Getting the best from environmental training

Or: Who to train, by whom, and effective strategies for avoiding "the anorak effect". By Andy Ellis, Sypol.

As more organisations focus on effective environmental management, the need for environmental training has increased dramatically. Many organisations choose to use an external supplier to provide this training. But how can they ensure that they achieve best value for their organisation and hit the right balance between quality and cost?

Examine carefully just what result is expected. If you don't know where you are trying to get to, how will you know whether you reach your destination?

Does the trainer have the right background knowledge and experience? A trainer should possess a level of experience that will allow him to understand your organisation and the way it works. Only then can he identify the relevance of environmental statute to your activities. Check credentials and speak to others who have experienced his training first hand.

Unresolved issues
Attendees should have the opportunity to raise queries and receive competent and friendly feedback. No one needs a trainer who leaves behind a host of unresolved issues because people feel too intimidated to ask questions. This is especially common with those who have a great deal of technical experience in their subject but have poor communication skills - the anorak effect!

Training should be undertaken in such a way that all delegates understand exactly what is being discussed. If training becomes focused upon individuals and their specific areas of concern, then it ceases to have value for the others. It's usually best if the trainer observes some of the organisation's activities and designs examples and exercises around these. Conducting a site visit prior to the training, will give the trainer an understanding of the culture and day-to-day operations of the company. Often there will be issues touched upon within the training that need further time or investigations. Attendees will feel disillusioned if these issues are not advanced later with feedback or a proposal from the trainer.

Realistic achievements
Organisations should be realistic about what they can achieve from environmental training. It will not, in itself, improve performance. Those attending the course must be carefully chosen for their ability and interest in improving the working environment and, just as importantly, their empowerment to make it happen.

Generally, for small companies with tight resources it is crucial to get the right delegates into a limited training session at the outset.

For larger organisations training is best undertaken with a view to longer-term benefits. Rolling programmes of training, backed by changing management culture, are usually the best way forward.

In addition, the industry sector, and the complexity of environmental issues it is likely to encounter have implications for the amount of training required.

Whatever the size or type of organisation, unfocused training, which does nothing to develop the skill of the delegate, can result in more harm than good. 'Rubber stamping' exercises with no real value will lead to low staff morale and result in corporate cynicism.



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