When it comes to training, there is a seemingly overwhelming amount of information that we need to communicate to our employees. We have to organize this mass of information, often from multiple sources, and condense it into a short timeframe—while ensuring trainees can understand and apply it in real-life situations. And we must document this training.
To make the task more challenging, training is often not our sole responsibility. We may also be filling the role of supervisor, manager, or owner. So, to help manage this essential function, here’s a quick overview.
What to Teach?
It is the trainer’s responsibility to know the information that needs to be instilled in our staff. A great place to start in building training content is to look at our local and federal regulations. Hey, they made it easy for us, it’s mandatory! All we need to do is figure out which regulations apply to us, and when.
This, of course, is where it can get tricky. For example, take your star employee, who is versatile in just about all aspects of your operation. During the course of her day, she may be checking in guests at the main building, monitoring climbers from the ground, going up on the course to assist customers, supervising other employees, or helping out with a little bit of maintenance. This versatility means your star employee could be subject to multiple different sets of regulations, such as OSHA General Health and Safety or OSHA Construction Health and Safety.
You’ll find that governmental regulations tend to cover a broad spectrum, and do not give specifics on most topics. This is where industry standards play a part. They can provide more specifics, such as how equipment should be designed, tested, and manufactured. Looking at personal protective equipment (PPE), for example, ACCT lays out some criteria for appropriate selection and minimum ratings for equipment—such as, a connector on equipment systems must have a minimum breaking strength of 5,000 lbf (22.2kN).
Other sets of standards to review include ANSI, ASTM, and EN, which also specify how equipment should be manufactured and tested. Getting familiar with industry standards gives you a better understanding as a trainer of the “why” behind the intended use of the equipment, and how it was tested. That, in turn, should give you better situational awareness during your training to avoid potentially hazardous situations.
Next, we can look at our own company-specific equipment and policies that were chosen to help us operate on a daily basis. This may include operation manuals provided by your builder, or local operating procedures (LOPs) developed in-house. Equipment manufacturers also provide manuals for all their products, and these outline how to use and properly inspect the gear.
How to Teach?
Once we have done our homework on regulations, standards, and company-specific operating procedures, we can use that information to mold our training to best fit our business’ needs. But how to deliver this training? Take into consideration the time we have to deliver content to our trainees, the ways in which people learn, and the environment we have to teach in. These will all shape our overall training.
The amount of time we have to teach our new employees is the biggest hurdle. Whether you are training your own staff or running a training for someone else, budget and availability are huge factors. Effective and efficient use of time will produce the best results.
You have grown your wealth of knowledge over the years, but it’s not always practical to think all that knowledge will transfer to your new staff right away. So, start by choosing the most necessary content for your staff, and build from there. Do they need to know the difference between three-strand and static rope? Or the working load limit of 3/8-inch galvanized aircraft cable? Narrow it down so you can cover all critical material within your set timeframe.
Keep in mind, though, we typically train a broad mix of people. They might range from experienced climbers to those who are new to the concepts of working at height, and for some this may even be their first job. This requires you to train to multiple different learning styles at the same time.
Each of us may have a go-to method of teaching a particular concept, such as knots. But we must recognize if any folks appear to not comprehend the topic or technique during training. Is it because they don’t connect with our go-to teaching method? If so, we must adapt and use alternative means of instruction, such as providing additional resources and more time to review, reflect, and retain the correct information.
WHERE IS YOUR CLASSROOM?
The classroom environment we choose as a trainer will also shape how we organize and structure each training. Is an indoor classroom available? Can you access the course while customers are not using it? Each environment will have different pros and cons.
Inside a Classroom:
• controlled space
• use of projector/TV
• protected from weather
• limited space to move around
• may be far from the course
• does not reflect day-to-day work
At the Course:
• quick access to the course/trails
• gets trainees familiar with the course
• heavily affected by weather
• seating may not be available
• not able to control outside distractions
Once our training is complete, then we are all set, right? Not quite. There’s one other important step, one that should start even before the training: documentation. Documentation is equally as important as the content being delivered. It is your way of keeping track of who did what, when, where, and to what level. It provides the peace of mind that staff members have been prepared and educated the way you want them to be.
There’s a lot to be documented, too. Here’s a list of some of the things you want to keep track of before, during, and after your training.
• Who is supposed to attend the training?
• Who is facilitating the training?
• What are the anticipated dates of the training?
• What content do you want to cover?
• Who actually attended? Include the dates, and have employees sign to indicate their attendance.
• What was covered during the training?
• Review test results (both written and practical, if applicable).
• Issue certificates.
• Finalize and store completed records.
This can be a lot to keep track of. It generates a large amount of physical paperwork. By developing a written training outline, you can cut down on some of the ongoing paperwork since you are always following a specific plan. Also, the increased reliability of electronic and cloud-based systems can help streamline this process further. An online system can help you save time, stay better organized, and decrease required physical storage space. (See “For the Record,” Adventure Park Insider Fall 2017, for a review of digital documentation software.)
Whether you’re storing documentation electronically or on paper, there are requirements for how long the information needs to be retained. Your attorney or insurer can help you determine the state and federal requirements.
Things to Keep in Mind
Training your staff and documenting the process can affect many parts of your business. There are multiple steps that all must work in harmony. Even after the initial training is complete, training doesn’t end there. We can always improve and expand the knowledge of those we’ve taught through each interaction we have with them.
• Determine what topics to cover.
• Learn local and federal regulations.
• Note industry best practices.
• Map your business’ local procedures.
• Utilize effective time management.
• Integrate different teaching methods.
• Choose optimal learning environments.
• Make it fun!
• Know what is required by law and best practices.
• Prepare your documentation.
• Choose the best record-keeping system for you.
• Use shadow shifts to reinforce learning.
• Practice scenarios from your emergency action plans (EAP).
• Offer continuing education opportunities.
As trainers, our goal should be to make everyone around us better. A well-trained staff is the cornerstone of any aerial adventure business. And we, too, should always be improving how we deliver instruction, how we manage the processes, and how organized we are in every aspect of our jobs.