Training Apps Help Employees Spot Workplace Hazards Before They Happen
Good employee habits learned through safety training can be the difference between running a smooth operation and facing a life-threatening situation. Employees who work at grain cooperatives often learn on-the-job safety techniques through watching hours of outdated videotapes. As younger workers replace retired, more experienced ones, traditional safety training methods are proving to be less effective.
A training app can turn a smartphone into a portable training device. It offers a much more realistic and interactive approach to safety training. The hope is that if an employee makes a mistake, it will happen in virtual reality instead of in real life.
Developing a first-of-its-kind safety training app presents some unique challenges. When creating your training app, be sure to build in these four steps.
1. Identify business opportunities.
Identify business opportunities that meet your customers’ needs. For example, agribusinesses wanted a more effective way to train employees who handle grain on a daily basis. Gross incurred losses for workers’ compensation claims stemming from grain elevators doubled from about $10 million in 2009 to almost $20 million in 2016. Property gross incurred losses from grain elevators also rose from roughly $24 million in 2009 to more than $34 million in 2016. Designing an app to improve safety training and increase customer engagement, with a potential to lower loss expenses, was a great business opportunity.
Although loss prevention is difficult to measure directly, a select group of customers who are testing the safety app anticipate it will improve training, reduce losses and positively impact employee engagement.
2. Research proven methodologies.
Complete a comprehensive analysis with a trusted industry partner to gain insight into proven methodologies. Gartner research has found that the use of game mechanics and experience design is an effective method to digitally engage and motivate employees to achieve company goals. “Game mechanics” refers to the use of elements such as points, badges and leaderboards that are common to many games. “Experience design” describes the journey users take with elements such as game play, play space and storylines.
Gamification is a method to digitally interact with computers, smartphones, wearable monitors or other digital devices. The goal of integrating gamification into a training app is not for employees to reach a high score or compete with others; it is to reinforce the steps learned in safety training to motivate employees, change their behavior and help them develop new skills.
3. Leverage strategic partnerships.
Leverage your strategic partnerships, both internal and external, to ensure a successful outcome. Having your customer at the table will help you determine the best way to create something more useful for them. In this case, agribusiness and IT teams partnered with a technology company and three cooperative customers to design a realistic, first-person view of an employee completing maintenance tasks in a grain storage facility.
The training begins in a virtual grain cooperative office, where an employee receives work assignments. From there, the employee must put on the correct personal protective equipment before advancing inside the cooperative to complete multiple tasks. Employees earn a score based on their completion of the task, proper documentation, ability to identify hazards and proper use of equipment.
The app allows the worker to select the wrong tools and equipment based on real-life claims. The goal is to reinforce proper safety steps until they become habit so employees will learn to spot hazards before they happen.
4. Define ongoing technical support.
It’s important to detail how you will handle ongoing technical support. The safety training app is available on iPhone and Android platforms, so ongoing technical support is minimal. Customers register with their own unique ID and password, so there is no need to maintain and capture user details.
Since there is no cross-player competition built into the app, there is no need to build infrastructure to track player scores and support communication among employees. All future updates will be pushed through the app stores and will include new training tasks and new features that deliver training to additional niche markets.
Tammy Craig is senior vice president and chief information officer for Commercial Lines and Agency at Nationwide, one of the largest insurance and financial services companies in the U.S.