Outstanding! Surprising! Inspiring! The fascinating results of last week’s survey showed that environmental trainers have become much more sophisticated about their training.
Here I’ve combined the results of three recent surveys on environmental training to highlight “what environmental trainers want to know” about measuring and monetizing the outcomes of their training – and what they thought should be – and diligently was – included in the second edition of my book.
My wholehearted thanks to the people who have answered my surveys. Here’s what they said.
1. What are the main reasons why you do environmental and/or health, safety and quality training?
In this leading recent question I listed five reasons in random order and asked respondents to rank them in order of importance from 1 (most important) to 5, being least important or “never thought of it”. Here’s one of the rankings that I just loved:
1st: Business excellence: I was really surprised this one ranked top: it shows this firm has well and truly joined the dots between good environmental training, skilled staff, good environmental outcomes and good business results.
2nd: Efficiency/productivity: less of a surprise, but great to see: reducing rework and environmental incidents and near misses saves a great deal of time and money – and yep, that’s what helps lift productivity and profitability!
3rd: Non-price tender attributes/broader outcomes: it was great to see this ranked as a real business benefit. Keep watching this space, folks – market signals around this driver are getting stronger fast.
4th: Legal compliance: it may sound counter-intuitive, but I was really glad to see such a low ranking of this reason for doing training. Why? Because it re-emphasises that this firm has moved well beyond being reactively compliance-driven to being far more proactive in its approach to environmental management.
5th: Staff recruitment and retention: the low rank awarded to this issue could mean this firm has no shortage of good staff. Alternatively, it could mean that is has yet to join the dots between staff training and staff turnover. High staff turnover is a very real and expensive issue for firms that offer very little training or poor and irrelevant training to their staff. And good staff who leave are often followed by other good staff. Good training and managerial support lifts employee engagement, and this generates ‘on average 9% more profit per employee and double the revenue growth of other organisations’ (1). What’s more while people may be reluctant to leave jobs in these uncertain times, our acute skills shortage and strict border controls mean that highly skilled staff – the most costly to replace – will increasingly be poached.
2. Who else do you work with on environmental training?
Here I suggested a pot-pourri of people in a firm who have a stake in good environmental training, including senior management for strategic direction, middle and on-site management for operational training support, external environment/sustainability specialists; HR learning and development staff, IT staff, health & safety team, quality people, communications staff and the CFO (chief financial officer).
Results indicated that some respondents had never thought of some of these people – but they are all very important. But here’s my favourite answer:
Wow all of the above – we are a small business and I have got my juggling certificate!
3. What is your interest in environmental training?
Interestingly, while all respondents said they deliver environmental training, two fifths of them also want to receive it and one fifth are in a position to commission as well as deliver it. We have mixed roles! And here is a response that’s close to my own heart:
It’s part of my own life-long learning journey
4. What are your top three reasons for your interest in or objectives from environmental training?
Not surprisingly, enabling changes in practice on the ground was the biggest single motivator for environmental training for all respondents. People used different terms, including building capability; enabling trainees to perform more effectively in their jobs, to do things the right way, to perform specific actions or to achieve positive changes. Also mentioned was enabling trainers to support delivery of environmental programs and plans.
I would like to see staff who are happy in their work and well-grounded in their relationships.
The next biggest area of interest, common to almost all these environmental trainers, was how to set training targets, monitor implementation and evaluate the effectiveness of their own delivery methods and messages, including measuring the financial return on investment (ROI) of their training.
In the most recent survey, some people had already done some financial analysis of the ROI on their environmental training – this is a wonderful development since the previous surveys!
We train and ensure staff are accredited: it’s essential if we are to win contracts.
Professional development as a trainer for most of these environmental experts delivering training: most of them wanted to learn new methods of environmental training, be more empowered to deliver their training and also to learn from their participants – a truly valuable interest for a trainer. One recent respondent had even delivered some “train the trainers” training to their staff – a great move.
Humour and having fun also featured – alongside an underlying motivation to make a positive difference to the environment through people.
5. What successes have you achieved, and how did or do you measure these?
Here respondents mentioned things I’d expected, saying their trainees were ‘mostly satisfied’ with the training but they did limited measurement of success beyond surveys straight afterwards. This is true for most professional trainers, too, sometimes because they can’t get the budget from their clients to do more advanced evaluation of training outcomes. Some respondents said they observed improved on-the-ground outcomes because people avoided doing ‘dumb stuff that inadvertently degrades the environment’.
But I was thrilled to see some quite sophisticated observations: one respondent said that better on-site outcomes occurred when people worked out ‘how changes / detail / collaboration can achieve great outcomes’. Another succeeded in getting a company with a workforce of 300+ recognise environment and sustainability as core business with its own performance requirements and audits its own ways for staff to communicate and share ideas on their different worksites.
And here’s one for the ROI books: one respondent developed an in-house environmental training package tailored to the business’ needs – and it saves on average $500 per employee per year compared with the costs of an external consultant/trainer!
ROI is very important to my organisation, cost savings especially in this COVID 19 environment.
6. What difficulties have you encountered with environmental training (operational and strategic)?
Most of the respondents’ answers go to the heart of best practice training: how to clearly define the training needs and objectives, how to make the business case for your training and how to measure its business and environmental outcomes.
Many respondents also described difficulties with lack of business commitment and alignment, saying that environmental training requirements are poorly integrated into business strategy, with people or departments avoiding responsibility and some KPIs (key performance indicators that staff must meet) having ‘nasty unintended consequences’ for the environment and environmental training. Add in a lack of engagement across organisations to identify how environmental training can add business value and it’s easy to see how the result is that trainees are poorly motivated.
Some respondents struggled to develop training suitable for trainees with ‘vastly different capability/skill levels’ and with a workforce with unknown levels of literacy/numeracy. Others had difficulties with a lack of shared understandings where contractors are not been trained to the same level as staff and don’t have the same commitment to the environment.
A surprisingly small number of respondents mentioned a lack of time, money and resources as a difficulty. Of more concern were systemic issues, where environmental trainers ran into difficulties because environmental specifications in supply contracts are poorly defined; environmental training material available within the industry is too generic to be useful and the responsible regulatory body has little or no ownership of its compliance functions.
One respondent offered the classic difficulty facing the over-extended: ignorance – what do you do when don’t know what you don’t know?
7. What solutions do you see to these difficulties?
The answers to this question were so good that if I’d known the names of all the respondents, I’d have made them co-authors of my book and nominated them for the highest environmental offices!
Here’s what one respondent said, verbatim – which actually sums up the core content of my book:
All of the above highlights the need for sufficient diligence well before training is developed and delivered. This includes understanding training needs and existing skill levels, roles and responsibility of staff to be trained, clearly describing training needs, objectives and outcomes, and understanding how these fit into the overall strategic context of the operation, making training highly relevant, appropriate and interesting, planning training with monitoring and evaluation in mind and with a timeline that enables evaluation of training effectiveness over an extended period of time.
Other solutions were:
- data / case study collection; involving a broader range of people when determining KPIs; breaking down silos; enabling and giving permission and scope for people to do a better job and praising / acknowledging them then they do it
- top down buying and continued bottom up delivery
- provide schools and educational institutions with feedback about the level of ignorance about environmental protection at work
- provide tailored packages for businesses that deal specifically with the environmental management and training challenges they face.
8. What other issues, questions, opportunities or ideas would be useful to you?
All respondents said they find case studies very helpful, especially with photos, diagrams, and cartoons; practical demonstrations of environmental protection methods to help readers translate them into the real world; examples of emotional triggers for on-the-ground staff for example, ‘We are near a beautiful coastal area that we all use, and what we do during the week effects how we play at the weekends – fishing, surfing and swimming’; and explanations from various industries with what changed and empowered them.
The answers to this question concluded with a salvo for the policy and regulatory system, referring to the urgent need for engineering and other environmental interventions to support water quality with outcome-focused and less bureaucratic permitting and compliance processes that are more consistent across the public and private sectors and around the country.
We work on the principle that investing in training benefits all stakeholders and that’s why we survive. So true – it’s our motto. Investing in people is our core philosophy.
I love the critical thinking and excellent practice that these answers show environmental trainers are delivering and aspire to.
AND – more on ROI …
Several respondents wanted more information about ROI – how to measure and monetize the environmental value of environmental training, a specialised professional training skill that environmental experts readily grasp.
And here it is!
Find out more about ROI in my free 1-hour interactive webinar on how to measure and monetize the outcomes of your training. It’s at 12:30pm on 20 October and will deliver real business value you can use right away! Just click here to register or email me.
Want to know more about my 1-day ROI workshop on 11 November? Click here to register and here if you want to to find out more about the wealth of information in it!
(1) Results of HR consulting and outsourcing firm Aon Hewitt Best Employers study. Cited in Steve Hart (2012) Time to sack the HR manager: people-first culture sees profits soar. New Zealand Herald, 28 November. Available at www.nzherald.co.nz/steve-hart/news/article.cfm?a_id=365&objectid=10850413 [accessed 5 June 2019].
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