• James Willis, Jr.

Thanksgiving: Reflections, Training, & Lessons for Tomorrow.

It’s that time of year again. Stuck between Halloween and Christmas/Hanukkah, and often forgotten about until the day of, Thanksgiving is finally upon us.

Here at InDev, we asked ourselves, as a company what are we thankful for. One that we universally agreed to was the opportunity to work with, and for, so many wonderful organizations and people.

This year, we conducted a record number of security related training programs to a diverse collection of co-op, utility, and business clients. We’ve had the privilege of making keynote addresses at a number of conferences, speaking at executive sessions, leading classroom-based training, and conducting onsite drills for clients. We’ve met people from all walks of life and every utility profession and discipline. From board members and senior staff, linemen and IT specialists, member service representatives, accounting and clerical staff, and a myriad of safety and security professionals. We gained something from each presentation and new connection and tried to provide something of real value in return.

Looking back from time to time also provides an opportunity to review the lessons learned as well as see the impact of your efforts. So, what were some of the training application lessons-learned by InDev from a year’s worth of onsite training and presentations to audiences from almost every background, educational level, and industry profession imaginable? We’ve listed a few below.

Security is a tough, often frightening subject: For many people the subjects of violence and lethal confrontations are terrifying, a few nonchalantly disregard the subject and flippantly assume that any training on the subject is “fearmongering”, but luckily most people take a more realistic - it’s a dreadful subject and unlikely to happen, but better to be prepared - attitude. Though we try to provide positive training experience to all, those in the latter group are the ones that gain the most from the programs.

To successfully broach violence related subjects requires a training format that is not overly intense, graphic, or stressful. The training approach has to try to reach the entire audience and bring everyone along on the journey, even those reluctant to do so.

Be ready with facts: We live in an age of instant information access where rising standards of education have resulted in audiences that are more knowledgeable and advancing technologies provide access to facts & figures at the press of a button.

Generalizations will no longer do. Just one unsubstantiated claim can entirely undermine your credibility with an audience. When citing facts, figures, or statistics, you need to be as accurate as possible ready, and be ready to provide sources (And Wikipedia doesn't count).

Some people won’t believe you: It’s important to remember that no matter how reliable the source, or accurate your information, there will be those who will steadfastly refuse to believe what you’re saying. It is not hard to see where this comes from, as some have an almost religious devotion to their personal worldview and disdainfully refute all others.

The key is to realize that those who are so resistant to other viewpoints will seldom change their minds, your job as a presenter is to communicate as clearly and accurately as possible and try to provide unbiased information; acceptance or rejection is up to the recipient.

Your job is to educate the those in your audience that are open to learning. If the information is presented well, the most attendees will listen and retain the message.

Expect the unexpected: Unfortunately, one of the biggest problems that can occur during training is injury or distress. What makes this so hard to prevent is that almost any item or any activity could cause injury in a multitude of ways.

Not everyone you train will be 6-foot-tall, 20-something Olympic athlete. For some, the mere act of participating in the training, no matter how low-impact, will be a cause of anxiety. In any given training session, your participants may include elderly, pregnant, first-job novices, and seasoned veterans; as well as attendees with low emotional and stress thresholds, medical issues, limited mobility, and countless other impacting factors. However, all employees need security training. Attackers won’t differentiate between victims, so all must be informed. The key is building a training approach that builds toward the more stressful subject matter in a methodical manner.

So, what to do? “Expect the unexpected”, realize that in all probability, something will happen. It could be as simple as someone becoming anxious at the prospect of violent imagery, or stressed by the topic being discussed, or as serious as a fall injury during a simple walk-through exercise. Once you’ve accepted that an accident may happen, you can then make steps to mitigate the hazards and develop contingencies in case something does happen.

Incorporating the lessons learned into the programs have led to our growing number of positive reviews and requests for training.

As President Roosevelt stated so well –

“The only man who makes no mistakes is the man who never does anything. Do not be afraid to make mistakes, providing you do not make the same one twice.”

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