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Refresher Training – Wanted or Wasteful

Submitted by  on May 16th, 2012

Trainer figure with flipchart out front of traineesSome organizations mandate the exact same course every one, two or three years as “refresher” training. Licensing for special skills and occupational health and safety courses are prime candidates. Managers and training participants often object loudly about what they see as a waste of time. Refresher courses can take employees away from their day-to-day jobs for anything from one hour to three or more days.

Is this refresher training really necessary, considering how much it takes people away from their workplace? Consider also how the perceived value of the training department takes a dive when employees are forced to re-attend training. Training becomes just another “time waster” in the eyes of managers and workers alike.

How can we rescue this situation without compromising the capabilities of our workers? I mean, the purpose of refresher training is to ensure that employees continue to possess the skills and knowledge they need to perform important tasks. Here are my suggestions.

  1. Conduct a pre-course test.

    Grant an exemption to employees that pass the test. As an added incentive, give employees a chance to study and practice before the test.

  2. Only train in skill shortfalls.

    If an employee fails the above test, don’t force them to re-attend the entire course. Get them to attend only the parts of the course they need to acquire the missed skills.

  3. Only train in what has changed.

    If refreshers are conducted because of legislative, regulatory or other changes that are implemented from time to time, send out updates via email. Alternatively, run “briefing sessions” that only treat the changes.

Many refresher regimes are rolled out to ensure compliance on paper with some third party requirements. The HR department or management team can then “tick the box” that employees have been “trained”. If this is your organization’s standard practice, have you evaluated how effective (or wasteful) this practice really is? Are you testing people’s skill levels before they attend the refresher? Are you testing them at the end of the refresher and recording the difference? If not, why not? And if you are finding the difference is smaller than a fly’s behind, what are you doing about it?

What other strategies can you think of for minimizing the waste and improving the effectiveness of your “refresher” regime? What have you done so far? Please share your wisdom and your experience here.

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