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Up Your Game with Online Learning
While the COVID-19 experience has impacted people and businesses in ways that have been less than favorable, we have certainly discovered some silver linings. During the quiet business months of the pandemic, many practices took advantage of reduced patient schedules to improve their internal organization. One key area of focus was around staff training and increasing the overall knowledge base of the medical support team.
Under “normal” circumstances, the demands of a busy clinic make it difficult to find time for training. Too often, “on-the-job” training translates to “on-the-fly” training. However, the lull in practice business during the initial months of COVID gave many clinics the opportunity to provide needed training to staff and create a more formalized, effective training plan.
Now that practices are reopening and returning to a more normalized patient flow, the need to implement that well-designed training plan has never been more critical. This is due to new and ever-changing protocols, updates to safety regulations, and new hires backfilling those staff members who did not return. Given that, every employee now requires ongoing training. Having a well-designed training plan that incorporates online learning is essential in running a successful practice, minimizing COVID exposure, and navigating our changing environment.
Training Plan Must-haves
In any staff training plan, certain elements are a must to ensure that training is carried out, effective, and applied across the clinic. Let us explore four key components to understand how they fit into a well-designed training plan.
1. Involve managers and supervisors
Whenever possible, an employee's immediate supervisor or manager should be involved in the training plan. This is because managers:
- Will have valuable perspective on the trainee's strengths and areas of opportunity.
- Can communicate the purpose of the training and how it is relevant to the trainee’s role and the broader organization.
- Can provide direction on how long training should take and when a trainee should complete an activity. For example, when a manager assigns an online distance learning course, the manager may explain that the study should take one hour, and the trainee should complete it by the end of the day. Timelines should be reasonable, but deadlines should not be ignored or stretched indefinitely into the future.
- Have an opportunity to take an active role in their team's ongoing training, helping to build their employee's skill sets and engendering loyalty back to the practice.
By explaining the purpose, assigning relevant courses, and setting appropriate timelines, the manager has now shifted the training responsibility to the employee. Meaning, the manager can hold the employee accountable for completing the courses. If the employee encounters a problem or has a question, the staff member should communicate that to the manager.
2. Create individualized plans
Managers often need to develop individual training plans for each member of the team. Everyone learns differently. Some people are visual learners (learning by seeing), others are auditory learners (learning by listening), and some are kinesthetic learners (learning by doing). When designing a curriculum, consider ways to meet the needs of all three learning styles.
When thinking of individual employees, consider what will work best for that person and his or her needs, including:
- What topics or areas does this person need to learn?
- What online training will best match the employee's needs?
- Is there an area where this person can improve?
- Does the employee need continuing education credits for a professional certification program?
3. Design a virtual-based curriculum
Given the current work environment, practices should embrace existing online tools and resources (e.g., distance learning courses, webinars, society videos, articles, and blogs) as well as virtual learning opportunities for their training plan. Practices may need to invest in upgraded technology based on business needs. When selecting an online curriculum, look for software that encompasses a variety of topics: technical skills that are specialty-specific, soft skills for customer service and workplace etiquette, compliance training, and department-specific tasks or goals. As discussed in the previous section, it is important to look for online resources that include visual and audio learning. For those employees who prefer kinesthetic learning include an additional training element that is tactile such as a handout, follow-up project, or worksheet.
4. Evaluate the impact on performance
Following the completion of an online training course, evaluate its impact on the employee's performance. If the manager has several employees taking the same distance learning course, consider scheduling a group meeting through an online video platform. Discuss critical takeaways and ask the employees to share how they will use it to improve the clinic. Also, be sure to:
- Check that the employees completed the exam and passed the assessment if the online learning center has post-course quizzes.
- Review information related to missed questions. Ask the employees: Was this section difficult? Why were you uncertain about the answer to this question? Does our discussion help you feel more confident in the correct answer?
- Connect the training material to the employees' work performance. Consider asking employees for feedback on how they plan to use the training in their jobs. Some questions to ask are:
- How will the training help you improve patient care?
- Identify ways this will improve your work performance?
- What two or three things do you plan to do differently or better moving forward?
Employees will retain training information better if they can articulate a clear connection between their training and their specific job function.
The Future of Learning
Virtual training is becoming the future of learning. This learning includes fresh ideas and programs that we will need to embrace. As we continue to recover from the pandemic, make it a practice goal for every employee to learn something new from an online course. After that, commit to a regular cadence of staff training, making it a clear priority for the practice as you continue to work on continuous improvements in patient care.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCE: View our new on-demand webinar, Staff Training in a Virtual World, to learn how to leverage technology and effectively train staff in a digital environment.