Tour of Duty

This new training system seeks to engage the learner through the use of next-gen narration.

The Chinese philosopher Confucius once said, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” This ancient proverb seems even more appropriate when dealing with safety and safety training. So many choices are available— including audio, video, written materials, and personal instruction. The Australia-born VoiceMap™ system created by behavioral scientist Maggie Haertsch, Ph.D., combines all of these elements into one to deliver a customized training program that not only instructs trainees, but also gets them actively involved in the lesson.

Assessing a Baseline
To start, new employees must first take an online pre-test. This serves several purposes, the most important of which is to prime the new employees for the lessons to come and to find a baseline from which to measure their progress. “It sensitizes them to the information that they’re getting, and it’s actually a fair way of assessing people,” said Haertsch, adding that the baseline assessment can also be an important tool toward ensuring new hires have the necessary and sometimes critical job qualifications that some industries, such as health care, might require.

“When they’re working in an environment, regardless of whether they’re new to that environment, it’s expected of them to know certain things. Say, for instance, working with drug calculations. These are professional skills for nursing and medical staff, and if they are scoring too poorly on a pre-test, you would be concerned about some elements of their competency,” she said.

After completing the pre-test, new hires are given an iPod to start their audio training tour. However, rather than sit in front of a computer, the trainees walk through the facility as audio instructions prompt them to perform certain actions at various locations. Before entering each location, the trainee is instructed on the necessary safety procedures and protocols to take, such as the appropriate protective equipment to put on and for which hazards to be on the lookout.

3-D animations or videos will display on the iPod at certain parts of the tour to better illustrate certain aspects of their training. As an example, Haertsch said, this capability could be used to better illustrate proper operation of equipment that employees may use when performing their duties. “To help someone understand a piece of equipment, we can model-up the equipment so that they can be looking and feeling and playing with the equipment in front of them as well as checking that they understand exactly what is being instructed by looking at the screen,” she said.

This capability doesn’t stop with hands-on instruction. Haertsch said video of a past incident or a 3-D recreation can be shown to the trainees when they reach the place of occurrence as the audio explains “exactly how that incident happened and the lessons learned from that, as a way of improving their hazard recognition and improving their safety behaviors.”

After completing the instructional tour, trainees complete another online test that serves the dual purpose of ensuring the information has been retained and the training method of delivery was effective. “You can always assess its effectiveness,” Haertsch said. “You would be concerned if you weren’t seeing an increase on the post-test scores. There could be an issue in the way in which the message is delivered. So it’s a great way of doing a quality check on what you’re doing.”

Out with the Old, in with the New
Effective delivery and retention are the goals of the VoiceMap system. “The technique engages the learners in their work environment and uses visual triggers around that environment to help them create a memory,” she said. One aspect that is particularly useful for today’s global economy, Haertsch said, is the program’s ability to be created in any language for use in any country, complete with the appropriate regional accent, thus ensuring that a uniform training program is implemented across a company’s many locations. “Anyone sitting around a board room would feel very reassured with this type of system because it’s ensuring that the policy that’s created in the boardroom is actually delivered to the front-line staff,” she said. Also, companies can further personalize and reinforce leadership in their organization by having CEOs, managing directors, and others recorded into the program. This is especially useful in preserving the on-the-job experience that may be lost when new workers replace older ones as long-term employees reach retirement age. “This is the perfect way of capturing their knowledge and experience and being able to deliver that back in a format that really sits well with the next generation coming through,” she said.

For more information or to view online demos, visit

This article originally appeared in the March 2008 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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