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Monday, 18 February 2013

Personnel Training – Mercenary or MOM

Good training is available; so is frivolous training. Which of these (Mercenary or MOM) best describes your current approach or situation? Are you paying for information that you can already get for free and missing out on genuine training that is worth the expense?

The ability of an education or training system to eliminate ignorance depends on the content it delivers and how it delivers that content. Some education and training systems can be both expensive and ignorance-producing.

Ideally, at the end of any training exercise, the training recipient should be able and empowered to implement what is learned immediately. Otherwise, it is useless training.

A mercenary and superficial training model merely provides readily available and freely accessible information in exchange for money. In contrast, training with a sense of moral obligation and social responsibility concentrates on ensuring that training produces the desired effect. We shall call this the moral obligation model (MOM).

Unlike MOM, the mercenary model thrives on a misguided loyalty to the “keep it simple (KISS)” training rule. Whereas keeping training simple is far removed from the provision of simplistic and superficial training, many training providers peddle ineffective training activities under the guise of keeping things simple. In instances where training is an operation’s internal activity, the mercenary model provides nothing more than paper records of completed training. For the trainer and the trainee, MOM always wins the day with respect to the focus, depth and effectiveness of training. The point is this: You need to always and correctly assess the kind of training that you offer or is offered to you.

"Refresher Training"
Have you ever wondered why, after much repeated training over many years, people still forget or even deliberately neglect to do the right things? It is because superficial training offers nothing more than information upload to the training recipients. This highlights the problem with on-line training and long-winded classroom courses. They are equally prone to becoming forgotten or neglected since they lack the practical or application follow-through. Trainers and training recipients must think beyond seeing training as the mere delivery and reception of information. Delivering and receiving information is part of training for sure but it is not all that training must be. A good training process has an integrated application follow-through with properly planned strategies and practical implementation steps. A good refresher training must actually update and refresh the training recipient's knowledge and skill. The mere repetition of facts  already known to the training recipient is sheer redundancy that often ends up being counter productive. MOM training recognizes the need for refresher training to provide new and factual information, and motivate acceptable practices. 

In a well developed training process, information transfer is optimized and supported by a practical sense of moral obligation and social responsibility on the parts of trainers and training recipients. The right things must be taught, learned and practiced. Training ought to be done for the benefit of the individual and society.

The possibility of training being mercenary is not exclusive to the delivery of training solely for financial gain. It is also possible that training recipients may seek training only to have doors of opportunity open for them. After they have gained entry, they may selfishly abandon their moral obligation and social responsibility. They may become negligent in using the training received and society is deprived of the benefits otherwise derived.

Training effectiveness is most assured through a well developed “nurture” or “immersion” approach with an infused sense of moral obligation and social responsibility. How can an organization accomplish such “nurture”, “immersion” and social responsibility among its employees, particularly in the workplace setting?

Here are some practical steps for ensuring a MOM kind of training:

1. Employ or develop trainers who believe and practice (or have practiced) the training delivered and make trainers part of the team; not outsiders who merely deliver information to training recipients and leave;

2. Clearly identify training needs and objectives (beyond training as a third party audit requirement);

3. Provide pertinent training material, resources, training delivery tools and training comprehension aids;

4. Maintain a conducive, inspiring and friendly atmosphere for training and practice;

5. Provide an atmosphere that nurtures and sustains the moral obligation and social responsibility of trainers and training recipients, and ensure that training is an on-going activity;

6. Implement strategies for a consistent and continuing collaboration between trainers and training recipients in the form of on-going coaching;

7. Provide opportunities and continuing motivation for the training recipients to apply what they have learned;

8. Use measurable parameters for assessing the effectiveness of training (beyond the usual scored quizzes at the end of training);

9. Create conditions that allow for the on-going assessment of training effectiveness through the observation of personnel practices and demonstrated proficiency;

10. Implement methods for rewarding desirable practices as a result of training comprehension and application.

Without the proper training and educations that reinforces a sense of moral obligation and social responsibility, individuals who are selfishly tend to neglect the appropriate utilization of the training received. This observation does not pertain only to rank and file workers. The lack of proper education and training could lead some management personnel and even business owners to be selfishly inclined to the point of being negligent (inadvertently or deliberately) to the detriment of all.

Good food safety training is a good idea but beyond that, the industry, in collaboration with academic institutions, needs to provide complete food safety education. Here are the distinctions: Training helps students to gain mastery of established good practices; Partial education only brings students up to date with prevailing understanding and practices; Complete food education, on the other hand, equips students to productively think beyond contemporary understanding and practices.  Future progress in the food safety sector and the food industry in general depends the provision of complete food safety and quality assurance education. [Source: Amiri, F. (2014). Global Consumer Protection SSQA Development and Implementation: A Manual for the Food Industry. (A.F.I.S.S.), Section Training Adequacy Considerations]

Information for this article was taken from the training program rationale and strategies outlined in the GCSE-Food & Health Protection curriculum development guidelines.
Posted by Felix Amiri
Felix Amiri is currently the chair of GCSE-Food & Health Protection, and a sworn SSQA advocate.

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