Training in COVID, So How’s it Going For You?

It has been about a year now since COVID forced us all to move to a virtual training platform.  A question that is being asked in training circles is, “So how is it going for your company?”.  First, what is virtual training?  Virtual training can be done in two ways, asynchronous and synchronous.  Asynchronous training is when the training program can be completed at any time.  It is pre-recorded, and the learner has control over when they attend the training.  Synchronous training is live training.  This is your webinars and video conference live meeting training.  The learner must take it when the trainer is conducting it or miss the training session.

With today’s workforce, we may be facing the most technological gap than we have ever met before.  On one side of the spectrum, we have one group still getting comfortable with email and video meetings.  On the other end of the spectrum, they are incredibly pleased using the latest technology and may even prefer that type of training over in person.  The challenge we have as trainers is to ensure that the message is delivered and, more importantly, received no matter who takes the course. 

With in-person activities getting ready to get back to normal, the transition back to the traditional training environment has already begun.  Does that mean we abandon the virtual platform?  Not at all!  I am a proponent for keeping both.  The progress with acceptance of the virtual training platform cannot be left to rot.  A good training program will have an offering that is suitable for every learning style. 

Asynchronous training programs for focused 15 min or so length refreshers that can be taken during a coffee or lunch break provide the training program’s reach to those out in the field.  They can be taken just before that activity starts, as a weekly toolbox talk with the crew or as a remedial action for a negative inspection observation.  Synchronous training can be used for short group training.  These can be slightly longer since it is a scheduled event.  This training should aim to stay around the one-hour mark.  If additional training is needed, then schedule a follow-up event for another time.  For example, this would be a good fit as a standing monthly meeting/training with supervisors.  With synchronous activity, the group size should be manageable.  Ideally, this training would involve some discussion with the audience.  As we all have recently learned, this is often difficult over video platforms with a large group.

In-person training is best for those more extended topics and those courses where you need to show proficiency in a subject.  For example, rigging training has much traditional learning involved.  It is also one of those topics where it is equally essential that the attendee passes a written examination and a practical one. It’s not just the topic’s why; it’s the practical use that may be most important—a larger, mixed audience benefits from in-person training.  Some members of your audience may be further along in their knowledge of a topic than someone else. In an in-person training environment, those individuals often and without direction become teaching assistants.  As trainers, those are the people that we call on to aid in explaining topics or acting as group leaders when the class breaks up into smaller groups for an exercise.

Ultimately the direction your company takes with training is dependent on many factors.  Some companies do not have the training budget to continue virtual training, while others may not have the facilities to start bringing back in-person training just yet.  Even with the vaccine program ramping up, we will still be facing distancing and face-covering usage for much of this year … if not a little longer.  So, getting back to the question that started this off with … So how is it going for your company?  

About the Author…

Tim Hunt, CHST is the Director of Environmental and Safety at W. L. French Excavating. Having graduated from Keene State’s Construction Safety Services; Tim has spent his career advocating for a safer work and site environment by engaging with his coworkers on a relatable, and conversational level to help them understand site safety.

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