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Techniques in Training – Inspiring Commitment Rather than Compliance

- September 28, 2016 by Brian Piñon, CSP (View all posts by Brian)

Two of my colleagues recently wrote blogs outlining creative and engaging training techniques on eye safety. Both involved having workers wear a blindfold or pair of blacked-out safety glasses to demonstrate how blinding an eye injury can be, and how it could impact the rest of their lives. (Eye Saving Blindness Drill; 20 Minutes of Blindness = A Lifetime Worth of Lessons) In this blog, I will identify the elements that make those techniques successful and show you how to easily apply them to any training topic.

The Ultimate Goal of Safety Training is to Positively Influence Worker Behaviors.
This tends to be challenging, as safety trainers too often neglect this principle and focus solely on giving directives on how they want the job to be done safely. The techniques my colleagues shared are effective because they go beyond disseminating information. Workers can see and feel, in a real way, why the training topic is important and encourages them to come up with their own personal reason for following safe work practices.

Great leadership is so much more than merely forcing workers to comply with your directives; it’s about inspiring commitment to your vision. Imagine a culture in your workplace where individuals understand the “why” behind safe work practices – and adhere to them – not because you said they had to, but because they have a personal reason to.

Reviewing “How” is Ineffective at Impacting Behavior and Puts your Employees to Sleep
To help you incorporate this principle into your training program, let’s discuss how it can be applied to a different safety topic – safe lifting. In the course of my career, I’ve conducted dozens of safe lifting trainings. I smile a little inside when I get in front of a group and introduce the topic because I’m reminded of the couple times I’ve actually heard audible groans from audience members when they discover what we will be talking about. Why is that? Why do workers tend to groan inside when they are told they have to go through a safe lifting training? The reason is that virtually everyone in the room already knows how to lift safely. This is why merely reviewing HOW to lift safely is so ineffective at impacting behaviors and puts your workers to sleep. A few times I’ve even gotten the audience to tell me almost every point in my presentation before I even turned on my projector.

There is certainly a place for educating workers on safe work practices, but to truly influence behaviors in a meaningful way, we need to address their internal motivations. When I conduct safe lifting training, I focus on WHY proper body mechanics should be observed. Some of the points I recommend sharing include:

  • Did you know that when you bend your back to lift an item your vertebrae pinch your spinal discs; which causes micro-damage that can accumulate over time and lead to a serious injury?
  • Did you know that there are relatively few nerve endings in our spinal discs? This means that workers can improperly lift items, do damage to their discs, and not necessarily feel any pain; prompting them to continue lifting in a way that elevates their risk of injury.

Most people don’t know this information because it is not typically included in safety training. They lift with improper mechanics because our bodies are naturally inclined to, they don’t understand how they’re actually harming their body, and they have no immediate awareness of what reality would be like with chronic back pain.

This leads to the final training principle I would like to address. After explaining the WHY of safe work practices, make it personal to your employees. Lead them to discover their own reason for following them. I typically do this by sharing my own reasons for protecting my back:

“I could never put a value on being able to get down on the ground and roughhouse with my kids at home. I eventually want to be able to do the same with my grandchildren. I want to hike, bike, and travel in my retirement without waking up each day with chronic back pain.”

The next time you schedule safety training I would challenge you to ask yourself these questions:

  • Does my training explain the WHY behind safe work practices?
  • Does my training inspire workers to discover their own personal reason for following them?

I’m happy to apply this training technique to a different topic. Please let me know if you have a specific topic in mind for my next post.