Nobody Reads Anymore: Why Mobile Training Is the Key to a Safer Workplace

Mobile training materials help all employees keep critical safety information close at hand and make it easier for employers to maintain a safer workplace.

There’s no substitute for workplace safety training. That’s because effective training programs do more than educate workers about best practices. They help employees stay current on a range of topics from individual job requirements to workplace-wide Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) matters, such as:

• Safety observations that help control overall risk.

• Incident reporting that can help reduce future workplace accidents.

• Management procedures that help ensure employees remain compliant.

• Auditing systems that help assess company-wide health and safety policies.

• Inspections that identify potential hazards and violations.

• Alerts that keep all employees informed about the safety of their workplace.

Still, relying on required training courses delays learning that might be necessary now. And it’s not an efficient use of the workday to have employees read a manual (if they’ll sit down to read it in the first place) or refer to an hours-long, self-guided course.

The solution? Mobile training.

When workplaces provide learning materials employees can access on their own mobile devices, the results are easy to see. Read on to dive deeper into five reasons why mobile training is the key to a safer workplace.

Benefit no. 1: Mobile Training Materials Make Learning Easier to Access

Mobile devices are a nearly omnipresent facet of today’s workplace. According to Pew, more than 97 percent of Americans own a cell phone. Moreover, one study shows that, on average, Americans spend more than four hours per day looking at their devices.

No matter which way you look at it, people navigate more and more of their lives via mobile. So, it stands to reason many employees will appreciate the chance to complete workplace learning on their personal devices.

However, the benefits of mobile training materials extend beyond personal preferences. Mobile learning helps employees access information when they need it, where they need it, which simply makes learning easier to access. And with app-delivered learning materials, employers can be confident that all employees are referencing the same standards and guidelines rather than independently searching for potentially outdated or erroneous information.

When all employees have easy access to EHS materials — even right there in the palms of their hands — it increases the probability that they will complete their required workplace learning programs. Next, let’s look at how mobile training helps employees retain more of the information they learn.

Benefit no. 2: Mobile Materials Offer “Stickier" Learning Opportunities

Information tends to be “use it or lose it.” This is a phenomenon referred to as “the Forgetting Curve,” which represents the (relatively quick) rate at which people forget information they’ve learned but don’t put it into practice.

Another way to think of it is that knowledge is like helium inside a balloon. Once filled, a balloon loses helium — even if just a little bit at a time — until, finally, the balloon fails to float in the air. Likewise, knowledge begins to escape peoples’ memories soon after it’s acquired.

When it comes to critical safety information, forgetting information is a problem.

Sticker learning delivery methods like mobile platforms, however, help combat the forgetting curve, empowering employees to break down — or “chunk” — materials into lessons they can interact with a little bit at a time. 

The result: consequential EHS materials appear more easily digestible. This helps employees build and maintain a foundation of basic knowledge and makes learning less cumbersome by organizing complex information in manageable parts.

Next, let’s look at how microlearning supports “on-demand” training for employees as they work.

Benefit no. 3: Mobile Microlearning Supports Training Within Employees’ Workflow

Say an employee works on a jobsite in an area that rarely experiences winter conditions. Because of the forgetting curve, the nuances of how to handle heavy equipment in snow may be easily forgotten. But work doesn’t stop because of unexpected winter weather. And a jobsite can’t just shut down for a day-long “refresher” safety course.

Mobile-supported microlearning, however, helps employees reference materials as needed in order to ensure they’re up-to-date and equipped with the information they need to tackle work no matter what comes up.

What might these microlearning lessons look like? Think: three-minute knowledge assessments followed by a set of three questions highlighting key information at the end of the training. Each lesson can be refined to refer to a specific topic — from safety concerns as broad as winter weather procedures to guidelines as specific as when to wear a seatbelt. Then, employees can reference these lessons as needed.

What’s more, companies are required to allow employees to complete training during paid work hours — or compensate them for training completed outside normal work hours. So, supporting training within the flow of work helps employees stay compliant, safe, and productive.

Benefit no. 4: Gamification Helps Drive Employee Engagement

The fourth benefit of mobile learning is the opportunity to support “gamification,” or training experiences that include game-like elements that can increase employee engagement in workplace safety training. The result: better training completion rates and safer jobsites.

Key components of gamification in workplace safety training include:

• Storytelling: Incorporating storytelling elements into safety training adds a narrative layer to the content, making it more engaging and memorable. Stories can illustrate the importance of safety measures and help learners more easily remember new material.

• Scenario-based learning: Gamification often involves immersive simulations of real-world situations (think back to our winter weather example above). In safety training, this can allow participants to practice responding to emergencies or thinking through safety procedures in a risk-free environment.

• Progression tracking: Training can be formatted with different stages or “levels,” with each building on the knowledge acquired during completion of the previous stages. Advancement through levels provides a sense of accomplishment and also helps employees visualize their progress.

• Badges and achievements: Virtual badges or achievements can be awarded for specific accomplishments or milestones in the training. These, too, serve as visible symbols of recognition and accomplishment.

By applying gamification elements, workplace safety training becomes more interactive, enjoyable, and impactful for employees. This, in turn, helps increase knowledge retention and a more safety-conscious workplace.

Benefit no. 5: Mobile-Powered Data Helps Refine Safety Training

 Data from mobile training can be used to identify trends and hazards and improve safety programs by implementing new procedures, alerts, or additional training modules on topics employees struggle with. 

Consider tracking data such as:

• Performance Analytics, such as completion rates and assessment scores, which can help identify the topics employees need to focus on.

• User Engagement Metrics, such as time spent on individual lessons, in order to help indicate whether employees are engaging with training as expected by their employers.

• Feedback provided via mobile delivery, which makes it easy to offer immediate information to employees about their answers, helping them understand the consequences of their decisions and supporting safer behavior.

Then, employers can solicit feedback from their employees to learn the most effective elements of training and, combined with the patterns identified in mobile training data, take informed action —
say, building out additional trainings that reinforce information a percentage of employees struggled with — to ensure jobsite safety. 

There Is No One-Size-Fits-All Solution for Safer Jobsites

As helpful as mobile safety training is, it’s important to remember that many hazardous industries, such as steel and recycling, restrict on-site mobile device usage. In these cases, employers may still provide mobile resources but will need to communicate clearly with employees about where and when to complete their training.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for a safer jobsite. But training is a critical component — and every step employers take to support employee safety training makes for a better workplace overall.

This article originally appeared in the February/March 2024 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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