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Technical Training: Challenge Traditional Thinking

“How can I ensure that my technical team continues to learn when we are unable to provide practical training in a safe environment?”

It’s a question we hear often. Prior to the global pandemic, the notion of delivering automotive technical training remotely was seen as unachievable, even ludicrous.

Now we live in a different reality. New products and technologies continue to be developed, and face-to-face training is still restricted. The time for organizations to think differently—and long term—has come.

As expert technical trainers, we have anticipated changes over the years in technical learning and used a range of learning strategies to overcome these seemingly unsurmountable challenges.

“Will we ever return to what we did before?”

We will probably never go back to the very same approach we depended on for so long. And that’s a good thing. Our role as workforce transformation specialists is to develop solutions to complex challenges by providing our clients with effective and sustainable strategies to improve productivity through learning.

As you evaluate methods to deliver technical training remotely, here are some thought provokers:

  • Where do you start once you acknowledge in-person technical training delivery will never be the same?
  • What truly makes a virtual instructor-led learning experience interactive and engaging?
  • How do you convert a full face-to-face technical learning course into shorter virtual learning courses?
  • Is it expensive to set up a virtual learning studio?
  • What equipment is needed to deliver technical training digitally?
  • How can we assess competence without a physical learning space?
  • What are the steps to scalability?

Of course, an organization’s answers to these questions won’t result in a one-size-fits-all approach; however, they do encourage our clients to think differently and challenge the norm.

Single-event training is no longer enough in itself, as the design of technical training is more about demonstrating process rather than imparting skills for competence. Consider this: when we train technicians, they have to break from their day-to-day routine. They are less active at the training center than on the job; they can become distracted and suffer fatigue. Conventionally, there is then an expectation they must sit an assessment directly after the training event to certify. Beyond this, there is no more measurement of how effective the training was to the technician when they apply it in the workplace.

With all these factors in mind, the value of the training experience can be calculated by the level of engagement during the training event and with subsequent knowledge reinforcement applied.

Learning design for technical training is about respecting the learners’ time off the job and, at the same time, making the experience memorable as well as accessible.

We apply five key principles of content design for modern technical learning:

  1. Ruthlessly relevant: We use content wisely when designing and don’t assume one size fits all.
  2. Create connections: Each piece of learning relates to other pieces of learning.
  3. Respect time: What are the most appropriate times and places to learn?
  4. Generate pull: Determine how the learner wants to be involved and design around that.
  5. Collect data: How can we measure each learning experience, and what should we do with this data?

When applying these design principles, tailored around a learner’s persona, the results will be improved. We can determine the most suitable methods of delivery by looking at the learning objectives to measure competency. For example:

  • eLearning serves as a hygiene factor to level-set the underpinned knowledge of the learner cohort. 
  • Remote learning should be supplemented by practical on-job activities.
  • Practical training can focus on demonstrations and teach-backs, where the learner records themselves physically applying their knowledge and submits to their instructor or coach for assessment.
  • Pulsed micro-learning reinforces connections to the course objectives.
  • Captured and analyzed data informs the continuous improvement of design and delivery.

We are pragmatic about the need for hands-on training. It’s necessary for the trainer to observe how the technician adapts to a new process or performs diagnosis. However, incorporating digital learning modalities along with the traditional methods can generate greater learning outcomes.

As I mentioned, one solution doesn’t fit all, so our role is to work closely with our clients by conducting state-of-play assessments of the current technical learning approach. Then, we offer solutions based on acknowledging existing good practice and where enrichment can occur. This works best when we partner with an organization as genuinely interested as we are in being at the forefront of innovation for real performance improvement.

About the Authors

Lawrie Martin
Lawrie’s career spans over 30 years, initiated by completing an automotive trade qualification in Australia and progressing through the retail industry to become recognized as an advocate for tackling skills shortages locally and internationally. Lawrie is passionate about making a real difference to industry, business, and people by empowering them to realize the potential to achieve their goals. Over the last 10 years at GP Strategies, Lawrie has developed strategies to overcome automotive and technical challenges. He supports our clients and teams by designing and delivering technical learning innovation worldwide.

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