The scenario of having to complete an e-learning course around issues of health and safety is a familiar one to most employees. The course is usually a barrage of information that you have to try to absorb in one go and then complete some sort of test of what you have learned.
Carried out in an appropriate way, this could be an interesting proposition. However, this is usually just a compulsory course that employees are required to pass.
To most participants it turns in to a game – trying to beat the system to obtain a pass with the least possible effort. If you fail the first time, make a note of the answers or ask your colleagues, to ensure you pass the second time.
The purpose of the course is to increase the competence of those completing it. What it actually becomes is an exercise in compliance – making sure people pass the test.
Compliance training is undertaken to meet a requirement, maybe for regulation reasons or to reduce legal liability. Any actual learning is a bonus. It starts from the assumption that the employee lacks knowledge. The testing causes stress and encourages resentment and a defensive viewpoint.
Competence training on the other hand, assumes some knowledge and adds to this. It looks at performance – making sure the person can do the task or their job properly.
Imagine a competence based health and safety course that embraces the use of simulations and scenarios to reinforce learning. It allows the learner chance to carry out safe practice of the task or knowledge.
This acquired knowledge can then be applied to their job through coaching and mentoring and by using reference information if appropriate.
Competence training is more sophisticated and can be more expensive, but has a stronger chance of real success. It can reduce accidents and incidents, down time, legal claims and PR disasters.