If you work in an industry that has legal compliance requirements for things like safety training, your organisation is likely to have something in place that is focused predominantly on satisfying the compliance requirement so that you can get on with doing business while avoiding any penalties that could be imposed by a state authority.
There is nothing strange about this. It’s natural for businesses to be a bit resentful of government interference that takes time and resources away from the process of turning a profit and instead diverts it towards things that are not strictly related to making money.
That’s why we see many organisations stick to the letter, but not the spirit, of the law. For many, legal training requirements are nothing but a tick box that needs to be checked by someone so that they can be left alone, but based on what we know of training effectiveness it may very well be that doing the legal minimum that you can get away with is actually an unethical practice with real consequences.
Years of research and practical observations have shown how easily and quickly any new learning is forgotten of specific efforts are not made to retain it. More than a hundred years ago psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus noted the speed with which the brain discarded information it did not consider relevant. In order to foster retention and application of new information you need to have a robust system of measurement, spaced repetition and content design that maximises engagement and effective memory encoding.
No matter which way you slice it, this is something that requires time, money and resources to do right. Of course, why train at all if you are not interested in seeing result? Proper training retention practices will pay for themselves in the long term, whereas training with no regard for retention is at best a waste of money and at worst a costly risk. The bottom line is that at point in time no one can convincingly argue that a once-off training session with no follow up and no measurement of retention can really be considered a worthwhile or successful exercise. Certainly not if you care at all about getting a return on that training.
Click here for more on the Forgetting Curve.
Unfortunately mandated compliance training often creates incentives to do just that: Write the initial cost of training off as a necessary evil, just like a sort of tax. Which is a good comparison, since companies work to legally minimise their tax expenditure for much the same reason. What this means is that true compliance is not being achieved even if legal requirements are being met. If your employee has forgotten the skills and knowledge meant to increase the safety either of your product or the environment your employees work in then the entire exercise was for nothing and what’s worse, you may be actively engaging in unethical practices.
The good news is that you can have it both ways. You can have ethical compliance and avoid significant costs or time commitments.
Things have changed in the world of learning and training. While in the past the process of ensuring that people retained and could make use of new knowledge was labour-intensive and time consuming, we can now automate and monitor this process using modern technology.
Using the power of internet connected devices and cloud-networked tracking and analysis it’s possible to provide evidence that training has taken hold and to intervene appropriately when that is not the case.
When does one become responsible for something? Is doing nothing always a morally neutral choice? The fact is that when you are aware of a problems and it is within your power to prevent or reverse it, you become responsible for the consequences of that problems. By the same token those who are aware of practices that may be unethical and remain quiet or do nothing about it are generally considered complicit in those ethical breaches.
Taking measures to address impotent training practices is therefore not a choice, but an imperative.
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