How to evaluate and evolve your Dangerous Goods training program—part 2

Last week, we shared strategies from leading Dangerous Goods trainers for evaluating hazmat training programs to determine when they need updating. Here are some powerful tips for evolving your training program to match your current operation—and preparing it for future growth.

If 2020 has proved anything, it’s that businesses must always be ready to adapt to change. Organizations in the Dangerous Goods supply chain have endured their share of change, and the most forward-looking have made evolving their training programs a priority.

If your operation has experienced any of these issues, it’s a strong indication your training programs need updating:

  1. Violations and/or frustrated shipments
  2. Changes to your offerings, your teams or the regulations
  3. Employees who are unable to perform tasks correctly

But what’s your next move? We spoke to two long-time experts in the field: LaQuita Donald, Director-Safety, Environmental & OSHA Compliance at Genuine Parts Company and Rhonda Jessop, Labelmaster Director, Global Learning. Here’s what we learned.    

Online, in-person and virtual all play a role

While online hazmat training courses can fulfill many of an organization’s basic needs—and help maintain regulatory compliance—most Dangerous Goods operations rely on in-person training to make sure their hazmat employees are competent to perform the jobs they’re asked to do.

These days, of course, live training often means virtual training with live instructors. Even when things go back to normal, however, digital and live elements can both play a prominent role.

Jessop cites a popular session at the 2019 Dangerous Goods Symposium that previewed a virtual reality training module. “People are taking the idea of virtual training much further. It can be much more complex, with a lot more choices. Many younger employees say, ‘This is what my generation wants.’”

Donald concurs. “People want to feel like you’re speaking to their generation.”

A tactical approach to bridge the generations

“You can have up to five generations in one class, and they all have different learning styles,” says Jessop. “All training has to evolve for these generational styles.”

“That’s why you have to make sure your training is totally inclusive, so people feel like you’re speaking to their generation,” adds Donald. “The Boomer wants paper; the Generation X or millennial wants to use her phone or other electronics. You have to teach the material so they all can retain it.

The difference in generations is deeper than just the tools they prefer. Jessop explains, “The new generations want to be in control, driving the learning.  More mature learners tend to think of learning as something that’s being taught to you—a passive approach. It can be a tricky balance, so it’s really important to do the analysis.”

She describes this analysis as “a tactical, systems-based approach requiring research and statistics. The basis of how you develop a course means you need to step back, analyze your target audience, decide the learning outcomes you expect, analyze the tasks required to produce those outcomes, then find the gaps between what you currently offer and what you want to achieve.”

Peer mentoring teaches interdependence

Donald advocates peer mentoring as a way to bridge that generational gap.

“When you buddy people up and give them the responsibility to make sure the organization is moving forward, people take it seriously,” she says. “Label someone a peer mentor to enforce what’s taught in the classroom. There’s nothing like hands-on experience, and other people will aspire to reach that goal.”

She recommends you “select peer mentors based on their skills and their generations, then merge them together. Pair a Boomer with a Gen X-er to build relationships. Bridge that gap! Others will see them working together, and it solidifies that they’re all one team. They see themselves as part of the process.

“We’re taught to be independent, but this pandemic has taught us we’re all interdependent.”

Creativity without adding cost

Many managers may see cost as a barrier to evolving their training programs, but both Donald and  Jessop insist enhanced training can be done without a big boost in spending.

“Start small,” says Donald. “Use things people see every day on TV, or on the road, to create quizzes that engage people. You have to be creative and engage your total audience. Gain their confidence, then use more complex techniques. And breaks are important. I recommend micro-learning—five-minute mini-courses to reinforce what people learned.”

Jessop adds, “Online training is tricky—you have to build action into the course. DG can be pretty dry, so find as many ways to make it as interactive as you can and break up the monotony. Have the learners use the regulatory books, so people aren’t just sitting there clicking through the course.”

Whatever tools and tactics you deploy, Donald stresses that inclusion has to be a top priority.

“We have a responsibility to treat each other better, to be more aware of what we do and say around each other. In this industry, we’re trying to pull in more young people, so inclusivity can’t be just a buzzword—it has to be reflected in our actions.

“That’s how you get people ready to go. We need that energy on the floor!”

What kind of evolution does your hazmat training need? Let’s talk about itcall us at 800.621.5808.

Coming August 10a new resource for sharing ideas, learning and collaborating!

Make sure your shipments are safe and in complete compliance with a full line of solutions from Labelmaster—a full-service provider of goods and services for hazardous materials and Dangerous Goods professionals, shippers, transport operators and EH&S providers.


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