Tips For Helping Supervisors Become Training Superstars

Over the years I have observed many supervisors conduct safety training sessions, tool box talks and one-on-one coaching with employees.  Sometimes supervisors are terrific in sharing the topic, but most often the process is painful to watch.

It’s a fact; most supervisors aren’t very good trainers or coaches.  But all is not lost, we can help them improve.  In conversations about their training role, I’ve been given many reasons (or excuses) why they are not good at training, like  “it’s not my job”, “I don’t have the time to prepare”, ” I don’t really know the topic very well”, and “nobody listens anyway”. 

In digging deeper I’ve found that most supervisors haven’t learned how to be a good trainer or communicator, and all these reasons they give for their poor training performance are really  justifications for continuing to do an inadequate job of educating their employees on safety.

Please don’t get me wrong, for the most part supervisors care about employee safety.  The problem is that they see this training responsibility as one that is difficult, and one they don’t feel good about.  Here is our opportunity tor really shine and gain credibiltiy with our supervisors! 

Here are three ideas you can try to build confidence and begin to increase their training skills.

Tip #1 – Supervisors understand the basics of safety, so it’s our job to help them realize how much they know about various topics.  Conduct a group meeting with your supervisors.  Write several safety topics (lockout tag out, chemical safety, slip and fall prevention, etc.) on a flip chart, or provide as a handout.  Ask them to break into groups of 3 and to chose one of the topics (one topic per group).  Next, each group discuss and list the important safety points about the topics.  After 5-10 minutes, ask each group to share their list and discuss.  During the discussion, encourage the other groups to add other points that might have been missed.  Last, have the entire group prioritize the items on the list.  At the end you have created a great content outline on each topic with the most important items prioritized, and even better you’ve demonstrated how much your supervisors already know about safety.  This is also a great confidence builder.

Tip #2 – Ask the supervisors, either in a group setting or individually to think about one of the safety topics and to visualize what it looks like as it is being done correctly in their work area.  Next, ask if they can think of a time when they had to deal with the topic, either in a preventive mode or in reaction to a mishap.  Have them write a short description of what happened.  Finally, ask them to share their description or story with the group.  After the supervisors have shared their stories, point out that one of the best ways to educate adults is through telling stories. 

So the next time your supervisors need to conduct safety training on any subject, ask them to think of and visualize a situation that relates to the topic and form a brief story that can be shared with the employees.  This creates a visual image that will helps adult learner own the content of the story, and makes the training more relevant to their specific work area.

Tip #3:  The same as #2, except after telling the story with the employees to be trained provide a video, handout materials or a link to web training.  Ask them to watch, read or complete the training and then take a short test.  Studies have shown that the use of a story at the beginning of instruction will greatly improve retention and test results.