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Quality Creates...Perspective

Why the NFL needed an Employee Training Management System

Tim Lozier
by Tim Lozier on Thu, Sep 27, 2012

Replacement RefsUPDATE:  This is why I hate writing about current events.  The minute I finish this blog, and the real referees are back.  Oh well, the message is still relevant, allbeit a day too late.  If you're like me, you've been looking forward to football season.  There's something about the cooler temperatures of fall, the Sunday ritual of football games, and the roller coaster of 16 games of the gridiron.  It seems that the season has taken a different timbre this year, with the recent end to the referee lockout and replacement refs that the National Football League had put in place.  As much as we tried to enjoy the games, there was that underlying theme that the replacement referees weren't getting the calls right, missed important calls, and even impacted the outcomes of the games.  Say what you will, but the NFL really seems to be in need of a Training Management System.

In business, Training Management is a key component of any operation - whether Quality Management, Health and Safety Management, or overall daily operations within the organization.  Training Management Systems ensure that a standard training program is in place, so that, no matter who comes into the organization, there is a defined and consistent training program.  Now you see a situation where replacement "employees" have come into the organization, and seemingly lacked the training required to perform at the level the organization is accustomed to.  Here are a few lessons the NFL can learn from the rest of us in business to ensure that new employees are properly trained.

1.  Document Control Integration with Training:  Most organizations will document their processes, procedures and work instructions.  This is so that there is no confusion on what the standard operating procedure is;  it provides a consistent, centralized record of how to do business within the organization.  Furthermore, Documents that are controlled can be linked to training events, so that if a procedure changes, or a new employee comes on board, they have access to a controlled document that outlines what they are supposed to do.  Integrating Training Management with your Document Control system ensures that employees are trained on the most relevant materials available.

2.  Defined Training Plan by Requirement:  Training Management Systems are designed to automate the training plan.  Training itself can take on many forms - classroom, on-the-job, automated testing, etc. - but in order to be effective, the training plan must be well-defined and relevant to the job being trained.  Training Management consolidates all relevant training by requirements, whether referee, administrators, or general employee training.  These requirements can be bundled into groups or defined by role within the organization.  The benefit is that you have everything you need already lined up for the new recruit;  all you need to do is add them to the system, and based on their role or group, the training plan is set for them.  There is consistency in this method; training is the same whether you are a veteran ref or a guy off the street wearing a foot locker uniform and subscribing to the NFL package.

3.  Automated Testing:  A Training Management System should have some form of test recording.  This can be integrated with an existing Learning Management System (LMS),  a way to record testing results, or even online testing.  The idea is that while it's all fine and good to have a training plan and training course, without testing, you cannot accurately ensure that a person is adequately or properly trained.  Testing programs linked to Training Management provide a quantitative measure that training has been given and the person has passed the training qualification process.  Most systems will integrate testing into their Training Plans;  Pass/Fail, percentage scores, or similar which are common ways to accurately assess one's ability to do the job.

4.  Incidents and Events linked to Training:  This is something that is a bit forward thinking, but many organizations are doing this in their Quality and Safety Management operations.  If an adverse event occurs, such as a Safety Incident, or Nonconformance, organizations will be able to link investigations to the training record.  For example, let's just say a referee blew a 4th Quarter touchdown call on a Monday night game (totally hypothetical, right?), an investigation into this incident can be linked back to the referee's training record.  Was the referee trained on the rules on touchdowns when two opposing players both are holding the ball?  As a more "real-world" example - if you are seeing that there is a higher risk of incidents during a particular shift on the line, you can link the safety investigation back to the training records, and see if re-training is required (or if training ever even happened).

5.  Visibility into Training via Reporting:  As with any system that collects data, the ability to see into the data and analyze trends and Key Performance Indicators (KPI) help to improve the overall operation of the organization and mitigate risk.  Having a Training Management System linked to enterprise reporting will help to uncover key trends.  Perhaps the training is not effective enough, and you are seeing higher risk of injury or poor quality as a result of inadequate training.  Perhaps, in the case of the NFL, you will see that players will have gotten more injuries during the replacement period, and the training and inexperience is a factor to all that.

Of course, there is one element that is not covered by Training Management, and that is pure experience.  The replacement referees were completely new to this level of the game, and all the training in the world will not replace "real-world" experience.  In a normal organization, you have experienced operators conducting on-the-job training to newer employees.  Unfortunately, you did not have this in the case of the NFL;  the experienced operators weren't even allowed in the building during the lockout.  But, given the nature of the game and the inherent risks that playing football causes, it seems that the NFL needs all the help they can get. 

As a business, however, Training Management Systems are a core area of ensuring a consistent means of measuring employee knowledge and effectiveness.  It provides the platform for a solid and systematic means of training employees, re-training on new processes, and mitigating safety and quality risks within the enterprise.

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