6 tips to create a successful laboratory training programmeRyan White
Ensuring your laboratory staff, particularly those in junior positions, know the ropes of their environment is hugely important for a number of reasons. Touching on the need to meet business demands, addressing changing industry trends and using new technologies, the laboratory training programme ensures continuous improvement and is a critical part of the organisation of any given laboratory.
If you need to get your staff up to speed, especially if they’re new to working in laboratories, then a training programme is an essential part of both onboarding and ensuring your laboratory functions as smoothly as possible. Here, we’ll delve into some tried and tested methods that you can use to create an effective laboratory training programme.
Identify the gaps in your team’s skills
In order to make sure your laboratory is as successful as possible, your team’s skills should be fine-tuned in a way that creates a standardised level of competency that others can then be measured against.
Ask yourself what your workforce’s capacity is, which new skills are needed, and which skills are at risk of being lost. From here, you can then set about creating a document that tallies up each technician’s skill level in particular areas. It doesn’t have to be anything overly complicated, but ensure it displays their name, a list of skills relevant to the lab, and a 1-5 rating of their skill level for that task. From this, you’ll be able to identify the gaps in skills and which omissions need to be addressed.
It’s a good idea to conduct this analysis on a regular, individual basis to determine which skills need work going forward. When you’ve identified where members of staff want to be, you can work together to reach what is expected of them.
Define the goals and objectives
With the areas that need work identified, the next step involves defining what your learning outcomes will be, and then communicating this desired end result to your staff. Not only does this help with knowing what they need to work on, but it also helps with securing buy-in from senior management. When you develop your case for training, be sure that you make it clear to senior leadership how your proposed training strategies align with the laboratory or company’s organisational goals at large. Similarly, make it clear that individual participants understand why they are part of the training programme.
In-house or third party?
In considering where your training will take place, a number of factors – such as cost, quality of training, and staff expertise – should be considered that will ideally make it clear whether you’ll go down the in-house route.
To do so, focus on the work breakdown structure, and analyse the cost as it relates to each component. You might even reach the conclusion that a combination of both internal and external training sources is needed to meet your requirements. With a mix of the two, it’s possible to reduce costs, and bring in an outsider perspective with their own ideas and expertise to move the business forward.
An external partner can provide up-to-date knowledge of industry standards, free up internal resources, and let training consultants provide support in a way that’s tailored to your team. Additionally, the training certifications gained through an independent agency are highly beneficial from a marketing perspective. If you need to illustrate quality and safety, then there’s no better stamp of approval than relevant industry certification.
Focus on active learning and engagement
Training days have something of a bad rep. Utter the words and the image people tend to have in their heads is unengaging PowerPoint presentations, rote phrases and not a lot of interest in what’s being said. Simply put, they’re viewed as a chore to be endured. Actively engaging your employees in your training is a way of combating the negative views that surround the process.
Consider using a variety of activities such as interactive polls and demonstrations to ensure employees stay engaged and ready to find out about different learning styles. Using a mix of classroom-style activities and hands-on experience operating laboratory and production equipment can be highly beneficial, too. Focus groups that touch on which learning activities your employees liked the most can be effective as well.
Integrating regular topical discussions into things like staff meetings creates a less formal environment for the training to take place in, which is good for boosting things like team-building and collaboration.
Transfer knowledge to day-to-day activities
Ensuring that the training has been taken on board and put into practice when employees go back to work is vital, but how can you make it happen? Revising procedures so that the newer elements of the training are integrated gives employees the chance to apply these skills and show how they’re progressing.
Another way of doing this is by presenting the material to employees on a regular basis, but in different formats. Repetition is key to retaining knowledge; if the material is constantly in front of them, they have a chance to peruse it. After enough time, it’ll become second nature.
Ensure continuous learning in the workplace
Continuous learning in the workplace is necessary if your training is to be worth the effort. If your employees are naturally curious, then encourage their inquisitive nature by allowing a degree of flexibility; allow them to attend workshops and seminars that are related to their expertise. Keep communication lines open during training and assessment, as it provides insights that can then be used to improve processes. Additionally, competency-based training is a great way to keep employees engaged, especially as retention gets harder. Employees will feel more satisfied by what they’re doing if they’re given responsibilities that allow them to progress.
Finding the right people is as important as where they’ll work. InterFocus can help you create an environment that’s the right fit for you and your team. For more information about our bespoke fitted labs, visit our homepage or call our team on 01223 894 833.