Melissa Sease, a Certified Master Trainer for SOS Intl, delivers Train-The-Trainer courses including Systematic Approach to Training, Presentation Skills and Effective On-The-Job Training to utilities and organizations throughout North America. Here is a story about her journey into the world of training for the power industry.
I think we can all agree that electric industry training programs continue to undergo remarkable transformations. Incorporating tools and techniques that we, as trainers, never imagined 15 years ago is quite a mind-boggling endeavor and daunting, the say the least. What we once considered solid, comprehensive training programs are now evolving into engaging, captivating, continuous master plans. We can no longer rest on our laurels and hope our training improves performance. After all, hope isn’t a strategy.
How I Got Here
I recently celebrated six years as a full-time SOS employee. As my anniversary approached, I began to reflect on my time as an instructor representing an amazing company with a dedicated staff of professionals that supported my efforts.
My passion for training began when I was employed as a public affairs director with the U.S. Department of Energy. I recall having an opportunity to enroll in an introductory Train-The-Trainer class offered in a nearby city in 1999. Don’t ask me why, but there was something about the excitement and anticipation of learning a new skill that I couldn’t resist. I attended the introductory class and immediately found my new love. I would be remiss if I didn’t give credit to the remarkable instructor that delivered the class. As a student, I hung on every single word he said. His passion for training was none like I’ve ever experienced before. I left energized and more determined than ever to become a certified trainer. After many years of working full-time and completing the training certification curriculum, I obtained my Master Trainer certification. I was ready to change the world. So, I thought.
It Wasn’t Easy
When the North American Electric Reliability Corporation implemented the system operator certification program, electric industry training began its transformation. Even more changes were headed our way through the development of training Standards. Implementation of these new industry enhancements gave new meaning to operator training and uncovered lots of challenges to traditional training methods. Enter SOS and me. Suddenly, operators needed formal, consistent, engaging training. Tribal training was out. I was more than willing, and very eager, to share my newfound passion and training techniques with the industry. But, were the utilities ready to listen and implement them? I will admit, the old school on-the-job training delivery method was a tough nut to crack. However, explaining the importance of adult learning, student engagement, and interaction were techniques that weren’t always met with the same enthusiasm I learned to appreciate. Attempting to change culture is like nailing jello to the wall. But, I’m no quitter.
Passion and Persistence
To be an effective instructor, I had to recapture that excitement I felt in my initial training and somehow find a way to encourage others to appreciate and adopt that same passion for their training programs. I wanted them to grasp that it was okay to build and deliver training that the students actually enjoyed. My message was simple: student engagement means retention; retention means transfer of knowledge; and transfer of knowledge means the ability to recall a skill or behavior when needed on the job. It was complicated, time consuming and arduous. Not only were instructors having to teach job processes and procedures, but now we have to factor in different learning styles, generations gaps, and regulatory compliance issues.
Training Began to Change
As I traveled around the country delivering the Systematic Approach to Training Fundamentals class, I began to see a steady change in attitude and behavior – both from the instructors and the students. The shift in training perception from simply “checking off the box” to the ultimate goal of “enhancing employee performance” was beginning to evolve. Adult learning principles were no longer considered useless and illogical. Were utility trainers finally getting it? I believe they were. I was cautiously optimistic.
Fast Forward to Today
I’ve been at this for almost 20 years. Training has taken on an entirely new appearance and meaning. Utilities seem more eager than ever to implement techniques that enhance performance and satisfy the characteristics and tendencies of our modern learners. Bite-sized instruction, game-based learning and smart device access to training have become the norm, not the exception. I’m encouraged. With each and every class I deliver, I see, first hand, how far we’ve come in our industry. While it’s tempting to romanticize the past, today’s training programs are designed, developed, and delivered to fill the need for continuous improvement. The “once and done” philosophy is a fading memory.
Often times, being a trainer is a thankless job. But, the satisfaction comes from observing a student’s “aha” moment or hearing the passion in an instructor’s voice as they celebrate those small classroom victories with their peers. One of my favorite quotes is, “What’s done is done; what’s not done can be fixed.” Training your employees is certainly a journey worth taking because the payoff is invaluable.