Online Inductions and Safety Effectiveness

Depositphotos_8295838_xs_thumb (1)I visited an organisation last week which was very excited about their new online induction process as it meant that new employees can “hit the ground running” and has freed up their safety people. It was obvious that induction, to them, was just a necessary evil and a process to tick off rather than a great opportunity for learning.  This latest article by Dr Rob Long then is very timely. I know all good Safety People are very concerned about the effectiveness of inductions. I hope you can find some time to read it thoroughly and follow some of the external resource links. At the end are 10 questions which perhaps you could consider in thinking critically about the effectiveness of your current induction processes. I’m very interested in thoughts and feedback on this one!

Online Inductions and Safety Effectiveness

The purpose of an induction is to get through the induction. This is the most common belief I have found and experienced across industry. My team and I are asked constantly to evaluate and design inductions, as so many are not designed well, are a data dump, framed in indoctrination and confuse recall as learning. The common belief it seems is that are Cert IV WHS or Cert IV in Training and Assessment makes one an competent in curriculum and learning. A shame all those teachers are wasting their time doing a four year degree and countless days of field education.

To ‘induct’ someone infers that, someone is being ‘admitted’ or ‘enrolled’ into some thing or organization. The induction is therefore an introduction, it is usually the first engagement someone has with an organization. One of the subjects regulated to be included in an organisation’s induction is Safety. How organisations chose to create value in that induction and the design of that induction is highly subjective. It’s one thing to provide an induction to cover the regulation and entirely another thing to provide a meaningful induction. Some organizations think inductions should go for several days, some for 30 minutes and others generate a ‘ticket’ on line. Inductions generally vary by the intensity of the knowledge required by the organization of the participant.

For many organisations inductions are a costly and onerous task. If delivered in person, generally it is a lottery or smorgasbord of well intentioned people who have no expertise in teaching and learning. Generally, people are corralled into a room and presented with a manual, PowerPoint and a routine that is regurgitated as it was last time. There is little thought for learning styles, multiple intelligences ( or ‘learning’ in the commonly accepted notion of a safety induction. In building and construction, some sub-contractors may experience 3 or 4 of these a week. This is despite the fact they already have a white card (general induction, that is next to meaningless) and have been desensitized to learning through repetition and experience of countless boring, ‘sleeping bag’ inductions.

The excess of poorly designed inductions achieves the very opposite of learning, the process ‘inoculates’ the participant against learning. Then the organization assumes learning has occurred, usually because some comprehension list has been filled out by prompts until the participant ‘gets it right’. Then we return back to the opening line of this article: The purpose of an induction is to get through the induction. Is there any escape from this malaise? Does the shifting of a bad induction onto an iPad make a bad induction better? No. Is an online induction effective? Think about it, my first introduction to your organization is via a computer. Is that how you want to welcome someone into your organization? Watching a video of a CEO spruiking ‘welcome to the family’ spin followed by screens of regulation, pictures of objects to memorize, followed by a comprehension test has little to do with learning.

The first thing a teacher learns in an Education degree is ‘The Hidden Curriculum’  ( ). The Hidden Curriculum is what is learned invisibly and unconsciously in the process of something else. Most often the method (the how) of something, hides the methodology (the why) of something and it is the methodology that is most learned not the method. We learn more through the way someone does something than the content of what they do. For example, a comprehension approach to an induction tells the participant that content is the most important thing to the organization, not dynamic relationships, engagement or learning.

Susan Pinker (The Village Effect) demonstrates the importance of face-to-face contact in order to help us be ‘healthier, happier and smarter’ people. Pinker’s work resonates with that of Andrew Keen (The Cult of the Amateur), Nicholas Carr (The Shallows) and Sherry Turkle (Alone Together) showing the limitations of online content. She demonstrates in many ways why so called ‘online learning’ is not very effective nor focused on learning. ‘Parrot learning’ is not actually learning. Regurgitating data doesn’t require ‘thinking’, ownership, adaptation, change or intelligence, all essential qualities for ‘learning’ to occur. This is why NAPLAN is a failed ‘method’ of education (, ) because it’s ‘methodology’ confuses regurgitation with knowledge and learning, when recall is not learning. NAPLAN is the ‘baby of two lawyers (Gillard and Garrett, who tied the acceptance of NAPLAN to funding). Similarly, it makes me cringe when I think of how the legal fraternity engage with safety and risk. Further re standardized testing see:

NAPLAN runs on the same reductionist methodology ( that supposes LTI measurement is an indication of safety or that tracking data via pyramids and curves somehow has something to do with culture and safety.

In many ways, online ‘content’ is the least effective way to help people learn than most other methods, after many years in learning and teaching I only view online content as a ‘last resort’, but it certainly is lowest on any hierarchy of learning methodologies. Methodology is about the philosophy of why. Often project methods, safety methods, risk methods and educational methods fail because the presenter of those methods doesn’t understand their own foundational philosophy (methodology).

Knowing Y (the tag line for Dolphyn – ) is not about answers or knowledge but rather about connecting with methodology. One’s Y is one’s reason for being (ontology). There is no separation between being (ontology), knowing (epistemology), learning (pedagogy), transcendence (metaphysics) and, doing (enactment). For example, one cannot have a methodology of being people-centred and community-centred and adopt methods that dehumanize people. The only outcome of such a disconnect is confusion, cynicism and skepticism. All three create a toxic culture of anti-learning and narcissism. I met recently with a company that didn’t understand this connection between methodology and method and had created a project based on a hidden methodology of efficiency (what Ellul calls ‘technique) and the trajectory of such a philosophy will always leave humans off second best.

So, let’s return to the issue of online methods of induction, particularly for developing safety preparedness. So, in light of what we know about learning and much more about double loop learning ( ) and triple loop learning (,, ),

here are a few questions rather than ‘fixes’ to consider.

  1. If safety is that important, why would an organization leave judgment of learning and competence to a machine?

  2. Why would an organization want to desensitize new employees to risk?

  3. Why would an organization want to ‘go cheap’ and ‘ineffective’ when welcoming new people into their organization?

  4. Why would an organization want a meaningless data dump rather than building relationships and happiness through the initial engagement process?

  5. Why would an organization chose an untrained person to present safety when that person has so little skill and learning in learning, curriculum, teaching and education?

  6. Is an induction about the ‘spirit’ of safety’ or the content of safety?

  7. When designing a safety induction, why would an organization not consult an educationalist and instructional designer?

  8. How can one understand others, their idiosyncrasies and worldviews, without ‘meeting’ (Buber) them?

  9. How does content recall ‘demonstrate’ ownership, adaptation to context and change?

  10. Why does a ‘cover your arse’ induction really say (hidden curriculum) about an organization? (Especially, when it doesn’t ‘cover your arse’, and works against the principles of due diligence).

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long
PhD., MEd., MOH., BEd., BTh., Dip T., Dip Min., Cert IV TAA, MRMIA Rob is the founder of Human Dymensions and has extensive experience, qualifications and expertise across a range of sectors including government, education, corporate, industry and community sectors over 30 years. Rob has worked at all levels of the education and training sector including serving on various post graduate executive, post graduate supervision, post graduate course design and implementation programs.

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