9 Steps to Effective Operational Training

After being involved in training for several decades now, first as a manager and now as a professional trainer, I can confidently say that I find it easier to train theory-based concepts than operational skills. Maybe it’s because I have no problem pontificating to fill my time allotment. As a teacher, I know how to use that time effectively. Really though, I think it’s because training on operational procedures (read that as real tasks, not theory) takes far more planning.


Me on Glacier Stage

Me pontificating on the stage in Glacier National Park


Training on operational tasks takes careful planning to ensure the right steps are taught, in the right way, and with the right outcome. The complications come when you start considering and addressing all the different variables that can affect the outcome.

For example: Let’s imagine I’m contracted to teach a group of people, from a non-profit organization, how to safely inspect a vehicle before it is used to transport kids on a long road trip. Assume I’ve created a checklist for them to follow as they do the inspection, which means I automatically have structure to my lesson. My first tasks would be to share why the check is important, and then introduce the checklist to them.

Now stop for a minute and think through what potential roadblocks I will possibly run into at this point…

Here’s the list I came up with:

  • What if some members of the group aren’t familiar with vehicle maintenance? I’m could have people that don’t understand how to check oil or brake fluid, why tire pressure is important, etc. and will have to accommodate them.
  • What if some are highly experienced in vehicle maintenance? I’m going to have some bored learners.
  • Have I allowed enough time in the schedule to re-teach items that aren’t clear?
  • What type of assessment (test) can I use to make sure they understand the proper procedure?
  • What follow-up can I put in place to verify those present continue to perform the procedure correctly a day, week, month, or year from now?

That list of questions took me about two minutes. I’m sure I could come up with much more. The point is execution on a training plan. It’s much easier to use stories, teach from different perspectives, involve the thoughts of others, and create engaging methods to train theory-based topics. There are only so many ways to train how to shut off electricity at a breaker box or the proper procedure to ring up a customer at the point of sale. Have a plan!

Here then are the steps to prepare for operational procedure training:

  1. Look one more time at the situation and make sure the need for training really exists.(I’ll talk about this more in an upcoming post.)
  2. Sketch out a rough outline that covers all the steps to teach.
  3. Re-check the steps list and add anything missing.
  4. Analyze each step for potential roadblocks to address.
  5. Build in plans to address the identified roadblocks.
  6. Build in assessments as necessary. For small tasks, one assessment at the end will probably be sufficient. For larger or more important tasks, you’ll need assessments all along the task list.
  7. Plan how re-teaching will be done if the learners fail any of the assessments.
  8. Have someone else very familiar with the procedure review the plan and make sure nothing was missed.
  9. Plan for support after the training to re-teach and reinforce as necessary. (This is the most often missed step.)

Theory-based concepts may be easier to train, but every business has operational procedures that need to be trained too. Knowing how to execute both types of training will only make a company stronger with a better bottom line.

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