If not for e-learning

Post Series: The Trainer in your Corner
  • 1.If not for e-learning

Hello my name is Terry McGinn and I’ve been a trainer and manager in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry for the past, let’s say couple of decades.  This is the first edition of my new blog here at Skillpad, where I plan to share insights, knowledge, methods, and other tricks of the ‘Training Trade’ that I have picked up over my many years in the business to share with you.  I hope you enjoy it and find it useful for starting discussions in your company, and for honing your skills to make your Training Department a great place to work and a resource others can come to for help and guidance.  Feel free to email me with any questions, discussions, or thoughts that come to mind – I’m looking forward to hearing from you and discussing ways to get the most out of your Training Ideas and Programs.

It wasn’t more than 15 years ago that a person was complaining to me that they had to attend a training session.  Now they weren’t complaining because the training session was bad or the subject material was not appropriate for their level of learning ability. The training department always did their homework beforehand, and our instructors were good at performing their research to allow for activities, engagement, and competition.  This person’s complaint was the fact that they had over 3 hours of work on their desk and would have preferred to take the training session at a later time or date.  They had even suggested the training take place from their computer– quite an idea for its time in the year 2000.

That person was not alone, and I’m sure you’ve all lived examples like these: A production supervisor asked if the training could be rescheduled for a time that was convenient when the lines were not running or perhaps a downtime point during the shift.  The lab personnel were the same, they needed to get test results in order to release product.  Every employee in almost every department was continuously facing pressures and deadlines for their ‘real’ job to get done…so when we booked them for Training it was always a battle between priorities and time constraints, or around the same time the “shoe-mobile” would show up.

Rather than being seen as nuisances and incompatible (despite the fact we were all working ‘together’ – it didn’t always feel that way), there were opportunities hidden in these challenges.  Although the regulatory requirements for training sign-off could sometimes be postponed this was not the best outcome since every re-scheduling attempt resulted in similar constraints the next time.  Back then the technology, resources and training philosophies were generally less flexible given that we had fixed classrooms, instructors and schedules that had to meet the deadlines for those regulatory requirements and a “Training Plan”.  Today, it’s much different: training can be satisfied through e-learning sessions at the convenience of our personnel and at appropriate times.  The person who made the complaint about wanting to train at their computer back in 2000 has now seen the technology catch up to her concept.  Not only is it ready when they are, there are vast growing libraries of specialized training lessons that provide distinct measures to get the optimal performance out of machines and equipment.   The lessons are designed to show how quality is built-in to the processes and systems, and not just something that happens along the way.

That concept (taking your training on a computer) is certainly possible today with personnel training centered on a Learning Management System.  In looking at some of the same classroom or instructor-led training that we did back in the day, it can now be done in 40 to 60 percent of the time through e-learning.   There is no need to schedule busy meeting rooms, order-up a projector, flip charts with colorful markers that smell of fruity fragrances, and in so many cases: lunch. (And oh yeah, I almost forgot those special order diets… I guess I can talk now having gotten rid of 85 pounds and counting).

But let’s talk about real success:  Building a good training library (or “liberry”, if you’re from my neck of the woods) is essential.  This will give your learner a blended approach and provide flexibility for all personnel.  The learning still needs to be engaging, trainees need to have their questions answered, and interact with other personnel.  This can still be done through specialized training or perhaps one-on-one job training.  In the best scenarios, the company can provide customizable solutions to its personnel, blending e-Lessons, Instructor-led classroom sessions, and on-the-job training in targeted ways. The challenge is to design and develop solutions that meld performance support, job aids, reference information, and other tools with e-learning in one integrated site to increase the productivity of key target work groups such as manufacturing, laboratory, distribution, and field services, as well as support regulatory compliance.

Another advantage of e-learning that comes to mind is that if updates are needed in the training material they can be done in a centralized location in minimal time and reassigned to those who need to know about any of the changes through the LMS.

Studies have shown that interactive technologies are highly successful with an average of 50 percent reduction in learning time requirements.  Some companies have even placed their Employee “On-Boarding” Training into e-learning sessions and request new employees take the training before they start their actual jobs.  It provides the employee with the foundational tools needed to perform their initial job functions, from letting them know how the departments interact, as well as who to call when help is needed.   In one company I know of, the result of this process helped them achieve a cost savings of 80% while increasing knowledge retention by up to 30%.  The on-boarding program is used through the employee’s tenure as a reference tool and as a “go-to” source of information and direction.  That’s not to say we should ever forego the welcoming ribbon cutting ceremony or mentoring program.  (Someone should show the new-hire where they are going to be working, i.e. not just tell them to pick an empty cube because the person that was in there last had to be carried out – and hand him/her a bottle of sanitizing solution that kills up to 99.9% of the bacteria and a roll of paper towels and state “You can do anything you want with the place”)…You still need to welcome them to the team.

Today many Colleges and Universities are using e-learning, allowing students and faculty to take courses when time is available.  Yes, some student are taking classes from home.  Saving the student money on gas and parking (maybe I should say the parents). What a DEAL!!!   The e-learning bug is catching on.  It has shown considerable gains (somewhere up to 56% or greater) in major companies’ training programs.  E-learning courses also offer greater consistency:  You don’t have to worry if the instructor teaching the course is saying something different from one class to another or how the instructor feels that day.  In fact, training and instruction on how to achieve key points in productivity and quality can be transferred from the Subject Matter Expert into the e-Lesson and passed on to everyone taking that training.

Another great tool is the assessment (or the “T” word… Test) at the end of a particular lesson, chapter or session.  Personnel are assessed to ensure the course material they interacted with is understood to the required levels.  If a particular employee experiences several failures while taking the assessment, some companies’ processes would require the individual to be electronically locked out of the particular training item until supervisory assistance is obtained and documented within the system.  This provides an audit trail to illustrate transparency and full disclosure during an inspection of personnel training.  Each of the events would be captured in the Learning Management System; which is a key functionality of any system during a regulatory authority inspection.  The LMS records are ideally suited to ensure that personnel are current with their training curricula or a particular job function.  Additionally, other plant or lab personnel may rely on the LMS records to ensure certain job qualifications are obtained.

Finally, I have also noticed that the U.S. Armed Forces have thousands of e-learning programs available, ranging from Centrifuge Pump Operation to sophisticated weaponry.  In many of these cases the programs are robust in that they require the trainee to gain a great deal of the foundational and procedural knowledge required for the multitude of levels in a military training system.

If you haven’t already done it, now is a good time to review your current training sessions to see how your company can take advantage of Learning Management Systems and e-learning technology.  In the long run the rewards are bountiful; e-learning saves time, increases productivity, quality, and reliability as well as compliance satisfaction.  If you want to talk about how to get this kind of program started-up, contact me using the form below.


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