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The Future of Training: An Interview with KPA’s Director of Training

Toby Graham /

In today’s episode, we’re joined by KPA’s product director, Shawn Smith, to discuss the recent KPA Client Training Survey results and the future of best practices for safety and compliance training.

[00:00:32]
Shawn, will you please start by explaining to me the details of the client training survey that your team conducted earlier this year?

Shawn:
Yeah, absolutely. So we conducted this survey in September and the purpose was to see how we’re doing, what can we improve, and what areas and topics do our clients care the most about. 

[00:00:47]
And from the survey, we can see that the top areas of focus that will be trending in the future of training are supervisor and manager safety, industry-specific training, health and wellness, environmental, and state-specific.

What do you make of these findings? Do any of those surprise you? 

Shawn:
Yeah, so I’d say supervisor and manager safety was a standout for sure. It’s the first time we asked and had it on the list and you know, a lot of people showed strong interest in it. As far as the other industry-specific topics that we’ve had out there.

It’s been a focus for us for a long time. So really the clients also really showing that interest just helped reinforce that focus for us. And then health and wellness… You know, we’re just- I don’t know if COVID has anything to do with it, but we’re definitely seeing more focus on employees, personal health, and not just at work, but also at home.

And then environmental has always been very closely tied to safety. So you know, that response, I think makes a lot of sense and it’s an area that we also continue to work on. 

[00:02:01]
Yeah, that does make sense. And for the supervisor and manager safety, I’m curious, you said that that was your first time that it had gone on the list of options. What compelled you to put that on the list? 

Shawn:
Well so, we had actually produced a topic for supervisor and manager training for one of our platforms for a specific industry, and that was based on some client feedback and request. so after we produced it we got some really good positive feedback from those clients that were using it and it seemed to be really popular within that group. So we thought, Hey, let’s put this out there and see if there’s more interest sort of across the board and all of our different clients and platforms, and it was a resounding yes. They are also very interested in it. And in that training, we focused on leadership and communication, responsibilities of supervisors, incident reporting and investigation, and then promoting a safety culture.

And based on that, that’s, that’s what we’re looking at, doing the same with this new supervisor and manager program. 

[00:03:07]
Well, that sounds like an exciting future for training in that department. What do you think is the greatest takeaway of the survey? What can listeners who oversee HR and safety training at their companies really learn from this information?

Shawn:
Well, I think the greatest takeaway is that strong safety leadership is important. I believe every company wants to establish and maintain a strong safety culture and they want the content and tools that allow them to do that. So that’s really what we saw in that feedback was, those topics are very related, I think, to a strong safety culture and promoting that within their company.

[00:03:45]
Our user data for 2021 shows that the most viewed training topics in the last year were harassment prevention, physical safety, equipment safety, and illness prevention training. How do you interpret these trends? 

Shawn:
Well, I think it shows that elimination of incidents, injuries, and property damage, and then compliance are key areas our clients are focusing on with training of both in assignments and completions. So physical safety really falls into that area with hazard communication, PPE, emergency response, fall protection, fire prevention. You know, really they want to prevent people from getting hurt and they wanted to take the training that will help prevent those types of injuries.

Compliance is really wrapped into that as well because OSHA on many of those topics requires annual training for the same reason to try and reduce injuries within those sort of common areas. And then also on the compliance side harassment prevention and some of the other topics you listed, those are required training by law.

I think that we really just want to make sure that employees are taking the training that they need to take that will keep them safe and will keep us compliant and all the boxes checked and that we’re keeping a good, strong safety program running, or HR as well, but a good compliance program.

[00:05:11]
Sure. So looking at these current and future trends and workforce and safety training, where do you see overlaps and disparities and what do you make of those.

Shawn:
Well, so I really see the two coming together more and more in the near future. Just sort of over time. I once again, going back to the elimination of incidents and the need to stay compliant, I think we are continuing to drive training, but the continuing focus on improving the safety culture is where I think we’re going to see a reduction in incidents.

So, as the incidents come down there’s going to be more and more interest, especially in supplementary content that employees are gonna want to learn even more and understand even more to stay safe.

And what best practices would you advise for training leaders looking to prepare for the future of their EHS and HR training programs?

Shawn:
I would say keep it simple, short, and relevant. So you want it to be easy for users to access, training, and necessary supplemental information like procedures. You want them to be able to get to it when they need to get to it. And if that’s from a mobile device or a kiosk, a company web link portal whatever that is, you just want to make it as simple as possible and, and clear for employees to be able to get to that information when they need it.

And then secondly consider a microlearning approach using shorter courses over time to reinforce the information. Timed repetition is really popular. It’s a very simple way you cover a topic of importance over a few minutes. But, you do it over three or six months. You know, studies have shown that it greatly improves retention and it really keeps those important things top of mind. It just never hurts for them to think about it more than once, and really try to ingrain it into their day-to-day work activities. And then third, using industry-specific or relevant training, wherever you can.

There are a lot of different ways to do that. Even from creating your own presentations to supplement existing or customizing training that you have so that you can add in some site-specific or state-specific, or industry-specific where maybe some of the training that you have doesn’t have that right now.

Simple, short and relevant. Got it. Thanks, Sean, so much for speaking with us today. 

Shawn:
Absolutely. Thank you.

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