How to Find Effective Online Training in 2021

Bennett Fitch, Noria Corporation

What are you really doing when you buy a training seat? For some, it’s just another annual budget item that needs spending. Another, more honest answer that we have heard some version of many different times is, “Well, if I have to go to a training, I might as well sign up for one in Vegas!”

A useful training and a great destination, what’s not to like? Unfortunately, destination trainings aren’t exactly on the menu for many maintenance and reliability professionals in 2021. Even as circumstances change and more companies re-instate travel budgets, many are using this past year as an opportunity to evaluate what their training priorities really are.

Some have cut back on training because they see no simple way to get it done without exposing employees to unwanted risk. Others have adapted and found better, more focused and more efficient ways to train.

Bad Training Insurance

“Well, it’s in Vegas” really is the most honest answer. It’s common for people to use the destination as “bad training insurance.” The logic is simple: if you pick a good destination, even a bad and completely useless training feels like less of a waste. I think most of us might be guilty of this from time to time.

Many trainings do turn out to be so terrible that the destination is the only thing that saves the trip-at least you can still grab lunch with industry people and talk shop, right?

But these days it’s not so simple.

If you’re trying to achieve a specific reliability or maintenance goal at your facility or looking for a way to improve your own career options, you might be out of luck. Many online trainings in the post-COVID-19 era are hardly more than pre-recorded PowerPoint presentations with a disembodied voice you can barely hear through your computer speakers.

But still, we know that the right training-one that’s engaging, cutting-edge, and practical-can be inspiring and provide a new perspective. Often, people find that training creates a “lightbulb moment” that helps you see new solutions for your biggest problems. The right training can even help you find a new direction in your career. It can transform teams from the inside and improve the overall maintenance and reliability culture within your organization.

Training and Educating – What’s the Difference?

Industry-leading organizations use up to 10 percent of working-hours training their employees to ensure that the necessary knowledge and skills are always fresh on their minds and clearly understood.

But how much of this training is truly understood? Does it provide value as intended? How do you evaluate training offerings to know which to choose without sitting down and taking the training yourself?

How to Find Useful Training in 2021 and Beyond

The short answer is-look at those who are adapting. These days, you can’t afford to waste time or money on bad training. And right now, those great destinations like Miami, San Diego, or Vegas are not even on the table to save a bad training.

Look for companies offering trainings that help you solve specific problems or achieve specific goals. If the company website has no information about the training besides the title and price, it’s probably best to steer clear.

Google is your friend in times like these-the best training options these days are online and, most importantly, they are LIVE. Not something that is outdated and stale, but those trainings that are engaging and provide real interaction.

While the idea of training on Zoom probably doesn’t fill you with excitement or confidence, there are innovators out there who have built studios, hired production staff and created full-scale virtual classrooms, complete with live instructors and peer discussions.

We teach trainings like this often. While there is always a minute or two of awkward silence at the start of every Zoom class, it doesn’t take long for everyone to realize we can all speak to each other as if we were in a physical classroom. With quality virtual classrooms you can start having real, impactful conversations almost immediately.

Essentially, those involved in an online class are not receiving full value for their training dollars unless everyone is engaged and conversation is happening.

What Makes Training Worth Your Time

So how can you make sure that you are not simply wasting money and time on training for yourself or your employees - regardless if it’s lubrication, oil analysis or any other subject area?

First, the difference between “training” and “education” should be recognized. Training is about imparting new skills, but education is a more comprehensive word for training that connects the dots to what’s going on back at the plant. Education offers practical information and ultimately provides real answers that convert to real value for years to come.

You can teach a technician how to visually inspect the oil level in a gearbox or how to use an ultrasonic device to assist in regreasing, but a training that educates goes beyond skills. Education teaches about the why behind the skill. That knowledge of the context, benefits and needs related to the issue provides tremendous value to an organization. It’s all about knowing the why behind the what.

Of course, we must put what we learn into practice. Unless the new skill is practiced and connected to other aspects of the person’s job, it is likely to atrophy over time, rendering the training a waste of time.

In organizing skills-based training, a direct one-to-one correlation needs to be made between the tasks a technician will be asked to perform, and the appropriate training module for the job.

Education is About the “Why”

Now, back to the why behind the what. True education is about teaching why certain tasks or activities provide value, and why a change in the way a task is currently performed is important.

Take for example a visual oil level check of a splash-lubricated gearbox: the education component of training this task to a technician is explaining more than just why the correct running oil level is maintained. That may be obvious to most. But the education takes it further and dissects how each individual condition observed, such as the color changes, cloudiness, floating particulates, or foam, can be the crucial early indicator to a precipitating failure mode.

Training, however, might be able to provide further diagnostic value through qualitative or quantitative assessment of the situation, perhaps by conducting a simple field test for water content or a static sit test for aeration.

Education is just as critical to success as training. While there can be little dispute that knowing how to perform a task is important, in my experience understanding the why ensures commitment to the task at hand.

Few of us like to be told what to do without some explanation as to why. Like brushing our teeth in the morning rather than sleeping in a few extra minutes: we routinely brush our teeth because of the why. Yes it’s nice to have that “minty freshness,” but more importantly, it helps to prevent tooth decay.

Just like training, education should be tailored toward the intended result. In that way, you’ll be spending your time, money and attention on something with a clear purpose and a goal to aim for. If results are not achieved, perhaps it’s time to start searching for a new training or a new training provider.

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About the Author

Bennett Fitch is the director of product development and lubrication program development (LPD) services for Noria Corporation. He is a mechanical engineer who holds a Machine Lubricant Analyst (...