As learning and development (L&D) leaders, our role is rarely talked about in the context of saving lives. The people we are training might be the ones responsible for maintaining safe environments or providing life-saving care in emergencies — but we empower them to do so.

It’s a big responsibility: Reducing human error is a complex problem, because it’s a neurological problem. Humans aren’t perfect; we forget information, and we make mistakes. It’s our job to equip our learners with the knowledge and tools to overcome this neurological problem and minimize human error.

Trivie recently surveyed construction workers on their knowledge of safety policies and procedures. It was shocking to see how much forgetting had occurred since this group of people had received a safety certification. In follow-up conversations, they agreed that the prevalence of forgotten training in their industry hindered productivity and was likely the cause behind much of the human error they had seen in their careers.

How do you fix a problem that is neurological in nature? The solution can’t be retraining; it’s expensive and time-consuming. One organization recently reduced its safety incident rate by more than 70%. Here’s how:

Focus on Prevention, Not Just Detection

Start with the end in mind by focusing on prevention. When training initiatives focus on detecting issues, it means there is a safety issue already present in the workplace. Shifting training toward prevention shifts learners’ mindsets toward preventing safety problems from ever occurring.

Personalize Reinforcement

One size does not fit all, because people remember information differently. In addition, generic retraining is expensive and takes people away from their work. Let technology do the work for you by identifying knowledge gaps, automating intelligent boosters based on personalized proficiency maps, and visualizing knowledge gains to help you understand how your training initiatives are performing and where liabilities still exist.

Use Familiar Scenarios

Like forgetting, it’s human nature for us to remember what we can relate to. A familiar environment or event helps establish the neurological pathways that make it easier for us to remember. Recognizing this reality, the organization used examples of past incidents at the company in its microlearning and adaptive training. Learners felt more connected to the content and could visualize the scenarios because they were relatable. Not only did this approach contribute to reducing the company’s incident rate, but learners also said that it helped build a more authentic and organic culture of safety.

Take Consistent Stock of Your Knowledge Gaps

When was the last time you measured what people remembered from their training or certification program? If it was right after they completed it, how do you know if they still remember it? We know that people forget information quickly. Simply identifying knowledge gaps can prevent the human error that leads to the next public relations nightmare (or worse). It also helps you tell training success stories.

Make It Mobile, Make It Short, Make It Fun

You’ve heard it before: Attention spans are short, and employees want the same types of experiences in the workplace that they have with their favorite consumer apps, like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Gamification, social learning, intuitive user interfaces and adaptive learning all help personalize learning and ensure content sticks. Are you applying these approaches to your training initiatives? If not, you’re missing an opportunity to make your training more engaging and effective.

Think of how much better your organization would perform if your people all knew what they needed to know to do their job more effectively and safely. Productivity would go through the roof as employees became more confident. Organizational risk would decrease as employees actually remembered their safety, security and compliance training — leading to behavior changes that would ripple across the company.

As learning and development leaders, we have the opportunity to influence human behavior in a way that not only drives organizational growth but also prevents the human errors that lead to the types of events we see in the news all too often. Remember, you’re solving a neurological problem. Hacking the human brain to create behavior change requires a balance of experience, intuition and technology.

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