Shirley J. Caruso, Ed.D.
Workplace training can be either proactive or reactive. When organizations take a proactive approach to workplace training, the goal is to prevent or promote a certain behavior or behaviors in an effort to increase revenue, avoid costs, and/or improve service. Taking a proactive approach to workplace training often requires organizations to be well versed in current workplace issues that are occurring in other organizations and could occur in their organization as well. When organizations take a reactive approach to workplace training, the goal is to close or significantly narrow an identified performance gap, and by doing so, the organization increases revenue, avoids costs, and/or improves service.
A performance gap is the difference between desired and actual performance. When an organization wishes to enhance employee performance or resolve a problem that has been observed or brought to the attention of members of an organization, a performance analysis is warranted. A performance analysis will reveal whether the performance gap can be closed or significantly narrowed by motivating employees, providing appropriate resources that are found to be lacking, or by training. If it is determined that training is the solution, a true knowledge or skills gap exists. If a gap in knowledge or skills does not exist, training will have no impact on the performance gap.
Prioritizing training needs is necessary so that they are aligned with organization’s goals and key focus areas (increase revenue, avoid costs, and/or improve service). Levels of training may exist that are required to comply with mandatory legislation, such as health and safety training. In these cases, it is important to prioritize these training requirements over and above other training needs. Managing employee expectations of training must also be considered in prioritizing the sequence of training. There could exist some training and development initiatives, which, although given a low priority from the organizational viewpoint, might raise motivational levels among employees. Training needs must always be managed within the constraints of organizational budgets. A cost/benefit analysis is a good way of measuring the return on investment of any training before it is implemented.
Four workplace training topics that are gaining momentum because they are aligned with the goals and key focus areas of today’s organizations – or are required to comply with mandatory legislation – are workplace harassment training, training to prevent violence in the workplace, safety training, and diversity training.
Workplace Training: Harassment
Harassment in the workplace is unwelcome conduct. It is based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or age. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment in which enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment or the conduct creates a work environment that is considered intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Unless the conduct is extremely serious, petty annoyances and isolated incidents usually are not illegal. Offensive conduct can include such things as making offensive jokes, slurs, name-calling, intimidation, offensive objects or pictures, and interfering with another’s job performance.
Prevention is the best way to eliminate harassment in the workplace and workplace harassment training can help organizations take appropriate steps to prevent and if it should occur, correct unlawful harassment. Workplace harassment training can teach organizations how to effectively communicate to employees that unwelcome harassing conduct will not be tolerated. Training can help organizations create an environment in which employees feel free to raise concerns and are confident that those concerns will be addressed. Workplace harassment training will help organizations and their employees recognize the difference between petty annoyances and intimidating, hostile, or abusive conduct. Workplace harassment training can help organizations avoid costs related to litigation brought about by unlawful harassment.
Workplace Training: Preventing Violence in the Workplace
Most workplace violence incidents could have been prevented. Workplace violence is a serious problem that all organizations should be prepared to deal with. Training can help organizations recognize the types of incidents that are likely to provoke violence in the workplace, help them determine whether or not workplace violence policies apply to verbal threats, and guide them into what action to take in cases of actual fighting or physical violence. This type of training can help organizations avoid costs related to litigation brought about by victims of workplace violence and costs related to healthcare to treat them.
Workplace Training: Safety
There are countless workplace safety training topics, but one of the most important is first aid. Teaching employees CPR and the Heimlich maneuver can sometimes mean the difference between life and death in those crucial moments before professional medical help arrives. Employees should also know how to use each item in the first aid kit correctly.
Fire safety is another important workplace safety training topic. There is often no warning for a fire in a building. Training for fire safety is one of the most important aspects of any safety plan. Both first aid and fire training can help organizations avoid costs related to insurance policies (cost savings are often awarded to organizations conducting safety training), healthcare for injured employees, as well as litigation related to safety violations or incidents.
Workplace Training: Diversity
We all have unique qualities that make us who we are. Diversity is the state or instance of being different, having variety, or being dissimilar. Celebrating diversity means valuing each employee for his or her uniqueness; appreciating different backgrounds, styles, values, and attitudes; and fostering an environment in which every employee feels valued.
It is unfortunate that some employees are uncomfortable with other employees who have different backgrounds, styles, values, and attitudes. Organizations should, therefore, conduct diversity training, especially in their new hire training program to assure these employees properly interact with coworkers who may have different backgrounds, styles, values, and attitudes. Content for diversity training should also include issues of gender (including gender identity), ethnicity, age, religious backgrounds, and disability to ensure employees work more effectively together, while at the same time offering an affirmative defense to potential litigation or avoiding the costs of litigation altogether.
Prioritizing workplace training needs is necessary so that they are aligned with organization’s goals and key focus areas. Some levels of training exist that are required to comply with mandatory legislation, such as health and safety training, and must be implemented. Other training may be proactive or reactive. A cost/benefit analysis is a good way of measuring the return on investment of any training before it is implemented.