Once you’ve identified the tasks staff members need to be trained in (see Job Analysis post) the next step in developing staff training is to determine what they’ll need to learn in order to accomplish those tasks. Performing any task can be broken down into three elements; skills, knowledge and attitudes. By identifying the skills, knowledge and attitudes required to perform a task you can create a list of very specific topics to be taught.
A skill is the physical and/or mental ability to perform some set of activities or steps. When done together, and usually in a specified sequence, these activities accomplish an outcome. As an example, diving into the water is a skill lifeguards must have in order to accomplish the task of rescuing a struggling swimmer. Diving into the water requires a set of steps, taken in a required sequence, which must be learned. The steps in the skill can be identified, documented and standardized. Training can be developed to teach the step-by-step sequence of the skill.
When you develop training to accomplish physical tasks, identifying and teaching skills is easy. When you teach a counselor how to lead a game it is logical to teach a step-by-step process. It is important however to remember that skills are also required in accomplishing tasks that are less physical and more interpersonal such as responding to a camper’s homesickness. While tougher to do, there are specific step-by-step actions that need to identified and taught even when training staff in these types of tasks.
Along with skills, almost all tasks also require some knowledge. Knowledge is the facts, concepts and ideas we know about a particular topic. It is the cognitive piece of performing a task. In the example of the lifeguard for instance, there are concepts they must know or knowledge they must possess in order to accomplish the task of rescuing a struggling swimmer. The warning signs that a swimmer is in trouble and in danger of drowning is an example of a piece of knowledge that a lifeguard must possess.
The challenge as you develop training is to find the right level of depth of knowledge. On one hand you don’t want staff performing a skill without knowing some background about how and why they’re doing it. At the same time it’s easy to overwhelm them with too much theoretical knowledge. As you analyze a task it is critical that you identify the knowledge that is key to understanding a task and also recognize the nice to know knowledge that perhaps can be left out.
A third component to accomplishing tasks are attitudes. In addition to knowing and doing, successfully accomplishing a task also requires certain feelings. Looking again at the example of a lifeguard and the task of rescuing a struggling swimmer, there are certain feelings or attitudes that are essential. A sense of urgency in responding in such situations is an example of an attitude or feeling you’d want a lifeguard to have.
Too often when training people to perform tasks, organizations focus on the skills and knowledge but not on attitudes. Think of the robotic treatment you often experience from employees at fast food restaurants. The person taking your order usually knows how to place your order (skill) and can answer basic questions about the product (knowledge). They however often lack enthusiasm, interest and caring. These are all attitudes that make difference in how that task is accomplished. The best organizations help employees not only develop the skills and knowledge they need but also the supporting attitudes.
To identify the knowledge, skills and attitudes that you’ll need to teach, each task needs to be analyzed. For each task ask the following questions:
1. What does the staff member need to know to accomplish this task effectively? (the knowledge question)
2. What does the staff member need to be able to do to accomplish this task effectively? ( the skills question)
3. What does the staff member need to feel to accomplish this task effectively? (the attitudes question)
The answers to these questions will provide you with a comprehensive list of items to include in your staff training. An easy way to organize this information is to use a simple chart for each task with a column for knowledge, skills and attitudes such as the one as shown below.
What is homesickness
Risk factors for homesickness
Prevention strategies the camp uses
Common signs of homesickness
Individual strategies for coping with homesickness
Recognize potential homesickness in a camper
Discuss homesickness with a camper
Coach a camper to select and use effective coping
Homesickness is normal reaction to separation
Homesickness is painful and interferes with enjoying camp
Severe homesickness is preventable
Discussing homesickness with a camper will not increase it
Campers can be coached to use strategies to decrease homesickness