Employee Training- How hard can it be?
By: Pam Tompkins, CSP, CUSP, CUSA
Mark Twain said "There is nothing that training cannot do. Nothing is above its reach or below it. It can turn bad morals to good, good morals to bad; it can destroy principles, it can recreate them; it can debase angels to men and lift men to angels". We all know high-quality training must take place to ensure the overall development of employees.
Does having well trained employees mean the employee only attends a safety meeting monthly to gain training knowledge? Certainly not! Training should provide employees with a continual understanding of job task requirements, the hazards associated with the tasks and the appropriate abatement strategies for their safety. A monthly safety meeting may help validate these issues but it cannot be the sole delivery method for training. Unfortunately, many employees may never receive any additional formal training other than safety meetings.
Having the knowledge that training is important and required may not always ensure it takes place due to time constraints and a lack of funds and resources. Many utilities and utility contractors hire employees, then leave any training to time on the job and knowledge learned from existing employees who may use improper or unsafe work procedures. When no specific plan is developed for training, employees may never reach their full potential.
Developing a Plan
Developing a well planned training process is not easy. Each training plan should address the desired length of training, the number of training steps with compensation ranges and the requirements for employee completion and advancement. Ask the question- What knowledge is required to ensure full competency at the end of training? Academics, skills training, on the job training and demonstrated proficiency should all be addressed in the training plan. Plans must have full management and employee support to ensure success.
In many cases, a developed plan will change the structure of a job classification. This is especially true for jobs that only have one designation and salary range. Ensuring appropriate compensation for job knowledge and experience is a very important part of plan development.
Jobs such as customer service representatives, line designers and system operators (dispatchers) need a developed plan no less than an employee who works on energized lines and equipment. Although these employees do not necessarily perform work on or near live energized parts, their jobs directly impact other employees as well as the public. Customer Service Representatives need to understand electric system fundamentals to determine customer requirements; the line designer needs to understand how to design a system that is functional and safe for construction and maintenance; and a system operator needs to understand how to operate the system to ensure safety and reliability.
In the next article, we will discuss qualification requirements and training organizations as additional factors in employee training.