Training Tips: Ways to get all employees more involved on a regular basis

July 8, 2002

Training Tips

Ways to get all employees more involved on a regular basis

By Jerry Cobb

July 2002

Nowhere is this more evident than in the FBO/line service side of aviation. While airlines and airline service companies generally have the infrastructure to roll out large-scale training initiatives, fixed base operators have historically been smaller operations. What training was accomplished consisted primarily of practical or on-the-job training (OJT). If training is usually provided by a line manager or supervisor, it is often far down on the list of priorities. That is just the nature of this business.
Conversely, firms large enough to have FBO instructors, or at least supervisors tasked with providing training where it is a significant portion of the job, traditionally use a combination of classroom and OJT to meet the training needs. But it often stops there and shouldn't. There are many simple, inexpensive ways to keep training initiatives fresh and to ensure that a company gets the most from the effort.
Here's a look at how a company can meet its operational goals without spending a lot of money and effort, and still deliver quality training and ensure a solid return.

Safety Meetings
This is the single best opportunity to provide training for a group. Many FBOs meet monthly to update employees on workplace safety and security issues, so the way to integrate this into a training program is to find ways to transition between topics at safety meetings and short, very specific practical training sessions.
For example, if one of the topics discussed is a finding from the fire department that a fire extinguisher was out of inspection date, take the line service group outside to a truck immediately following the meeting and perform a proper inspection while having everyone's attention. This can be extremely effective. When seasoned line personnel balk at reviewing something they've done for years, get one or more of them to demonstrate for the rest of the group how it is done.

Take immediate action if someone is seen working unsafely or is improperly operating equipment. To only reinforce good practices following an accident or incident sends the message that having the accident is the problem - not the failure to follow procedure. When someone is observed working unsafely, don't wait until shift's end to speak with him or her about it. Address the issue with the individual immediately. If he or she was improperly towing an aircraft out of a hangar, take him or her to the next hangar-pull and observe a proper towing operation. Instruct the individual on what he or she was doing wrong and point out the other crew doing it properly.

Recurrent Training
Everyone has certain programs that must be accomplished annually. Avoid providing the same training that was done the previous year. Change programs while still covering the content appropriately. Instead of showing a video this year on towing procedures, deliver a short, verbal review of the material and then have a game-show type question and answer session. The competition tends to keep everyone's attention. Perhaps give away inexpensive prizes.

Employees often joke about certain posters that stress safe work practices. Making fun of particularly corny postings at least relates that they are being read. Joking along with them is acceptable, but always finish by pointing out the real importance of the message. If someone is particularly critical of a poster, ask for feedback on future messages; invite him or her to review the catalog of posters before purchasing them again and see if he or she will help pick one out.

Vary the Presenter
If a line supervisor typically delivers the FBO's training, mix it up by having the GM teach a session occasionally; or someone from customer service, if the topic fits. The point here is to inject some additional interest in the program. If one person typically presents training at an FBO, having someone else deliver it can be effective at showing how important the particular program is to the company. In larger-scale businesses, having an executive from off-site roll out a new program is a great way to raise awareness of its importance.

Be professional
Never undermine formal training by apologizing for it in advance. This is a common trait among inexperienced instructors and is due more to the person being uncomfortable with speaking in front of a group than inexperience with the subject.

Weekly or Monthly Training
Always have some sort of training scheduled and posted. Employees should never have the chance to think that training is something a company does simply to meet requirements set forth by a third-party. While this has the potential to be a tracking/management nightmare, breaking the training down into short 15- to 30-minute sessions each week can help avoid creating a process that is more difficult than it's worth.

Colleges and Universities
Many colleges have business outreach programs that provide training and assistance to firms too small to have in-house training and safety departments. While these agencies typically help roll out new programs that are usually compliance-related, it never hurts to ask if they can help deliver ongoing training or develop programs on the trainer's behalf. While rarely provided free-of-charge, it almost always is considerably less expensive than developing it in-house or purchasing pre-packaged workshops.

Try something out of the ordinary
If all of the training is centered on line service work, try introducing team-building workshops or customer service-oriented training for line service personnel. Besides getting the benefit of training and experience in a new area, it shows employees that a company is willing to invest in them, rather than strictly in the operation.
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Each of these items may seem trivial on its own, but as a group they can help reinforce good training. While these techniques will not solve all training challenges, they do address the one big problem that many companies have: making the training meaningful and productive without making it a burden to manage.
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Jerry Cobb is manager of training for TAC Air, a Texarkana, TX-based chain of FBOs.