Refresh Your Lab's Training Program in 4 Steps

Time is money. It's an old adage that you know all too well as a water lab manager. Rarely do you have moments for projects that aren't actively generating revenue. But taking time to refresh your team training program shouldn't be seen as a money-losing affair but, rather, an important investment.

After all, if you fail to keep your team's skill and knowledge base up to date, you run the risk of losing money due to process inefficiencies and regulatory violations. Not to mention, gaps in training could even harm your reputation as an industry authority.

So while it's true that it takes time and money to train your staff properly, getting your operations in tip-top shape is a worthwhile use of resources. Here are a few reasons why, as well as some steps you can take to refresh your training program.

1. Identify Training Needs

To address your water lab's training needs, you'll need to be proactive in identifying industry trends, technological developments that may affect your operations, and skill gaps within your team.

  • Industry trends: Change is constant in the water testing business. New regulations, studies, and developments in your area — whether commercial or residential — can all spawn or warrant new kinds of testing. Keep an eye out for such changes, as they may require your staff to undergo additional training.
  • Technological developments: Similarly, the science and tools of water testing are constantly evolving. Lab managers should regularly attend industry trade shows, check in with their vendors, and seek out relevant content from federal and local authorities to keep abreast of shifts that may impact future training efforts.
  • Skills gap analyses: It's also important to regularly assess the skills of your individual team members. By conducting gap analyses, you'll gain a deeper understanding of their current skill set and identify opportunities for further development. Consider cross-training your team members to bridge these gaps and ensure coverage isn't an issue come busy season.

Ensure that the specific objectives and learning outcomes of your training programs are clearly defined in advance. Moreover, your team should understand why this training is necessary and how it aligns with your lab's larger goals.

2. Consider the Logistics

Determine the scope of the training program and whether it can all be handled in-house or will require aid from a third-party vendor. While assessing both options, keep in mind your training budget and how much time each approach may take. If it'll take a significant time investment to put together a learning curriculum, you may find it makes more sense to just purchase one — so long as it aligns well enough with your lab's needs.

Remember, training programs don't always have to be formal, stand-alone events. Depending on the learning outcomes you've identified or how many team members need the training, it may be more effective to incorporate certain topics into regular meetings.

3. Take Advantage of Onboarding Opportunities

Sometimes the arrival of a new employee can sync up perfectly with a new training initiative. If you've just added a new testing method to your offerings or a tricky update to your LIMS, for example, take this opportunity to share this knowledge with the whole team at once.

By scheduling a company-wide training session, you'll be able to bring your veteran staffers up to speed on something new while creating an opportunity for the newbie to get to know their colleagues — a win-win all around.

4. Evaluate the Success of Your Training Program

You'll also need to develop metrics, both organizational and individual, to assess the effectiveness of the training program. This becomes even more critical if you've made a significant investment in a third-party training provider.

Chron recommends using four key metrics to determine the effectiveness of your program:

  1. How employees felt about it.
  2. How it impacted employee performance.
  3. How it impacted employee behavior.
  4. How the knowledge was applied to business outcomes.

This may entail monitoring the number of safety incidents over time or using time tracking software to measure productivity. Involve your employees in the assessment by sending out a survey about their training experience or having an open discussion about the training at a team meeting.

Training your team is an ongoing process of assessing needs, initiating specific sessions, and evaluating post-training outcomes. While refreshing your training program may seem daunting, it's an investment that will pay off time and time again in improved efficiency and a stronger workforce overall.

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Jeff Rowe
Writer and Editor

For the past 25 years, Jeff Rowe has worked as a writer and an editor for the nonfiction and professional markets, including researching, writing, and editing feature articles, blog posts, speeches, project reports, and magazine essays. He has published numerous articles and essays on developments in health care and health information technology, the home medical equipment market, natural resource and environmental issues, and food topics. He has also been editor and community manager for numerous industry-targeted websites, as well as author of a developing series of novels set in medieval Spain.