The Benefits of Requirement-Based Training in Energy & Utilities

Across many industries and markets, in-house training courses are being taught that are outdated, irrelevant to the job or burdened with too much content.  Within the Energy & Utility industry, this happens for a number of different reasons, including inconsistent or inaccurate interpretation of regulatory requirements, differing approaches to training objectives and redundant training requirements implemented across courses.

As a result, inconsistent information is taught to the learner, knowledge retention suffers and negative feelings about training can begin to surface - not to mention, money is wasted on unproductive time.  A mindset shift is required within the industry from “more is better” to “teach what is required” for the job.  Training should deliver streamlined, need-based information that results in behavioural changes without sacrificing the quality of learning or participant experience.

How can an organization begin building requirement-based training courses? 

It’s important to begin with the basics in order to identify what training is truly required.

Step 1: Develop a comprehensive list of jobs within the organization or functional area.  These jobs are made up of competencies, and competencies are made up of skills.  The breakdown of competencies and skills under jobs will define each position and allow the organization to document the information that should be reinforced via training.

Step 2: Create a training requirements matrix containing the regulatory, federal, state and organizational requirements that support and govern skills.  This matrix provides major and minor objectives that training will then be tailored around.

Step 3: Evaluate opportunities to condense training.  After the requirements are clearly understood for each job, there may be existing training courses that should be eliminated altogether and others that are too short to remain as stand-alone courses.  In this case, there may be an opportunity to combine courses with similar topics into one, condensed course.  This will allow learners to retain information more easily and recall key information more quickly.  Combining similar courses will also allow for any redundant training content to be removed.

In order for these benefits to be realized, condensed training courses should run no longer than one hour in length.  According to Learning Solutions Magazine, research shows that that our brains will forget things that are no longer useful. This forgetting is inevitable and adaptive because it clears your memory for things that are more relevant. The problem, however, is that in the process of memory purging, our brain often forgets important information.  In order to ensure important and useful information is not purged, training courses should remain free of extraneous or useless content.

How has this been applied in the industry?

The principles associated with requirement-based training were introduced to a leading nuclear facility as part of a broader initiative called Excellence in Cost Management (ECM) 6 in 2015.  ECM 6 was conducted at the utility’s centralized training facility in response to an industry collaboration to generate cost savings resulting from increasing operating costs for nuclear combined with decreasing natural gas prices.  North Highland was selected to lead the effort due to our partnership with key stakeholders, strategic vision for the project and subject matter expertise.  The project team’s mission was to reduce average in-processing cycle times at the training facility to a predictable and reliable 4 work days for new contingent workers and 2 work days for returning contingent workers.

The goal of the training workstream, supported by effective project management and change management, was to drive successful execution and adoption of the following:

  • Build fleet-common non-accredited training programs delivering streamlined, need-based training and standardized classroom and e-learning materials
  • Develop a comprehensive training requirements database tied to skill models
  • Right-size and standardize 19 nuclear training topics
  • Eliminate 43 site-specific training requirements
  • Consolidate over 160 training skill models to 125

North Highland’s three step approach above led to the following long-term benefits:

  • Eliminate 33 hours of training across 19 topics - an average reduction of over 20 hours of training per worker
  • Enable a 90% reduction in manual analysis to determine training requirements for scheduling purposes
  • Contribute to lowering the average contingent worker in-processing cycle time to 2.25 days saving 49,815 hours of billable contingent worker in-processing time during the Fall 2015 outage season valued in excess of $2.49M
  • Continued savings post-implementation in excess of $8M

ECM 6 was awarded the Nuclear Energy Institute TIP (Top Industry Practice) award.  Nuclear industry innovators are honored with the annual TIP award for the most creative techniques and ideas that drive long-term results.  The awards promote the sharing of fresh ideas and best practices and, consequently, improve safety, work processes and the competitive position of the industry as a whole.  North Highland was recognized along with key utility staff at the May 2016 NEI conference.

Across many markets there is a tendency for in-house training to become antiquated for a number of reasons.  Restructuring curriculums around requirements will ensure consistent, need-based information is being delivered to participants.  Benefits of rationalized training include elimination of hours in training per worker and reduced in-processing cycle times resulting in cost savings, an enhanced learner experience, fewer on-the-job errors, consolidation of skill models and standardized classroom and e-learning materials.  Aside from benefits to the learner, restructuring training will result in a reduction in manual analysis to determine training requirements for scheduling purposes as well as benefits to training instructors.  As evidenced, reviewing in-house training courses to ensure content is targeted and necessary can provide a wealth of advantages to most organizations.