Employee Training: The Power Of Facilitating Learning

Allen Summers

Say the words safety training and sooner or later what you’ll hear next is a comparison equivalent to watching paint dry. Day-long training sessions with 4-inch binders and delivered by Mr. Monotone have taken their toll on participants over the years.

Early in my career, I was exposed to some exceptional training that left quite an impression. In fact, the little old lady chasing me away from the mock spill scenario with a cane was completely unexpected and served its purpose of facilitating the learning process quite well. I’ve never forgotten that experience or the lesson learned that day. It was the first time I stopped to consider the difference between training and facilitating learning.  

The facts and skills associated with the typical training experience are of little use without understanding. The process of facilitating learning exercises the participant’s existing capacity to reflect on the problems they have encountered and engages them to apply their knowledge and skills to find workable solutions. Our experience has shown the best learning experiences come when we immerse the participant in an environment that is as close to real life as possible. When it comes to teaching the four-day Emergency Response to Agricultural Incidents course, participants are practically entertained by the real-life equipment and the wide range of spill/release scenarios based on actual incidents we have been involved with over the years. The course builds both in intensity and complexity over the four days. Participants love it because they are eager to see what is in store for them next. It’s obvious to both the participant and their employer when the learning experience is relevant and presented in a meaningful context, because a greater understanding is achieved and more importantly, retained.

An Agricultural Background

Being raised on a farm, I genuinely enjoy the agricultural industry, especially the people. By nature they are much like MacGyver, the talented TV star from the 1980s who, when given a pack of chewing gum, a roll of duct tape and two clothes pins, could repair a 747 airplane while in flight. This kind of unique skillset is what drives the need for hands-on learning experiences and makes participants receptive to opening their minds and willing to learn new things. Overall, the participants we interact with are mechanically-inclined and possess a very high level of problem-solving skills. While this can challenge non-ag instructors, it proves beneficial when participants are immersed in a hands-on environment rich in equipment, scenarios and other visuals.  

There are several ingredients to facilitating learning, but perhaps the most important is the lead instructor. It is absolutely essential the instructor has the experience of “been there-done it” over a respected number of years. Anything less isn’t credible and results in run-of-the-mill training. Delivering a high quality learning experience consistently, especially over a four-day class, requires passion and a certain charisma, not to mention stamina.

When it comes to scenarios and equipment, we’ve all heard about the training held in the parking lot at a hotel. You know the one where a 55-gallon drum with a hole in it is turned over creating a mock spill. I suppose it’s better than no training at all, but it’s not what we’re talking about when we describe the process of facilitating learning. One key to effectively facilitating the learning process, is having the right equipment available, in sufficient quantities, that is specifically designed to illustrate and support the points being made. This is critical to delivering a high quality experience, but often shorted due to the cost of the equipment. It’s also an important element to immersing the participant in a realistic environment.

We’ve responded to the needs of ag in building five hands-on courses. With the launch of the new grain course later this summer in Bloomington, IL, we will have invested more than $1 million over the past decade in scenario equipment, training props and related equipment.

The First Of Their Kind

Four of the five courses are the first of their kind to be offered in the U.S. In the case of the Ammonia Technician Course, a client approached us and asked that we develop a course specifically for the personnel responsible for the mechanical integrity of the equipment used to store, transport and apply anhydrous ammonia. There are any number of courses that teach product safety and transfer procedures, but none that met the description of the client’s request. In talking with the client, it became obvious that part of the issue is the information on how to properly maintain ammonia equipment isn’t being passed down from one generation to the next effectively. There seems to be the older, more experienced personnel that typically has 20 to 30 years experience with the product and equipment. This generation of workers is naturally aging and retiring, while the new younger generation entering the workplace doesn’t have the experience the desire to work with ammonia. This generational difference is essentially what precipitated the need for the new course. One year and $220,000 later, the Ammonia Technician Course was launched to sold-out classes.  

You don’t have to be down on the farm long these days to figure out that technology, especially that used in the spray application of crop protection products, has advanced at a rapid pace over the past decade. We were asked to bring back the old Professional Applicator Training with current new equipment, and an added emphasis on spray technology — especially nozzle and controller equipment. This course made its debut in November 2011 and there are 36 classes scheduled around the U.S. for 2012.

An important part of facilitating learning is monitoring and measuring the end result. In every course, we utilize evaluation sheets and require the participant to complete and hand them in at the end of the course. Participants are prompted for new ideas they would like to see or that would improve the course in the future. This has been an important part of our program since the beginning and I never get tired of reading the comments. Some of the best ideas come from participants feedback.

We’re excited about expanding the number and scope of real life training opportunities over the next decade. Education literally means “to lead forth,” but most instructors want to “pass on,” information which encourages “surface learning” of facts or the performance of narrow skillsets. I hope you will consider the switch from just training to actually facilitating the learning process.   

Leave a Reply

State of the Industry Stories

Liquid Fertilizer Storage tanks
State of the IndustryComplex Fertilizer Market Brings Mixed Feelings
January 5, 2016
Declining fertilizer prices and plentiful supplies should be good news for growers facing low crop prices. But they and their Read More
Asmus Farm Supply crop protection products in storage
State of the Industry2016 Crop Protection Outlook: The Guessing Game
January 4, 2016
One would naturally assume that retail sales of crop protection products in a contracted market would themselves be contracted, but Read More
Seed corn bags in storage
Special ReportsThe Outlook For Seed In 2016
January 3, 2016
Among all crop input categories going into 2016, the seed category has as many questions regarding which direction it will Read More
Wilbur-Ellis’ new fertilizer blending facility, located in Mott, ND, was designed by A.J. Sackett & Sons.
State of the IndustryBuying Intentions Survey: Retailers Taking A Prudent Approach In 2016
January 2, 2016
The CropLife® magazine Buying Intentions Survey made its debut last year to gauge current industry trends against the retailer’s plans Read More
Trending Articles
Heritage Cooperative
Retail FacilitiesKahler Automation Designs State-Of-The-Art Facility For Heritage Cooperative
July 4, 2016
Heritage Cooperative in Marysville, OH, needed an efficient liquid, dry and grain facility to serve the many needs of their Read More
The Andersons Waterloo
ManagementFirst Indiana Facility Certified Under 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program
June 27, 2016
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced that The Andersons, Inc.’s Waterloo, IN, facility has been added to its Read More
Food IT
Industry NewsCalifornia Event Will Mix Ag And Tech Professionals To Explore IT Solutions
June 20, 2016
Silicon Valley is hot on agriculture, and an upcoming event in California will bring together the food and tech industries Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Eric SfiligojWhat’s Next For Monsanto?
May 31, 2016
For the folks at Monsanto’s headquarters in St. Louis, MO, it has been an eventful few weeks. Back on May Read More
Soybean Plant closeup
Industry NewsMonsanto Rejects Bayer Bid; Open To More Talks
May 25, 2016
Monsanto Co, the world’s largest seed company, turned down Bayer AG’s $62 billion acquisition bid as “incomplete and financially inadequate” Read More
Eric SfiligojPity The Monsanto Haters
May 23, 2016
An old saying goes thus: “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.” Given current events, there Read More
Latest News
Kochia
Crop InputsNufarm Launches New Herbicide for Resistant Kochia
July 25, 2016
Nufarm introduces Scorch herbicide for U.S. farmers and ranchers combating a broad range of troublesome broadleaf weeds. A unique premix Read More
ManagementNew Rabobank Report Calls for Farmer ROI Focus
July 25, 2016
As U.S. row crop farmers brace themselves for a third year of negative margins, Rabobank believes farmers must lower the Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsBloomberg: Syngenta-Chem China Deal on Track for Regula…
July 25, 2016
Syngenta AG, which has agreed to be taken over by China National Chemical Corp. for $43 billion, said talks with Read More
ManagementGROWMARK Meeting Visit, Company Takeover Updates, and R…
July 22, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss their recent speaking engagement at GROWMARK’s eastern event, crop protection company merger rumors, Read More
Crop InputsMonsanto: EU Approves Roundup Ready 2 Xtend Imports
July 22, 2016
Monsanto Co. announced today that the European Commission has granted import approval for Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans. This milestone Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Crop InputsSyngenta Announces Alfalfa Seed Split Off
July 22, 2016
On September 1, 2016, Syngenta will transfer sales and distribution of alfalfa seed to the NEXGROW branded business that is Read More
Dow DuPont
Crop InputsDuPont, Dow Shareholders Approve Merger
July 21, 2016
DuPont and The Dow Chemical Company announced that, at their respective special meetings of stockholders held today, stockholders of both Read More
ManagementLand O’Lakes Announces SUSTAIN Business Unit, Oth…
July 20, 2016
Land O’Lakes, Inc. today announced the formal organization of a new business unit, SUSTAIN, and its leadership. SUSTAIN will focus Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Crop InputsReport: Bayer Shareholder Proposes Monsanto ‘Host…
July 20, 2016
One of Bayer AG’s top 20 shareholders said Wednesday it may make sense for the life-science company to launch an Read More
Young Corn Closeup
Industry NewsNew Leaf Symbiotics Snags Former Monsanto Microbials Le…
July 20, 2016
NewLeaf Symbiotics, announced today the appointment of Dr. Janne Kerovuo as Vice President for Research and Discovery.  Dr. Kerovuo comes Read More
Corn and ditch
ManagementStudy: Saturated Buffers Reduce Nitrates From Subsurfac…
July 19, 2016
The Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition (ADMC), Agricultural Drainage Management Systems Task Force and Dr. Dan Jaynes with the National Laboratory Read More
Case sprayer nozzle closeup
EquipmentAgronomists, CCAs, Custom Applicators Invited To FSR Ag…
July 19, 2016
Agronomists, Certified Crop Advisers (CCA) and custom applicators can stay current on agronomy issues on the grounds of the Farm Read More
Soybean Field
LegislationOhio Soybean Association Names Brian Hill Legislator Of…
July 19, 2016
The Ohio Soybean Association (OSA) has announced that State Representative Brian Hill (R-Zanesville) has been named one of two Legislators of Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Latest Monsanto Rumors: A Game Of Tones
July 18, 2016
When companies are engaged in the back-and-forth of the acquisition game, the tone of their various announcements is always important. Read More
Nozzle spray close-up
AdjuvantsWest Central Distribution Introduces New Elite Family O…
July 14, 2016
West Central Distribution recently released a new line of Elite adjuvants to work alongside the new herbicide technologies that combat Read More
Bayer sign
Crop InputsBayer Makes New Offer For Monsanto
July 14, 2016
Bayer AG boosted its takeover offer for Monsanto Co. to about $65 billion in a bid to overcome the U.S. Read More
ManagementAn Update on Water
July 14, 2016
CropLife Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Matthew Grassi discuss agricultural water issues in conjunction with a recent field trip in Ohio. Read More
Co-Alliance employee
EmployeesNew Purdue Program To Focus On Talent Management
July 14, 2016
Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business is starting a new professional development program to help food and agribusiness Read More