy and prevent workplace safety and compliance problems.

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