Incident Prevention Magazine

Bart Castle

Microlearning: Another Critical Piece of the Employee Training Puzzle

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Few people involved in helping others learn new skills suggest that doing so is easy. In the electric utility industry – or any industry, for that matter – training typically ranges from the informal, on-the-job variety to more formal classroom-type training. The results from each continue to be mixed.

In the past 10 to 15 years, we’ve also seen training evolve to include computer-based education. And over just the past several years, another type of training – referred to as “microlearning” – has started to take off. So, what is microlearning? And why should you bother educating yourself about it? Those are both great questions. Let’s consider them and the relevance of microlearning to the electric utility industry.

What is Microlearning?
Just as the word sounds, microlearning is an approach to training that involves smaller-than-usual educational units. Yikes – that’s a bad thing, right, especially in electric utility line work, where the information needed to understand and carry out the work can be dense and somewhat complicated? Not so fast. In reality, microlearning is the process of intentionally taking large blocks of mission-critical content and breaking them down into bite-sized chunks, so that individuals can use that information at the point of greatest impact. Thus, microlearning is not about shrinking the amount of information; rather, the information is distilled to its critical elements so that it can be readily accessed by those who require the knowledge in order to safely and accurately perform specific activities.

When used effectively, microlearning is a powerful performance support tool that can be accessed by a leader or team member at a point of critical need to increase the likelihood that decisions made or actions taken will be those needed to accomplish specified goals. The microlearning might involve two sentences of a critical policy. It might involve an interactive decision tree on responding to a lights-out ticket. It might involve a 30- to 90-second video clip on effective job setup. Or, it could involve parts of all three.

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Bart Castle

Three Overlooked Processes for Increasing Safe Work Practice

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Have you ever seen or heard a restaurant, vehicle dealership or retailer claim, “We care little about service”? On the contrary, don’t many of these businesses – if not most – make bold claims about the quality of their services? How many, though, take the time needed to do the work, pay attention to the details, and become known for meeting or exceeding their claims?

Now, think for a moment. Have you ever seen or heard an electric utility organization of any variety claim, “We care some about safety performance”? I doubt it. If you look at 100 electric utility website landing pages, it’s likely you will see slogans about safety. Investigate those sites further and it is common to see safety listed as a company value or guiding principle. Yet just as some retail establishments tout their high-quality service while acting in ways that make it clear that “service” is more a buzzword than a business practice, so, too, are there electric utility companies and contractors that publicly state their concern for safety while their day-to-day actions don’t back up those claims.

Job descriptions, job safety analyses, tailboard meetings, PPE and training are important components of an effective safety program. But even for companies that are truly focused on providing a safe working environment for their employees, there are at least three other components that contribute to a consistently safe workplace, yet tend to get overlooked: effective interviewing, onboarding and mentoring processes.

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Bart Castle

The Authority to Stop Work

The Authority to Stop Work

Since its founding in 1984 as an electric utility contractor company, co-founder Steve Standish has always considered Standard Utility Construction an organization concerned about safety. Specifically, Standard responded to a fatality in 2003 by developing formal safety processes and documents. These included assigning employees to full-time safety-related work; increased emphasis and time devoted to safety meetings and incident response; deepened training and even more extensive use of appropriate PPE, often before an item was formally required by regulation; working toward formal OSHA certifications for Standard’s safety efforts; and a review to make certain all company documents regarding safety contained language emphasizing that no employee had to complete work he or she believed was unsafe.

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Bart Castle

Moving from Operations into Safety or Training

Moving from Operations into Safety or Training

Over the past 50-plus years in production settings of all types, training has been largely made up of new employees spending either specified or unspecified periods of time with more experienced employees. At the end of that period, the experienced employee was responsible for pronouncing the new employee “trained.”

Sometimes, these practices produce an effective safety or training professional. It has been our experience in over more than 20 years of observing and discussing moves from operations to safety or training with several hundred organizations in a number of production industries, including electric utilities, that the move is not automatically successful. Furthermore, it is far less than automatic for some of the individuals that for years have been assumed to be perfect fits for these positions.

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