The phone rings again and your trainee is called off to attend to another customer. You sit patiently waiting for her to return and shuffle some assessment papers around in your folder. You can’t help but think that this workplace isn’t serious about training. Or that there’s no way you’re going to gain the full attention of your trainee to ensure her successful completion in the time you’ve been allocated.

Workplace training is one of the pillars of vocational training. It is, in all respects, where applied learning can genuinely take place. You show, they learn and apply, you coach and they improve. Just apply this to any workplace, from a hair salon to an engineering firm; from a mine site to a design studio. The principles are the same. So why is it so hard? And does it necessarily have to be this hard in a workplace environment so focused on output?

I’m sure you’ve got a list of things that work for you. Most workplace trainers are rightfully competent in managing the interactions with trainees, supervisors and public interruptions. So please just see this as another perspective that you may hopefully integrate into your own practices. So without further ado, my tips are:

  1. Get a training plan in place. No matter what the format of the training, a training plan achieves two very important things: a) Agreement to a future schedule by all stakeholders, and b) signed acknowledgement by the trainee’s manager of the time required to complete the training. Of course there’s more to it than that, but these two elements are vitally important when negotiating time during a working day.
  2. Quiet please. Workplaces can be very active environments. My tip here is to ensure that the ‘noise’ that is likely to interrupt your trainee is removed. For example, is their phone/tablet/computer off? Are fellow workers aware that training is taking place? Can you separate the trainee from their workspace?
  3. Establish authority. In my experience, the trainer is not always given the authority to ensure the attention of the trainee. In fact, more often than not, even minimal excuses, like “I need to respond to this email from yesterday,” are enough to distract the trainee. Use the training plan or gain explicit agreement from the trainees manager to enforce your authority.

Wouldn’t it be nice to pass on the vital skills and knowledge needed by an employee to do their job better, to an undistracted trainee? Hopefully, these tips are of some use to you. Good luck, and let me know any other tips you’ve used that help with workplace training.

Dan Hill – Vocational Education Specialist