Best Practices for Implementation
The project team that guided the project learned many lessons during the pilot. The group developed a number of suggestions for effectively planning and delivering a basic skills training program. Based on the project experiences, the group recommends the following suggestions for companies planning to establish a basic skills training program.
1. Class content, curriculum, and instructional activities should be customized for each organization. The employees' education level, the culture of the organization, and the support of supervision/management are all unique and affect the success of the programming. In some companies for example, extensive orientation for the training was provided. This indicates a greater commitment by the management of the organization and resulted in greater training impact and success.
2. Classes, especially math, should be organized by ability level. Some employees are very self-conscious about their abilities. The program can suffer if the participants feel threatened, which happened when employees were in classes with mixed ability levels. This was especially evident in one company where employees, supervisors, and trainers all noted the difficulty all participants experienced. The higher-level students were annoyed at being in a class beneath their ability level, and the remaining students felt inferior to the higher-level students.
3. Training should be conducted at the beginning or end of a shift. When training was conducted this way, the companies experienced greater success. Companies that conducted training during a shift found employees struggling to balance class and work. Also, this was upsetting to supervisors who had to interrupt work flow when employees were leaving work stations.
4. Supervisors should be included in the planning and organization of the training. Supervisors are a critical component to the success of a basic skills training program. Supervisors set a tone for the value of training in their behavior toward employees. They also are responsible for work scheduling so employees can attend training. Many supervisors view training as an interruption of work and are resistant. Companies that had provided training to supervisors prior to the basic skills training experienced less resistance. Also, benchmark companies that had been involved in extensive supervisory training for long time periods had achieved considerable training impact and success.
5. Training needs to be flexible and adjusted to the needs of the company as it progresses. This can relate to the scheduling of classes, the instructor, and the time frame for delivery. In some cases, business conditions occurred that required the training schedule to be modified. Also, in one company, the participants clashed with the trainer, so NCES had to provide a different trainer.
6. An extensive orientation can reduce resistance to training. In each company, management, supervisors, and employees participated in an orientation program. The purpose of the training, the assessment process, details of delivery, and expected outcomes were explained. In cases where employees were unionized, support of the collective bargaining unit was obtained.
7. Plans should include additional training after the basic skills training so employees can continue to progress. The results of the evaluations clearly point to "increased capacity for learning" as an area of improvement. Employees begin to develop a need for life-long learning, which companies must cultivate. Trainers, for example, reported participants asking questions about future classes. In some cases, this occurred as early as the second session.
8. It takes approximately two years from initial planning to successful completion of the training. In the pilot project, the companies that were involved the longest in training had the most success for employees and the organization. Also, some of the benchmark companies had invested as many as eight years in their training efforts. The longer the company participated, the greater the success, and the more likely the company could evolve into a learning organization comprised of knowledge workers.