0 Terrific training in turfcare teams

In the second of two articles on the training we give (and get) at work - Trainer and Motivational Speaker Frank Newberry looks at some of the pre-requisites to making the training we give (and get) more meaningful

In Part 1, we looked at how turfcare professionals can do a better job of recalling essential facts for vocational tests and examinations. I know that even those of us who believe we have poor memories will taste success if we make the effort to commit things to memory. Our memories are perfect - it is our recall systems that are imperfect. The five recall reminders from Part 1 were:

1 No note taking, no reliable recall
2 No reviewing of notes taken, no reliable recall
3 No tidy organisation of notes and study materials, no reliable recall
4 No context or understanding of how the learning is applied, no reliable recall
5 No effort and no energy, no reliable recall

Remembering facts can be important, but most vocational or 'on-the-job' training is about learning how to do something safely. After the learner has done it safely once, we need the person to do the newly learned task over and over again until we can eventually look and see that the person is skilled at performing that task.

In Part 2 of this article, I want to review the three levels of learning and consider how all three need to be engaged if any investment in training is to be worthwhile and meaningful.

Knowledge and Awareness level

The lowest learning level is the Knowledge and Awareness level. To teach someone to be able to recognise a plant species, or to choose the most suitable tool for a particular task, can take just seconds or maybe a minute or two. Just about any experienced member of the work team can train people at this level of learning. Junior members of the team might find it meaningful if supervisors were to delegate training at this level to them.

Skills and Ability level

The second highest learning level is the Skills and Ability level. To teach someone to be able to diagnose a poor turf condition (and recommend a remedy) or operate a particular machine can take longer than a few minutes. It might take an hour, a day or even longer depending on the level of skill we want the learner to achieve.

If training is to be seen as relevant and meaningful to the learner, it is vital, at the start of any training activity, that the learner is absolutely clear what his or her learning objectives are. Is the objective to just raise awareness (level one), or is it to see the learner skilfully operate a complex and valuable machine (level two)?

Disposition and Attitude level

The highest level of learning is the Disposition and Attitude level. Whilst we might like to get some people to completely change their attitude on something - or maybe convert a pessimist to being an optimist - it could take us a lifetime.

It is, however, both meaningful and reasonable to ask people to 'adopt' a particular attitude in the workplace. I recommend that, if a particular attitude is a requirement, we should write it into a person's job description. For example, we might state that a 'positive attitude to health and safety' is essential in the job. We might also require people to have a 'friendly disposition' towards other people, including colleagues, customers and officials.

Trainers do not have to worry about changing attitudes

With this prerequisite in place, trainers do not have to worry about changing attitudes; we can confine ourselves to the relevant actions and observable behaviour that constitute friendliness towards others, for example, being polite, offering help, encouraging people and so on.

This is so important because whenever I ask employers which level of learning is the most important to them, after an employee has been working for six months, the response is always the same. It is level three - disposition and attitude.

Its impact on individuals and teams is truly terrific

It has long been my experience that the impact and meaning of training, both in the short term and in the long term, is magnified when it is done locally, in the workplace and in work teams.

In the workplace, training takes on a mantle of significance that I cannot recreate in the classroom. When training has this significance and importance, its impact on individuals and teams is truly terrific.

This is, in no small part, due to the fact that we can work together in familiar surroundings on workplace problems. This is particularly true when team members are working for the very first time on key issues that really bug them - like communication, teamwork, individual and team morale and other key factors affecting their performance.

This is an essential prerequisite to successful training

This type of on-site training works best when employees at all levels feel that they are being taken seriously. It also means that team members have to feel that it is relevant and appropriate to express their concerns openly. In my experience, this is an essential prerequisite to successful training, especially at level three (disposition and attitude).

Getting team members to feel comfortable about speaking openly has been so difficult to achieve in the past that I have been forced to: (i) turn up unannounced, (ii) do a course walk or tour of the premises with team members, one at a time or (iii) ask supervisors to leave the room so that team members can speak openly about their feelings.

In my experience, it takes a lot to get a turfcare professional to talk about his or her feelings. Once they feel it is safe to do so, then the strongest feelings and opinions emerge! These are usually, but not exclusively, about the allocation of work, how they are being treated by other team members and how they rate the employer and those people currently in management and supervision.

The commitment to doing things better can be secured

For this type of training - once we have the appropriate learning objectives in place and team members have had the chance to get their feelings off their chest - then the training becomes more meaningful and the commitment to doing things better can be secured.

Perhaps we all need to remember that training does not have to be something that one person does to another. It can, and should be, a partnership between trainer and learner. It is, for me, a sobering thought that trainers will always be judged by the answers to simple questions like "were the employer's requirements met?" or "were the trainee's learning objectives met?"

Good luck with the training you give and get in the workplace.

Frank Newberry has been designing and running training events for turfcare professionals for 25 years. This year he has been doing more training of trainers than ever before. If you need a trainer-training course or some tips on how to get your training right then contact Chris@Pitchcare.com or speak to Frank direct. You can reach him via the Contact tab of his personal website www.franknewberry.com

Frank is the instructor on Pitchcare's LANTRA accredited Supervisory Essentials Courses for Head Groundsman, Head Greenkeepers and their Deputies. Four one day workshops are being held in Milton Keynes covering the following topics: Taking Charge; Getting Better Results; Enhanced Communication Skills; Problem Solving and Decision Making. Each of these workshops qualifies for 7 BIGGA CPD points. More details of these workshops.

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