6 Easy Steps to Better Industrial Employee Training Programs

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Providing effective training that helps industrial employees quickly develop necessary job skills is an important part of success for industrial companies. Yet not all industrial employers are familiar with reliable methods of creating and delivering effective training materials and programs that truly help employees acquire necessary job knowledge and (more importantly) acquire needed job skills quickly and efficiently.

In this article, we’ll walk you through a simple, repeatable process for improving your industrial training and facilitating the career growth of the employees at your industrial workplace, we’ll link you to additional resources where you can learn more, and we’ll give you a free guide to industrial/manufacturing training that you can download as well.

Good luck putting together your own training programs at work and let us know if you have additional questions or if we can be of help.

In addition to this article, you might also be interested in our article on Industrial Training Topics and Times of Training Need and our article with some helpful Industrial Training Tips.

The Six Steps Behind Effective Industrial Training Programs

In this article, we’d like to introduce you to six steps that will help you create, deliver, and benefit from more effective industrial training at your workplace.

Those steps are represented in the image below. Start at “noon” on the clock, with Design, cycle forward in a clockwise direction through Develop, Deliver, Evaluate, Document, and Continuous Improvement, and keep the cycle going.

We’ll discuss each in much more detail below, and we believe you can use this information to improve the job training programs at your industrial facility.

You may note this is very similar to the classic ADDIE instructional design model–that’s intentional.

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Take a little look at the graphic above, see what it means to you, and then continue reading.

Industrial Training Programs Are Intended for Continuous Improvement

The graphic above represents a never-ending cycle, and that’s what industrial training is. You’ll never stop evaluating and potentially revising training materials to try to make them better and as things change. Plus there will be new training topics coming in from time to time as well.

Speaking of continuous improvement, since you most likely work in industry, you may want to download our free PDCA Cycle infographic. Go ahead…we’ll wait here until you’re back.

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Step 1: Designing Industrial Training Programs

You don’t want to just start building your training right away. Instead, you want to design it for maximum effectiveness.

Note that in the ADDIE model, they talk about analysis and then design. We’re following the same basic idea, but we’re grouping analysis into this design phase as well.

The design process includes several steps, including:

  • The training needs analysis
  • Identifying the business goal the training is intended to influence and the KPI(s) meant to measure it
  • The task analysis
  • Writing learning objectives
  • Conducting a learner analysis
  • And more

Let’s learn more about each of these.

Training Needs Analysis

You’ll conduct a training heeds analysis for three reasons.

The first is to discover what the real problem is that the training is supposed to fix (or what the opportunity is the training is supposed to help your organization take advantage of).

The second is to find out what the cause of the problem is.

And the third is to determine if training is the best solution to the problem, or if there are more appropriate solutions (read more about this here).

If you discover that training isn’t the best solution, you can stop the whole training-creation process right there. To learn more about this, read our introduction to the Association of Talent Development’s Human Performance Improvement (HPI) model.

Of course, you may also discover that training IS the right way to go. If so, continue the training creation process as described below.

To learn more about this, download our handy Analyzing & Solving Workplace Performance Problems flowchart. 

Determine the Business Goal the Training Is Intended to Support

Industrial organizations don’t provide training just for the sake of fun or even just so employees can learn things.

They provide industrial training so that their employees can help the organization reach its goals.

So as a trainer, it’s important for you, very early in the process, to determine which business goals your training is supposed to support and which KPIs are used to measure progress toward those goals (because you’ll want to do some before/after tracking of the KPIs).

So:

  1. Find out which business goal(s) you’re supporting
  2. Learn which KPIs track progress toward that goal
  3. Get a baseline metric of that goal now so you can track it over time, both before and after the training

Later, when the training has been delivered, you can continue to track the KPI and see what kind of progress your organization made and determine if your training program contributed to that progress or not.

Remember that the point of training is never simply to develop training, to deliver training, to “put butts in seats,” or to get elearning completions. You’re trying to help your industrial organization reach a business goal, plain and simple.

We’ll come back to address this issue more in the section of this article about training evaluation.

Task Analysis

Sometimes, your training will be focused on helping employees acquire knowledge. Maybe it’s a new company policy.

In most cases, though (even in a lot of the cases when you’re trying to transfer knowledge), the real goal will be to help the industrial worker perform a job task. Because that’s what workers do on the job–job tasks–and that’s

In those cases, you’ll want to break the job task down into a series of smaller steps. This will help you better understand the job task and help you be better prepared to teach it to workers.

This is called a job task analysis.


Learning Objectives

Next, you need to create learning objectives.

A learning objective (or a set of learning objectives) is what you want the workers to be able to do when the training is over.

In general, learning objectives are job tasks (or sub-tasks) that, when employees perform them on the job, will help your industrial organization achieve those business goals.

Once you’ve created learning objectives, you’ll use them as a “road map” for creating your training materials, your training activities, and your assessments (performance demonstrations and/or tests). You want all of these to be strictly aligned.

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For more about learning objectives, listen to our recorded interview with learning researcher Dr. Patti Shank about writing learning objectives and download our free Guide to Writing Learning Objectives .

Learner Analysis

Your training should be designed to support the employees’ learning needs. In short, it should be learner-centric.

And to do that, you’re going to need to perform a learner analysis.

Here are some things to learn about the employees you’re going to train:

  • Their existing knowledge and skills
  • Their work schedules and when they’re available for training
  • The language(s) they speak and understand, both written and spoken
  • Reading levels and capabilities
  • Ages
  • Ethnicity and cultural groups
  • Gender
  • Physical handicaps
  • Learning preferences (one-on-one training; instructor-led classroom style training; group collaboration; written; self-guided online learning; etc.). This is different than the debunked “learning styles” theory.

One interesting way to learn more about the employees at your industrial workplace and about their real workplace learning needs is to conduct a design thinking activity. Read more about design thinking here.

The Delivery Method of Industrial Training

What’s a training delivery method?

Job training can be delivered in different methods or media, such as:

  • Written training materials
  • Video-based training materials
  • Webinars
  • Virtual training
  • One-on-one training
  • Instructor-led training with a group in a class
  • Mentoring, shadowing, and/or following programs on the job (OJT)
  • Online elearning courses
  • Microlearning courses
  • And more

Extensive research shows no one training delivery method (or media) is more effective than the others. The research shows that all of them can be equally effective. What really matters is in the instructional method (for example, the instructional method of “providing helpful feedback” can be used in classroom-style training, in field-based training, during a live webinar, and even in an online eLearning course). Of course, some delivery methods may make it easier or harder to incorporate those helpful instructional methods in different circumstances.

To learn more about this book Evidence-Based Training Methods by Dr. Ruth Colvin Clark, or this recent research by Dr. Will Thalheimer, or our recorded, on-demand Evidence-Based Training webinar. 

You’ll probably find that one delivery method (instructor-led classroom training, for example) may be more helpful with a particular training need, while a second delivery media  (online training, for example) may help more with a second. And you’ll probably also find it’s often best to deliver training more than one delivery media (maybe mixing classroom and elearning, for example).

This mixing is what is known as a blended learning solution for industrial training. Download our free Guide to Blended Learning Solutions to learn more.

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Working with Industrial Training Providers

You might also want to partner with industrial training providers to help create some of your industrial training materials.

The video overview below shows some examples.

More Things to Think About When Designing Industrial Training Programs

You’ll also want to give consideration to things like:

  • Classroom space and seating availability
  • Technological infrastructure for delivering and completing training online
  • Availability of mobile devices
  • Additional similar issues

This stuff may not seem super-important or complicated, but it is critical to successful industrial training.

Where to Learn More about Designing Industrial Training Programs

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Step 2: Developing Industrial Training Programs

Once you’re completed the design phase (including analysis), it’s time to get working on development.

This means make it. If it’s classroom training, you might make a PowerPoint, instructor materials, and student materials. If it’s online learning, you might create a elearning course. No matter what the delivery method, this is taking the blueprint of design and turning it into real training materials that you’ll later deliver.

Reliable Sources of Information

If you want to train workers well, you’ve got to be using reliable, credible information. You can just make things up.

Learn from subject matter experts, managers, supervisors. Learn from experienced employees. Learn from observation. But make sure you know what you’re talking about–that’s what the design phase is for. Don’t let anything into development that isn’t credible.

Be Certain Your Training Materials Align with Your Learning Objectives

We talked earlier about creating learning objectives and then using them as a “road map” for your training content and activities as well as your assessments.

Make certain that your training materials help to teach employees to satisfy the learning objectives. Give appropriate content and activities to teach that. Leave everything else out–yes, even “bonus” content you think is interesting. Studies show that depresses learning.

Incorporate Adult Learning Principles and Evidence-Based Training Practices

Using training methods that work–that are known (by research) to help assist in knowledge acquisition and skill development.

Here’s a set of adult learning principles drawn from the writing of Martin Knowles–adults:

  • Like to be self-directed
  • Come to training with previous knowledge, experience, and skills
  • Want to make progress toward specific goals
  • Want training that’s relevant
  • Want training that will help them perform specific job tasks
  • Learn better when they’re motivated to learn
  • Want to feel and be respected

Read this article to learn more about adult learning principles and how to apply them in manufacturing training.

You’ll also want to use other evidence-based training methods. We’ve listed some for you below but also encourage you to check out our articles on learning myths and evidence-based training practices.


Keep Your Training Short

The human brain acts as a limit as a “working memory” that acts as a bottleneck to how much information we can process.

Think–four bits of information at a time, for only about 15 seconds unless we rehearse something into long-term memory, and for a short period of total accumulated time.

Because learning is hard work. And therefore people can only do it for so long. So keep things shorter instead of longer, and break things up with different types of activities.

Chunk Your Industrial Training

Chunking means breaking your training up into small, bite-sized pieces.

You then sequence the materials in a logical manner that helps employees make sense of everything (often times, this means moving from “big picture” conceptual views to more detailed, nitty-gritty views).

Check out this article about chunking training to learn more.

Language Issues: Speaking, Reading, Understanding

Know the conversational speaking levels and reading levels of the workers you’ll be training.

Create training that matches their conversational speaking and their reading levels.

Make sure they’re capable of understanding.

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Also, if you’ve got a multilingual workforce, provide your industrial training in multiple languages as well.

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Here are some things to avoid in your training materials:

  • Excessively complicated or formal language
  • Academic language
  • Long and complicated sentences
  • Long words
  • Jargon
  • Acronyms
  • Abbreviations

To learn more, check our article with tips on how to write training materials and our notes on using language so that training “sticks.”

Put Visuals In Your Industrial Training Materials

Our brains have two separate but complementary “processing channels” for processing information. One is for language (both spoken and written) and one is for visuals.

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Use both in well-designed pairings, and your employees will remember and learn more. Use just one, and there’s a greater chance they’ll learn less than they might. Use the combination wrong (like having an audio narration read text on screen word-for-word) and you’ll create cognitive overload and decrease learning.

Your visuals don’t have to be complicated. They just have to illustrate the point and support the learning objectives. They can be simple things such as clip art, stock photos, Microsoft smart art, and more.

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Of course, industrial training providers can really set you up on this score, as shown below.

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Here’s another example from an online course about Process and Instrumentation Diagrams (P&IDs).

Awaken Prior Knowledge Related to the Training Topic At Beginning of Training Session

Workers come to training with prior knowledge and skills they’re already learned.

When you introduce the workers to new knowledge, their brain tries to make sense of that new knowledge by activating existing, prior knowledge.

This integration of new knowledge with prior knowledge is key to retaining that new knowledge. And one great way to assist that process is to activate that existing, prior knowledge related to the training topic before training begins.

To learn more about this, read:

Use Metaphors, Similes, Analogies, and Other Forms of Comparison and Contrast

One way to relate new knowledge to existing knowledge is to use metaphors, similes, comparisons, contrasts, and analogies.

Learn more about this in our article on metaphors, similes, and analogies in manufacturing training.

Tell Stories

People are almost “programmed” to listen to and remember stories.

If you present a story that directly reinforces your learning objective, people are:

  • More likely to pay attention initially
  • More likely to keep paying attention
  • More likely to remember
  • More likely to change their behavior

Sound pretty good?

Want more tips on this? Check out this on story-based learning and why you should use it.

Provide Practice, Consequences, and Feedback

Practice is a learning accelerator. Let the worker see the consequences of their actions and decision during practice, and/or giving feedback based on that practice, increases learning even more.

If you really want to get a worker on the fast-track to expertise, check out this article about using deliberate practice to develop expertise at work. 

Use Spaced Practice

We tend to forget things we’ve only been introduced to once. You probably know this.

That’s where spaced practice comes in.

Industrial training shouldn’t be a one-and-one, once a year thing. Instead, create “learning campaigns” that require workers to recall and use knowledge and skills from training over time.

Learn more about this in our article on spaced practice. 

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Have Employees Think About Their Own Learning

Workers learn better if they set learning goals and periodically stop to think how well their learning is going. This is known as metacognitino.

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If you build in prompts in your training that cause workers to use metacognitive reflection, they’ll most likely learn more effectively.

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Step 3: Delivering Industrial Training

Here are some things to consider when it comes to delivering industrial training–this is true no matter the deliver method.

Things to Think about re: Delivering Training

We talked about the importance of keeping the employee’s learning needs front and center during training design, and that’s true when the training is being delivered too. Remember, an elearning course or an instructor with a PowerPoint is there to help facilitate learning by employees, not to run the show.

To get some more tips on this, check out article on Robert Gagne’s nine events of instruction or this helpful list of steps of training based on cognitive psychology.


Face-to-Face Trainers and Effective Training Delivery

Instructors in classroom training must create an active, engaging, comfortable learning experience for employees. Avoid lectures and painfully long sessions.

Don’t find yourself being of one of these common instructor-led training errors:

  • Being the sage on the stage
  • Delivering spray-and-pray training
  • Unloading information dumps

Make the learning experience active for employees. Make sure you ask them questions. Try to let them lead small-group or full-class discussions. Do case studies and interactive exercises.

A train-the-trainer couldn’t hurt.

Online and Virtual Industrial Training Delivery

Training that happens online, including elearning courses as well as virtual classrooms (simulated classroom training conducted over a webinar-like platform), also has to be designed to be active.

You might want to check out our recorded discussions on virtual classrooms for some tips on conducting virtual classrooms more effectively.

If you’re creating or licensing elearning courses, get engaging, interactive courses with practice scenarios, questions, feedbacks, and tests.

Here are some additional resources to help you with your industrial training search:

Mobile Industrial Training

Most workers in an industrial workplace carry mobile phones and similar devices.

And most of us in today’s society use cell phones and the like in many walks of our normal, daily lives: banking, reading the news, and so on.

So why wouldn’t we consider job training on mobile devices as well? Especially if the workers in your workplace don’t all have a dedicated computer?

Check this demonstration at our mobile training webpage to learn more.

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Mobile learning makes it easier for workers to access training when and where they want and need it and on their own schedule. Plus it makes it easier for them to access this material as performance support when and where they need it on the job to complete a job task.

For more on this, read our article Mobile Training at Work, this recorded discussion about microlearning, or this 3 Uses for Microlearning article.

Spaced Practice

You may not know the phrase, but as someone in training, you probably know the idea behind the forgetting curve. People often forget things shortly after a training session.

That’s natural, and so it’s a trainer’s job to know that and to help keep that new information and those new skills “alive” in a person’s memory.

Spaced practice is a great way to do that.

But what’s spaced practice? It’s a training technique in which you introduce new material to employees and then, at intervals of time, you create opportunities for them to recall that information again and again. That retrieval process makes the neural connections stronger, making it more likely the employee will remember and later use that information on the job.

Here are some possible ways to make use of spaced practice in your job training:

  • Provide pre-training before the primary training
  • Introduce a training concept at several different times during the primary training
  • Re-introduce a training concept at several times after the primary training (not immediately after, but before a year has passed…maybe a week or two)

To learn more about spaced practice, check out the book Make it Stick , this Spacing Learning Over Time white paper by Will Thalheimer, and this interview with Dr. Thalheimer about Spaced Learning. 

Microlearning

Another way to improve your training delivery is to make use of microlearning at times.

There’s nothing tricky to this…it just means delivering training in short bursts around a single learning objective. Maybe just a minute or two.

Research has shown it’s effective, and it’s worth giving it a try.

Performance Support

Sometimes people don’t need training at all. They just need the right information at the right time–when they’re performing a job task. That’s where performance support, which can be something as simple as a paper-based checklist but might also be a video recalled on a mobile device, can really help.

Click to read more about performance support and job aids.

Learn how to use mobile apps for performance support here.

70/20/10

The big idea behind 70/20/10, also sometimes called the Three Es or Experience, Exposure, and Education, is that people learn a lot of what they know and do at work not through formal, assigned training (education) but in other ways.

In particular, simply by learning as they work (experience) or through coworkers (exposure). The numbers 70/20/10 are supposed to represent percentages, but there’s no solid evidence for those numbers so don’t take them too seriously.

So here’s the basic idea about where employees learn stuff:

  • 70% of what they know from direct on-the-job experience (the Experience)
  • 20% of what they know from their coworkers (the Exposure)
  • 10% of what they know from their formal job training (the Education)

So while it’s good to make effective, formal training, don’t forget to try to facilitate that other learning, too.

Read more about 70/20/10 here and check out our What Is a Learning Organization? article, too.

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Step 4: Evaluating Industrial Training Programs

You spend too much money and time on training to just assume it’s working.

That’s where training evaluation comes in. You may not evaluate all training, and you may not evaluate all training in the same way. But you should do some evaluation.

The model we’ll explain below is based the four-level Kirkpatrick Training Evaluation model. It’s the most common model. But it’s also important to know that there ARE other training evaluation models, and we’ve provided additional information about those at the end of this section.

Level 1: Employee Reactions to Training (“Smile Sheets” or Surveys)

Level 1 is about getting your employee’s immediate reactions about the training shortly after the training has been completed. These are often called training training evaluation surveys or, somewhat dismissively, smile sheets.

Smile sheets alone won’t tell you everything you need to know about how effective your training is, and that’s partly because studies have shown that people are very poor at objectively knowing if they’re learned something or not. And it’s also because many smile-sheets are written poorly, and so they draw in information that’s less helpful than it could be.

If you’d like to learn more, check our article about how to write better level-1 evaluations/smile sheets.

Level 2: Tests and Other Assessments of Employee Learning After Training

Training evaluation level 2 is the test or assessment that happens immediately after the training is complete.

As we mentioned earlier, this assessment should determine if the workers can satisfy the learning objective(s).

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To learn more about creating valid, reliable workplace training assessments, check out the following:

Also, we really enjoyed this podcast about testing with Connie Malamed and Michael Rodriguez.


Level 3: Observations of On-the-Job Safe Work Practices

Tests are helpful, but even if an employee passes a test, he or she may not put that training to use on the job at a later date.

There can be a lot of reasons for this. Maybe the employee simply forgot the training after a few days. Or maybe there are other reasons–their manager is contradicting the training message, perhaps; there are obstacles in place that make it hard or impossible to follow the training message; or maybe there are incentives in place to encourage the employees to do something other than what was covered in training.

So it’s important to get out and see if workers are applying the training on the job.

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Level 4: Effect on Key Business Goals and KPIs

You may remember that near the beginning of this article, we explained that businesses don’t provide training just so that employees can learn. They don’t even really do it just so that employees can develop skills.

Instead, they provide training so that they can improve their chances of reaching business goals (and yes, that learning and those skills can help).

So now’s is the time to check the KPIs for the business goals the training was intended to support and see if your training has had a positive influence.

This article demonstrates using KPIs to measuring training effectiveness.

More Thoughts on Evaluating Training Effectiveness

In this section, we introduce the Kirkpatrick Four-Level Training Evaluation model.

But there ARE other models for training evaluation.

The following recorded discussions will help teach you more:

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Step 5: Documenting Industrial Training

For many reasons, it’s important to document training.

Certainly, this is true for compliance-based training requirements, such as your OSHA safety and health based training.

But there’s also value in documenting training to help measure skill and knowledge gaps, to determine job qualifications and eligibility for promotions, and even to try to investigate the history of your most successful employees and then try to duplicate that (including their training) with other employees.

Want to learn more? Check out this article on Big Learning Data.

A learning management system can help with training documentation–check out the video below.

 

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Step 6: Continuous Improvement of Industrial Training Programs

Remember, your job as a trainer is never done.

Use that evaluation information to continually revise and improve your training.

For more on continuous improvement, download our free PDCA Cycle infographic and check out our article on Continuous Improvement at Work.

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All Steps: Managing Effective Industrial Training Programs

Of course, training programs at an industrial facility don’t happen by themselves.

It takes a dedicated training even (even if that’s just one person) and some smart training program administration/management.

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Below are some management considerations.

Managing & Administering Resources

Your training program will need time, staff, money, supplies, technological resources, and more.

Plus, you’ll have shared goals that you’ll need to communicate clearly and that people will understand.

Someone needs to make sure this happens, and that same person needs to make things easier and remove road blocks.

Roles Defined

People with different jobs will need to know what their roles are in the training program and their efforts fit into and contribute to the “big picture.”

Ensuring Training Tasks are Completed

Someone needs to stay on top of and essentially “project manage” everything we’ve written about to make sure it gets done and is done on time.

Summary: Six Steps for Effective Industrial Training Programs

We hope you enjoyed this article.

To learn more about tools and products for industrial training, check:

Also, feel free to check out the industrial training products we make:

And finally, please feel free to download our Manufacturing Training From Scratch Guide for free below.

 

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Manufacturing Training from Scratch: A Guide

Create a more effective manufacturing training program by following these best practices with our free step-by-step guide.

Download Free Guide

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Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto is an Instructional Designer and the Senior Learning & Development Specialist at Convergence Training. He's worked in training/learning & development for 25 years, in safety and safety training for more than 10, is an OSHA Authorized Outreach Trainer for General Industry OSHA 10 and 30, has completed a General Industry Safety and Health Specialist Certificate from the University of Washington/Pacific Northwest OSHA Education Center and an Instructional Design certification from the Association of Talent Development (ATD), and is a member of the committee creating the upcoming ANSI/ASSP Z490.2 national standard on online environmental, health, and safety training. Jeff frequently writes for magazines related to safety, safety training, and training and frequently speaks at conferences on the same issues, including the Washington Governor's Safety and Health Conference, the Oregon Governor's Occupational Safety and Health Conference, the Wisconsin Safety Conference, the MSHA Training Resources Applied to Mining (TRAM) Conference, and others.

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