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Making it stick

Updated: Apr 12, 2023

A new way of learning in the Water and Drainage industry?

The one thing I have noticed as I have got older is that knowledge is often taken for granted.

As we work our way through life the 'stuff' we learn goes into the brain and some of sticks and some of it doesn't. What we actually remember usually depends on a number of things. The human brain is complex and I am certainly no neuroscientist but I do have a deep interest in memory and learning. Those people that are close to me will know why, it is more of a necessity than an interest.

The brain will analyse the events that you experience and make a decision on whether this needs to be remembered in the future, taking a short term memory and encoding it as a long term one. These events are stored in different parts of the brain and the clever people still don't really understand how this is all tied back together.

It is amazing what we can remember with the right techniques, there are many ways to employ to help in retaining large amounts of information, the truth is, most of us just cant be bothered.

In an age where it is easy to find information on the internet, usually at your finger tips on your phone, there is less need to have to remember a lot of 'stuff'.

Assuming makes an 'Ass of U and Me' - A bit David Brent!

I have found myself many times 'assuming' (oh dear) that people just know. The most common surprise for me was how many people don't know the difference between manholes and inspection chambers. Whilst the technical definition is clear in the building regulations, many people have different views and opinions, so which is the right one? Where do you go for the correct information and how do you make sure your organisation are all speaking the same language?

Social Media can be great at times, and I am not knocking it all, as it has its place, but when it comes to running a company, and even more so in a regulated environment my experience is that you want the information you give to your staff to be correct, consistent and trackable. You also want comfort that what they have read has been retained as much as possible. Social media like Youtube and some groups on Facebook etc often have lots of useful information, but also lots of misleading advice and short cuts that you will not want your staff using as the first port of call.

Like many of you, I have watched some things that I see online through my fingers, (even on 'drainage sites') especially when it comes to safety, fine if its being called out as unsafe but not if its being portrayed as the right way to do things!

Getting information and learning from the wrong sources will lead to problems.

Is having 'training' enough? Of course not. As I explain on all the courses I teach, you can't come along for one, two days or a week and go away thinking you are an expert or 'qualified'. Competence is so much more than training, all good businesses know and understand this right?

Well in my experience no. Even in some large companies in this industry I still see the gaps. No skills matrix, training for trainings sake, certificates to tick boxes, no proper supervision or development and competency assessment and/or field audits and the biggest one for me, lack of relevant learning opportunities.

You see, there is a big difference between training and learning, and they often get muddled up. I talk a lot to the people I work with about learning complementing training, being able to use the data from learning to target further training more effectively.

Boring drainage training course

Who has ever been on a training course and thought, 'Why am I here?' I know all this stuff.

How demotivating.

The harsh truth is we don't have much time to learn at work, most companies place all their effort on productivity rather than up skilling or investing in learning for their people. The statistics say that the average employee only has 24mins a week for learning, thats just 5 mins a day!

Operational Challenges

In my operational days, getting messages to stick and learning to embed was forever a challenge. (All the ops mangers I speak to now still have the same issues!) I would find myself communicating the same things over an over again to the field operational teams and managers. Why?

I would constantly ask myself, why don't they remember it? Whats wrong with them? Is it me? Is it how I am communicating? Of course, it is a mixture of all of them.

One of the things we all suffer from is information overload. In this day and age there is 'data' everywhere. Our brains have not evolved for thousands of years and yet technology is moving so fast our cognitive abilities cannot keep up.

This puts strain and pressure on people, so when you are constantly giving them information (and let's face it, there is a lot to know in our industry) they struggle to retain it all. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this article most can't be bothered to learn long term memory retention techniques so they prioritise the things they retain and work will be low down on the list for most people!

It will be even harder to make those messages stick if the learning is not interesting or relevant to their job, so you must choose wisely what you want them to learn.

The other problem was downtime. Especially with 'toolbox talks'. Having to have people off the road and in the office for briefings costs a fortune and is not always productive. Don't get me wrong, sometimes I wanted to look in their eyes and face to faces are necessary, but could the downtime somehow be reduced?

There were big cost savings and productivity enhancements to be made if I could.

Keep it simple!

People all learn in different ways, this is a proven science and not one I am going to go into now, what I am going to explore is interesting phenomenon behind micro-learning.

If you have kids you will notice that they have very short attention spans, this is getting more common in all age groups though, people will spend a lot of time watching short videos on youtube. Usually less than 5 mins and usually teaching them something. Whether it is useful or not is another debate!

The thinking behind this is that you are more likely to retain knowledge in short bursts. Usually 5 mins or less, and as such you can do more short bursts as your brain finds it easier to cope with, it then becomes quite addictive (Tik-Tok anyone).

Information overload is a real problem, I see organisations do it all the time, keep it really simple and it is more likely to be remembered. Make it engaging and fun too and you are on to a real winner!

So what if you could somehow apply this in your work place?

DRBi are already working with some fantastic organisations on just this. Giving their people access to quality industry led learning which is relevant, useful and easily accessible in the field.

With an initial suite of over 260 lessons, easily enough for a new piece of knowledge everyday of the working year, and with focussed feedback from the data to identify further learning and training opportunities - no more 'Why am I on this course?' conversations.

We are addressing those common things that keep coming up and offer a fully managed service that you can have tailored content unique to your business as well as a structured industry level database with top quality suppliers also contributing content.

DRBi have partnered with a leading technology specialist in micro-learning to provide the water and drainage industry a tool that will improve the way our people learn.

If you want to be a part of this exciting journey, get in touch, let us show you how it can benefit your organisation and pay for itself.

Oh - and how long has it taken you to read this article - oh yes 5 mins, I wonder why?

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