By Denis Poirier Jr., CFPAI/AJPP, CFPHS, CFPCC, CFPIHM, Eaton Corporation Hydraulics Group
Certification can be defined as “a benchmark that validates a minimum level of understanding through academic and performance-based testing.” Certification is at the foundation of the International Fluid Power Society. The society offers multiple certifications designed to satisfy an array of industries. If you work in hydraulics, pneumatics or electronic controls, IFPS has a specialist certification for you.
But the number one conversation I have is not about attaining certification; rather it’s about the training required to attain certification. Some people believe that attending a review session will pull them through the certification process. But a review is not an all-inclusive training session.
The purpose of a review is to hone your test-taking skills, refine your ability to efficiently navigate supplemental testing resources and enrich your understanding of complex material. To achieve those goals, an individual must understand the content before attending the review.
As a degreed professional in the field of adult education, I can tell you that training is the most complicated part of the certification process. In many instances, organizations embrace training at the core of their business. Leadership and management alike rely on training to satisfy company requirements, human resource standards and system mandates. We use training to satisfy sales force requirements, personal development and equipment certifications. Training is the power that cures all deficiencies. But not all training is equal; neither are all training outcomes equal.
If we take a high-level view of training, we can categorize it into three basic groups: broadcast, facilitation and technical.
In the broadcast format, information is delivered to promote a level of awareness. This works best with large groups in which minimal or no interaction with the audience is required. Information is transmitted to the student, but feedback from the student or the instructor is not transmitted.
In the facilitation format, a facilitator guides the session. Role playing and scenario-based classes might be used in conjunction with coaching. Two-way communication is encouraged, group participation is often a requirement, and feedback is provided throughout the course.
In the technical format, an instructor leads the class through defined course objectives. Specific outcomes are used for academic assessment. Methods include solving multistep mathematic equations, reading schematics and interpreting engineering drawings. Performance-related objectives may include detailed disassembly and reassembly of components and exercises to evaluate proficiency in critical skills.
Each of these three groups is considered training. If you are a decision maker who influences those seeking certification in the fluid power industry, it is important to select the proper training delivery method for the talent you wish to develop. This seems like common sense, but many times individuals are sent by management to a review session without the proper level of training. Managers are then disturbed when their employees don’t pass the test for certification.
If you embrace online training, you should understand that developing electronic content is expensive. One hour of basic e-learning content that includes graphics, limited interactivity and simple testing has a median cost of $9,000 to $11,500 per hour. Content that includes dynamic media, custom graphic interfaces, an increased level of interactivity and complex testing has a median cost of $26,000 to $38,000 per hour. More advanced content carries a median price tag of approximately $100,000 per hour. When you consider these numbers, electronic training methods become a quantity of scale. If a company has 75,000 employees, it is easier to accept a median content development price of $30,000 dollars per hour. But if your company has 100 people, the conversation changes dramatically.
Electronic delivery of training content can be as effective as instructor-led training if both methods use the same design principles. If you use multiple forms such as simulations and videos in your online training material, then you need to use those same support materials in an instructor-led classroom if you want the learning experience to be equal. Reading a PowerPoint presentation in a conference call should not be valued as equivalent to an instructor-led session in which full instructor engagement is available. Additionally, recording a PowerPoint session and classifying it as e-learning does not change the level of engagement.
There is more to consider. Let’s say the training delivery method is electronic, such as a web-based session, but you discover that you are not maintaining the full engagement of the participants. You can bet that your students are trying to multitask. It is scientifically proven that the brain cannot perform multiple complex tasks at the same time. When someone is multitasking, that person is not engaging in those tasks at his or her full potential.
Another important consideration is the quality of the instructor conducting the session. If that person has distracting mannerisms, unnatural voice inflection, poor speech or anything else distracting to the participants, it will be a barrier to learning.
Not all training is equal, but certification can be a rewarding experience. Proper planning with the right blend of training and resources can yield a measurable return in performance and self-confidence. If you are a decision maker, I encourage you to understand the needs of your employees before selecting a training method. It can dishearten employees who do not certify because of the training method you’ve selected.