Closeup of driver's hands on steering wheel in truck cab

What is it you want your drivers to learn?

Oh no, not another training session.

Is that the response that the prospect of training provokes among drivers, dispatchers and management alike at your company?

If your drivers are actively avoiding meetings, if few of your drivers are completing the online training assignments you give them, if training doesn’t seem to translate into improved performance, maybe it’s time to rethink the training you're providing. When drivers are not engaged, your training program might be wasting time and money. When your safety messages aren't getting through, you're also potentially hurting your company's performance.

Certainly there are too many examples of training meetings and seminars highlighted by droning speakers reading their PowerPoint slides to an audience of bored and inattentive employees who won’t remember a single thing five minutes later, other than how dull the meeting was.

But training is too important to simply go through the motions. Whether it’s new drivers learning the trade or veterans needing refreshers and updates, and whether the topic is safe-driving practices or changes in hours-of-service rule, employees need good training to do their jobs safely and effectively.

 “The reason for providing good training is the same as the reason for providing good customer service,” said Jane Jazrawy, co-founder and chief executive of CarriersEdge, a Markham ON, Canada provider of online driver training for the trucking industry. “When customer service representatives show empathy and provide thoughtful responses in a friendly manner, customers are more likely to be satisfied, and continue to do business with the company.

 “The same way, when learners experience training that engages them as an active participant and provides a roadmap to their own success, they are more likely to be satisfied with the experience and more likely to practice the skills or behavior they learned.”

The good news, Jazrawy added, is that there are widely-held best practices that trainers and presenters can use so that drivers not only retain the information they're given, they'll be able to use it where it counts—in the office, shop or on the road.

Want to know how it’s done? Here are four of the stops on a trainer’s roadmap to success.

1. Figure out what it is you want people to learn.

The point of training is not to fill hours or to check one more item off a to-do list. It’s to transfer information to employees. So Jazrawy recommends beginning at the end, by defining the learning objectives--“what should your learners know after they've completed this training?”

More questions to be asked, especially for managers: What are your overall goals for delivering training? How will you know if you’ve accomplished what you wanted? Did everyone get trained? Is more training required?

It doesn’t matter whether it's a classroom training session or an online module, Jazrawy said. “Learning objectives don't care how you deliver training, just what the outcome is going to be.” A classroom presentation on fatigue management, for example, might concentrate on such outcomes as drivers able to recognize the signs of fatigue as a signal to stop driving, or knowing about sleep-apnea testing programs they can access. Once you know the outcomes, you can write the objectives.

Jazrawy recommended writing out learning objectives in a specific way. “Avoid words like understand, know, and recognize because it is impossible to objectively measure someone doing any of those things,” she said. “If someone nods their head, does that indicate understanding or knowing? Or is it simply that the person wants you to stop talking and move on?

 “You only know for sure that learners understand when they demonstrate their understanding, either by showing or telling you. Use action words, like demonstrate, list, explain, describe and compare to establish what you want training participants to learn.”

In the case of that fatigue-management course, for example, that would mean learning objectives such as “list signs of fatigue,” “describe how fatigue impairs judgment” and “explain ways of managing fatigue.” Attaching numbers, such as “list five common signs of fatigue,” or specific actions such as “define fatigue as it relates to commercial driving,” can help further define and list objectives.

It doesn’t have to be a lengthy list. Jazrawy said her general rule is four or five objectives for about two hours of classroom content (or 30 minutes of online training).

But however many, those objectives should be able to complete the sentence, “By the end of this course, participants will be able to…" and you should be able to measure the results.

2. Organize.

With learning objectives in hand, the trainer can then put together the material to reach the desired outcomes. In far too many cases, that means endless decks of PowerPoint slides, each with lists of bullet points.

 “Bullet points aren't necessarily bad,” Jazrawy said. “but endless bullet points that don't contribute to the overall message that a presentation is trying to deliver are going to be boring for your audience.”

What Jazrawy recommends is working from the general to the specific, giving the big-picture overview and then working toward the details. “Your introduction should be a grabber – this is where movies, images and stories are effective tools,” she said.

Instructors don’t want to lose their audience once they’ve got it, so presentation matters. Instructors shouldn’t rely on shortcuts like cut-and-paste, especially when it comes to regulation.

 “There is a tendency in the industry to present the regulation exactly as it’s written,” Jazrawy said. “This is a terrible idea because often those regulations are extremely difficult to understand. They are written by lawyers, not by educators, and they’re written so that they can be enforced and defended, not as teaching materials. Your job as a trainer is to translate and organize those regulations into chunks of information that people can understand and apply to their daily lives.”

Training material should also build from basic concepts to the more complex. “When you were in school, you didn't learn division first,” she said. “You learned addition, which is the simplest mathematical concept, and worked your way up from there to division, building confidence as you went along. The same principle applies to designing educational material for adults. When they feel more confident, they are more likely to apply a new concept or change their routines.”

3. Illustrate—and mix it up!

No participant in a training course wants to be bored by a droning lecturer, or having to read big blocks of text on a screen. Flow charts, timelines, images (photos, drawings and diagrams), and videos can all be more effective in showing how to apply the material.

“Any time I can, I use an image to demonstrate what a learner's success looks like,” Jazrawy said. “I try to have as many visual examples as possible. Think about whether your PowerPoint slide full of bullets could be better represented with a picture.”

Not every visual tool works for every type of material, she added. “Videos should not be your entire training strategy, as they are not interactive, and they may not be the best way to explain every concept. They are fabulous for demonstration purposes, such as conducting parts of an inspection or showing an example of dangerous driving. Regulations may be better explained with different techniques.”

Two more pieces of advice: Know and rehearse your presentation, so you’re not fumbling through it. And have some interactivity, breaking up the presentations with quizzes or competitions, so your audience becomes a group of active learners instead of passive attendees.

4. Did they get it?

Remember that list of learning objectives? They come in handy in putting together ongoing quiz and final-test questions, since the point of those questions is to determine if trainees understood, remembered and can apply the material.

Learners aren’t the only ones who benefit from test questions. They can give a trainer a lot of information. Did the training achieve its objectives? Does the material need to be tweaked, or overhauled? Are the questions clear? “When learners don't understand what a question means or think that it's vague or tricky, that's the time to look at the question again and double-check the objective you are trying to achieve,” Jazrawy said.

There’s a real art to writing test questions, she added. “When people write poor test questions, I can often figure out the answer without knowing anything about the content, especially with true/false questions, which are the easiest to answer.” By paying attention to the planned outcomes, and by mixing up the style of questions – multiple choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank, interpreting images and discussing real-world scenarios – trainers can get the information they need on whether the course has achieved its goals.

For trainers who would like some training themselves on how to be better at it, CarriersEdge is holding a free online webinar at 1 pm Eastern time on November 14. Information and registration for “Building Better Training: A Look Inside the Course Development Process” is available at www.carriersedge.com/resources.

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