Ageing employees and training

Different ages respond to training differently

by Cindy Roth

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Millennials in particular, that’s those aged 18 to 35, have their own age specific training needs. This article addresses how to determine the best employee training for your organisation.

Employee training, especially for safety, needs to begin the moment a newly hired employee arrives, and it should continue throughout their employment.

Making the most of every training opportunity is essential. The difficulty comes, however, in giving every employee a prime training experience when the workers have a varied demographic, ranging from millennials to baby boomers (ages 50-75).

Millennials versus baby boomers

Millennials, that’s individuals who were born between 1981 and 1997, now make up 53.5% of the American workforce, compared to baby boomers at 44.6%. While these numbers are still relatively close, the differences in working styles of millennials and baby boomers are vast:

  1. Millennials report expecting to work at more than six companies within their lifetime, while baby boomers prefer to stay at a single job for more than 30 years until retirement with changing to a new company often seen as stressful.
  2. Millennials want their voices to be heard by executives with the desire to move up rapidly within the ranks, while baby boomers are content with learning their way through the ropes through longterm advancement.
  3. Millennials are tech-centric, preferring to communicate via email, text or social media, whereas baby boomers are more interested in talking over the phone or in person.

As a result, a one size fits all employeetraining programme attempting to simultaneously engage both of these demographics will, more often than not, create a lack of attentiveness somewhere along the line. By tailoring training to meet the needs of all 15 demographics your company stands to gain the greatest retention of information and Return on Investment (ROI).

Streamlining

In order to develop training programmes targeted towards the different demographics in your workplace, take a streamlined approach. One method is to set up training programmes based on upcoming projects, new safety issues, or developing regulations. This allows you to organise a smaller niche audience with the focus on the training that applies to those topics.

Choosing a facility

Another route is to offer training at locations that attract different types of people. This way, you are already appealing to the different interests of employees within the organisation and engaging them from the outset. They’ve actively made the choice of where to take their training, so from there it would follow suit that they in turn actively engage in training. You can provide the same training information at each training location; however, the types of workers who choose to meet at each facility will indicate the methods you will take to give the training.

Millennials enjoy more collaborative environments or self-paced environments, whereas baby boomers embrace the live, instructor-led, traditional classroom environment. Perhaps you could offer a “meet in the middle” scenario for these groups, with a hybrid-learning environment, including a virtual and instructor-led scenario.

“mentorships across the demographics, increase the rate of communication and interaction between the millennials and baby boomers”

Division among the ranks

The fact is, you don’t want to blatantly segment your employees so that they are divided according to age, gender, lifestyle or background. That said, if you want to make a training programme more effective, you could always let your employees divide themselves. Offer several options for training, such as different venues or amenities, so that your employees divide themselves among the available training.

You will get groups that are made up of colleagues who feel comfortable around one another. Be wary when taking this approach of the friend factor. For example, you may have a training session that is a train wreck because the group is spending more time gossiping and getting off track than actually investing themselves in the training.

Here are some ways to deter this from happening:

  • If you see cliques forming then make a last-minute redistribution of the group, which can be as simple as picking numbers or counting off, i.e. 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3
  • Offer incentives for groups that come up with the greatest number of actionable ideas through, for example, brainstorming within a training session
  • Create mentorships across the board of the demographics, to increase the rate of communication and interaction between the millennials and baby boomers

Finding ways to conduct employeetraining sessions so that everyone in your company can benefit is a challenge, but if you identify the differences in learning and working styles among your employees, then training can be tailored to meet those styles.

Types of training

There are a number of different types of training that can be used to engage an employee of any age. These types are usually used in all steps in a training process (orientation, in-house, mentorship, and external training). The training utilised depends on the amount of resources available, the type of company, and the priority the company places on training.

Training and development initiatives are important because they help ensure your staff continually improves and keeps their skills current. They’re also a great way to boost employee retention. When you invest in your employees, they feel valued and are more likely to stay put.

Unfortunately, many small business owners don’t have the budget for bigticket seminars or workshops, so they assume all company-sponsored professional development is simply out of reach. Sadly, this is often to the detriment of their business, and their bottom line.

The good news is, even if you don’t have the deep pockets of a big corporation, you can absolutely build up your employees’ skills – all without paying for high-priced courses or conferences.

Aim for employee engagement

The days of all-day seminars led by droning instructors who subject participants to yet another episode of “Death by PowerPoint” are numbered. Companies can’t use that approach anymore and expect employees to be engaged, especially millennials and generation Z workers who’ve grown up with a collaborative mindset. No matter what employee training and development programme you launch, it’s essential to make it interesting, interactive, brief and easy to access. The best programmes also target workers of all ages.

Younger generations like the convenience of online courses, but because they are both collaborative and independent-minded, they like to take them with other people. A good way to do that is to host a lunch in a conference room or other available space, and have everyone take the course together. Be sure to give workers who can’t be there the option to take the course later. Consider making training available on demand, whenever feasible, so employees can log in when it suits their schedules. All employees, including generation X and baby boomers, appreciate the time efficiency and flexibility of online courses.

If you’re planning a stand-up training, make it short, succinct, interesting and group-oriented. Ask your employees for input and ideas, and welcome their questions. Avoiding meandering monologues. Instead, give out information in bullet form. Then, there’s a chance your employees might actually look up from their phones and learn something that could help improve your business. Everyone should enjoy training and look forward to additional training sessions.

Organisations need to provide ongoing occupational safety and health training for supervisory employees that includes: supervisory responsibility for providing and maintaining safe and healthful working conditions for employees; procedures for reporting hazards; procedures for reporting and investigating allegations of reprisal; and agency procedures for the abatement of hazards, as well as other appropriate rules and regulations. Supervisory training should include introductory and specialised courses and materials which will enable supervisors to recognise and eliminate, or reduce, occupational safety and health hazards in their working units. Such training needs to include the development of requisite skills in managing the organisation’s safety and health programme within the work unit, including the training and motivation of subordinates toward assuring safe and healthful work practices.

“training needs to include the development of requisite skills in managing the organisation’s safety and health programme within the work unit”

The provision of occupational safety and health training for safety and health specialists through courses, laboratory experiences, field study, and other formal learning experiences to prepare them to perform the necessary technical monitoring, consulting, testing, inspecting, designing, and other tasks related to programme development and implementation, as well as hazard recognition, evaluation and control, equipment and facility design, standards, analysis of accident, injury, and illness data, and other related tasks.

Each organisation needs to provide occupational safety and health training for safety and health specialists through courses, laboratory experiences, field study, and other formal learning experiences to prepare them to perform the necessary technical monitoring, consulting, testing, inspecting, designing, and other tasks related to programme development and implementation, as well as hazard recognition, evaluation and control, equipment and facility design, standards, analysis of accident, injury, and illness data, and other related tasks.

Construction

The standards prescribed are adopted as occupational safety and health standards and will apply to every employment and place of employment of every employee engaged in construction work. Each employer shall protect the employment and places of employment of each of his/her employees engaged in construction work by complying with the appropriate standards prescribed in this paragraph. For the purposes of this section, construction work means work for construction, alteration, and/or repair, including painting and decorating.

It is the responsibility of the employer to initiate and maintain programmes of accident prevention. All programmes will provide frequent and regular inspections of the job sites, materials, and equipment to be made by competent persons designated by the employers. The employer shall permit only those employees qualified by training or experience to operate equipment and machinery. A competent person will be designated by the employers.

Training is required on hazards and related matters, such as standards requiring that employees receive training or that the employer train employees, provide training to employees, or institute or implement a training programme, impose a separate compliance duty with respect to each employee covered by the requirement. Employees required to handle or use flammable liquids, gases, or toxic materials must be instructed in the safe handling and use of these materials and made aware of the specific requirements. All employees required to enter confined or enclosed spaces shall be instructed on the nature of the hazards involved, the necessary precautions to be taken, and in the use of protective and emergency equipment required. For purposes of the paragraph of this section, confined or enclosed space means any space having a limited means of egress, which is subject to the accumulation of toxic or flammable contaminants or has an oxygen deficient atmosphere. Confined or enclosed spaces include, but are not limited to, storage tanks, process vessels, bins, boilers, ventilation or exhaust ducts, sewers, underground utility vaults, tunnels, pipelines, and open top spaces more than four feet in depth such as pits, tubs, vaults, and vessels.

Organisations without occupational safety and health programmes may form January 2019 a safety and health committee of employees and management representatives to help the employer meet the obligations. These committees can become a significant ally in helping the employer implement and maintain an effective process safety management programme for all employees.

The operating procedures are often viewed as the standard operating practices (SOPs) for operations. Control room personnel and operating staff, in general, need to have a full understanding of operating procedures. If workers are not fluent in English or the language most commonly used, then procedures and instructions need to be prepared in a second language understood by the workers. In addition, operating procedures need to be changed when there is a change in the process as a result of the management of change procedures. The consequences of operating procedure changes need to be fully evaluated and the information conveyed to the personnel. For example, mechanical changes to the process made by the maintenance department (like changing a valve from steel to brass or other subtle changes) need to be evaluated to determine if operating procedures and practices also need to be changed.

“be smart, provide good information in a way employees can get it, keep it and apply it”

All management of change actions must be coordinated and integrated with current operating procedures and operating personnel must be oriented to the changes in procedures before the change is made. When the process is shut down in order to make a change, then the operating procedures must be updated before start up of the process. Training on how to handle upset conditions must be accomplished as well as what operating personnel are to do in emergencies, such as when a pump seal fails or a pipeline ruptures. Communication between operating personnel and workers performing work within the process area, such as nonroutine tasks, also must be maintained. The hazards of the tasks are to be conveyed to operating personnel in accordance with established procedures and to those performing the actual tasks. When the work is completed, operating personnel should be informed to provide closure on the job.

Chemical training

All employees, including maintenance and contractor employees, involved with highly hazardous chemicals need to fully understand the safety and health hazards of the chemicals and processes they work with for the protection of themselves, their fellow employees and the citizens of nearby communities. Training will help employees to be more knowledgeable about the chemicals they work with as well as familiarise them with reading and understanding a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) which is a document that contains information on the potential hazards (health, fire, reactivity and environmental) and how to work safely with the chemical product. It is an essential starting point for the development of a complete health and safety programme. It also contains information on the use, storage, handling and emergency procedures all related to the hazards of the material. The MSDS contains much more information about the material than the label. The MSDS is prepared by the supplier or manufacturer of the material, and is intended to tell what the hazards of the product are, how to use the product safely, what to expect if the recommendations are not followed, what to do if accidents occur, how to recognise symptoms of overexposure, and what to do if such incidents occur.

Additional training in subjects such as operating procedures and safety work practices, emergency evacuation and response, safety procedures, routine and non-routine work authorisation activities, and other areas pertinent to process safety and health will need to be covered by an employer’s training programme.

Pre-start up safety

For existing processes that have been shut down for turnaround or modification, for example, the employer must assure that any changes other than “replacement in kind” made to the process during shutdown go through the management of change procedures. If the changes made to the process during shutdown are significant and impact the training programme, then operating personnel as well as employees engaged in routine and non-routine work in the process area may need some refresher or additional training in light of the changes. Any incident investigation recommendations, compliance audits or recommendations need to be reviewed as well to see what impacts they may have on the process before beginning the start up.

Mechanical integrity

Employers will need to review their maintenance programmes and schedules to see if there are areas where “breakdown” maintenance is used rather than an on-going mechanical integrity programme. Equipment used to process, store, or handle highly hazardous chemicals needs to be designed, constructed, installed and maintained to minimise the risk of releases of such chemicals. This requires that a mechanical integrity programme be in place to assure the continued integrity of process equipment. Elements of a mechanical integrity programme include the identification and categorisation of equipment and instrumentation, inspections and tests, testing and inspection frequencies, development of maintenance procedures, training of maintenance personnel, the establishment of criteria for acceptable test results, documentation of test and inspection results, and documentation of manufacturer recommendations as to meantime to failure for equipment and instrumentation. Appropriate training is to be provided to maintenance personnel to ensure that they understand the preventive maintenance programme procedures, safe practices, and the proper use and application of special equipment or unique tools that may be required.

Summary

Training is a necessity to keep up with new and changing times. Employees of all ages must find the training interesting and retain the knowledge. Training should also be fun, interactive and leaving employees wanting more. Be smart, provide good information in a way employees can “get it, keep it and apply it”.

Author Details

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Cindy Roth

Erganomic Technologies Corporation

Cindy Roth is the CEO at Ergonomic Technologies Corporation.