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understanding the dangers of ‘training’ in the workplace 

 November 25, 2014

By  bem_admin

‘We, the general public, stand to experience [this type of disaster] again’, says Mr David Learmount, International Air Safety Specialist, commenting on the simple yet fateful disappearance of Air France Flight 447 along with its 228 passengers and crew into the Atlantic Ocean on May 31, 2009. He based his comment on the profound and daunting reality that a pilot really only flies the plane for 3 mins of longhaul flying time – the remainder is entirely in the hands of computers alone!

understanding the dangers of ‘training’ in the workplace

introduction

‘We, the general public, stand to experience [this type of disaster] again’, says Mr David Learmount, International Air Safety Specialist, commenting on the simple yet fateful disappearance of Air France Flight 447 along with its 228 passengers and crew into the Atlantic Ocean on May 31, 2009. He based his comment on the profound and daunting reality that a pilot really only flies the plane for 3 mins of longhaul flying time – the remainder is entirely in the hands of computers alone!

In further explanation, from researching the black box voice recording, the investigation concluded that the pilots did not know how the plane got to a situation of ‘falling out of the sky’, nor understood what to do to respond. Yet moreso shockingly, he clearly states: ‘Experts blame the aviation industry by insisting they train its pilots to rely entirely on automatic systems. In effect, it’s training them not to fly…..blame the individuals if you like, but this is a systemic problem the industry has’.

Let’s take this systemic problem one step further. Industries worldwide proclaim proudly to be training their staff. In effect, what that is producing is a global team of robots, performing roles to the rules. Some organizations stop there, whilst others may prop this training up with a little additional learning, such as facts, figures and information spattered into the training to allow for understanding of why the performance is to occur in the desired way. Many do not move into the final stage of education, a process of allowing the ‘operator’ to take the knowledge and apply in the areas of judgement and decision making.

Performance in many roles can and does not always occur ‘naturally’, on schedule or as planned, purely because the interaction commonly involves one or two human beings. This therefore leads to the reality that things don’t always go as planned, and when technological breakdowns are added into the mix, the need to make judgement calls, go back to manual systems and take decisions will inculcate all industries at all times.

This surely presents enough case for the argument that training alone simply does not work, given the grave results, ranging from customer service in the shroud of robotic answers, inefficiency in the case of breakdowns and death in the worst case scenario in aviation.

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The hotel industry commonly applies an automated system (eg Fidelio) to perform all major functions of the guest process from check-in to cashing foreign currency to checkout. The people are trained in how to operate with steps and standards and competency to perform the task is assessed – great, as a stepping stone only and should not be the end. Is a layer of learning built in to allow the understanding and why factor? If so, during the assessment period, how much of the knowledge is tested as well as the performance of the skill? Yet the real test comes when the system breaks down – which does happen! Without the concept behind these functions, or the ability to take decisions and judgements when the system is down, the staff simply wont know what to do or know how to handle any situation. Panic, mistakes, waste, inefficiency reign, quickly bringing malfunction.

So much money is invested in training and learning, which is a great start. Yet without the conditions during the learning process being extended ‘beyond the computer’, we really don’t know the response and behaviour that will occur when the unexpected happens.

How much longer will workplaces continue to place lives, safety and the customer experience in the hands of computers and training alone? Are the industries themselves disconnecting the staff from reality? If so, what can be done to move limited and robotic training into the realm of learning, education and peak performance in the most extreme of circumstances.

*Download ipad app to view the interview on 60 minutes Australia; a Karl Stefanovic interview.

Debbie Nicol, Managing Director of Dubai-based ‘business en motion’, and creator and author of the ‘embers of the world’ series, is passionate about change. She works with both traditional and contemporary toolkits that move businesses and executive leaders ahead, whilst working on leader and organizational development, strategic change and corporate cultures.

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Debbie Nicol

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