Developing Your Team Members’ Basic Skills

Employers that provide their team with training are making a commitment to better customer service and to being more competitive in the marketplace as well as encouraging a reduced team turnover rate.

Few businesses are incapable of providing some sort of in-house training to improve skill levels and the improvements in performance that result makes it a highly cost effective investment.

A typical small business’ basic skills training programme can incorporate on-the-job instruction of individuals or groups by supervisors and cover practical subjects such as workplace safety and equipment operation.  It can also encompass more fundamental topics like reading and writing that at first may not seem work related but actually underlie everyone’s ability to perform their job.

It won’t take a lot of time to develop these programmes, nor will it require much in the way of resources.  The essence of basic skills training is the sharing of information, letting those with more knowledge communicate what they know to those who will benefit from the exchange.

This type of training is also valuable as part of an induction programme for new workers to ensure they have the specific knowledge their work requires. It will give them greater confidence and enable them to be more productive from day one.

Dartbrook Coal is an underground coalmine in the Hunter Valley, NSW. It has a workforce of 250 people. Coal is mined at the workplace 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Management was concerned about safety issues at the site. A decision was taken to improve communication and literacy skills to enable the workforce to better understand and comply with safety regulations.

Dartbrook Coal, in conjunction with the NSW Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs, implemented a language, literacy and communication learning programme to address literacy, numeracy and communications issues across all levels of the enterprise. The programme was expanded to include computer literacy training with a number of employees that used computers in their work.

Over the training period safety awareness and the reporting of potential OH&S hazards increased substantially. Computer literacy training enabled greatly enhanced job flexibility in the trades area, meaning that workers could handle responsibilities formerly performed only by supervisors.

Reporting paperwork is now completed in plain English, resulting in a more understandable, uniform manner of communication throughout the workplace.  As a result of the programme safety and productivity at the coalmine have increased and supervisory time has been freed up for other responsibilities.

Here’s how to introduce a basic skills improvement programme in your own organisation.

1.     Start by analysing each position in the business and list the specific knowledge and skills that it requires. This will tell you the kind of training you need to provide.

2.    Appoint one senior person from your team as the Training Supervisor. Let them be project manager of the training and work with them on structuring the process that will deliver the skills training needed.

3.     Identify the members of your team who would make the best instructor for each of the skills on your list. Involve as many other team members as possible in the planning and let them help in developing the content of each ‘course’.

4.    You might be able to involve your suppliers or even some of your customers in the process, especially if skills related to equipment or product usage are part of the requirements. Most people are willing to share their knowledge with others if asked to do so.

5.    As with all the training you do, be sure you have a way of getting feedback on how effective the training has been. Ask both the instructors and the students to evaluate the training sessions and use their comments to improve the process.

You can get assistance in planning your basic skills training from a variety of sources including local technical and vocational educational institutions, trade associations, unions and government agencies.  Investigate these before you begin and you may find that someone else has already done most of the hard work for you.