Be Less “Nice”

Nice to know vs Need to know informationHere is an issue many of us battle with sometimes: Being a passionate people about our areas of expertise when training and assessing, we get the urge to share everything and help people new to a topic learn as much as possible. Many of us have to constantly remind ourselves to be less “nice” and let them get on with learning!

If this is you, you are not alone in this ongoing challenge! If you are a training developer, this is also an issue often faced as you work with Subject Matter Experts (and let’s admit it, the Public Safety Sector is full of technical content and SMEs are everywhere!)

If you ask a Subject Matter Expert what information a newbie needs to know to do a certain job, often the answer is WAY more than you have the training time to share and WAY more than a new person’s brain can cope with. Experienced people often forget how it feels to be learning something new and how overwhelming it can be.

With the increase in online learning, (where it is oh so easy to include even more information for learners) the risk of being told to include the “nice” increases dramatically. Please note, for those of us also working with nationally recognised training,  units of competency and the amount of required knowledge and skills criteria is a whole different post of its own!

In developing product, our job is to remember and remind that the research shows – just because you include it or train it, doesn’t mean they learn it! So how do we pull out the “need to know” from the “nice to know” when developing training?

Stop including everything that people believe is important:

  • Identify who is the “boss” of all training and get their backing about the whole issue. You can be more confident excluding information if you know that they understand what you are trying to achieve.
  • Remember that an SME opinion alone is not enough reason to include information.
  • Be careful how you phrase questions – asking if something should be included will often result in the answer YES. More justification is needed here!
  • Remind everyone involved that KNOWING something doesn’t always change how you DO something. This is a key part of the difference between “need to know” and “nice to know” – particularly when developing training for people new to the job.

Ask the right questions:

We need to sort through all the information and make sure the answer to these questions which focus on DOING the job are a YES:

  • Is this information something that would put people in danger if they didn’t know it?
  • Is this information something that you can’t do the job without knowing?
  • Is this information something that would be used frequently to do the job safely?

Negotiate and find alternatives:

  • Reverse the process – start with the skills and then fill in any knowledge gaps found that learners needed to the job. Do a training trial run without the extra information. Does it affect the outcomes of the learners? Only put back in what makes a difference.
  • Incorporate glossaries, case studies and further information links that can be accessed by learners in their own time and not overtake the “need to know” training focus. Make it clear these are “nice” and that it doesn’t look/feel like a must do.
  • If there is insistence that something be included, present the information in a simplified/reduced format. Have the SME or a trainer explain the concept to you in 15 seconds or less, in a way you can understand it. (This may take them several attempts, but it really pulls out the key points!)
  • Consider a staged approach to the training – the bare essentials with a follow up day/session at a later time to cover more advanced information and contingencies after learners have a chance to get the basics sorted.

When Succession Planning Fails: Unexpected holes sometimes appear in front of you!


This post will likely be most relatable to anyone who has invested time and effort in training a great person for a role, only to have them leave (sometimes unexpectedly!) Research indicates in many organisations that close to half of roles cannot be easily replaced with another internal applicant… and that about 50% of organisations don’t even have any succession planning in place.

The best of us who have considered succession planning in training – think about those who hold key training positions, including our own roles. No-one is irreplaceable after all!

Strategies used in our sector for succession planning commonly include:

  • Having “deputy” positions so that there is a back up person learning the ropes
  • Offering professional development opportunities to those people we identify as potential future role holders
  • Cross training several people in several roles/areas of expertise so there is always a pool of knowledge and skills (Think SME groups or training teams)
  • Scanning our current teams and identifying potential holes coming up – and formally starting some succession planning and changeover so its a gradual change

In the ideal world these are all great, however I bet many of us have (regardless of best efforts) experienced holes (or sometimes chasms!) opening up in front of us anyway. Research suggests this happens more often than we think, and due to a number of reasons including:

  • Having people identified as “future potential” who in actual fact don’t have the time or interest in taking up these roles (did we ever actually discuss our plan with them??)
  • The person we identified and have prepared as the successor also leaves! Despite all best efforts to identify good successors, new opportunities or personal decisions can cause the next-in-line to leave the organisation. Do we also have a retention issue?
  • Using people we thought were great or ready to fill a hole, only to find out that their skill levels are stretched to far – maybe they are really better for us being just that awesome training delivery person, not the course organiser!
  • Sometimes we start preparing a successor based on old or current skill set needs – only to find that when they are ready to move into a role, we actually should have focused on what future skills are needed to move things forward… so the person who has been earmarked is no longer the best solution!


  1. Don’t give up on the idea of succession planning, even if it has failed before!
  2. Wait to develop a succession plan until after you have checked your organisation/region/unit strategic plan. Think about the future WHAT when deciding on potential future WHO
  3. Make sure everyone knows about any succession plans and opportunities – and that if they are a targeted person they are on board with the plan. Some people may even step forward and identify themselves as wanting to progress in roles
  4. Ensure that those who are the next generation are getting the professional development opportunities they need to fill future roles – they may need some individual plans to target their particular needs (and don’t forget to focus on what the roles/needs will look like in the future not just now)
  5. Don’t be afraid to regularly update or change your planning – circumstances and people in an organisation change over time. Move with things so your plan has greater chance of success
  6. Ensure that current role holders don’t block or make the next generation feel like there is no point/movement happening. They need to have responsibilities and chances to practice skills. They should feel like their chance in the role will come sooner than 20 years from now – even if it is just sometimes/for some things or when covering leave. Some organisations or units use fixed terms for roles to encourage more frequent changes, fresh thinking and chances for more people to be able to fill different roles, thus building resilience and a better appreciation of how every part helps support the whole
  7. Consider the worst case/deep hole/’black swan’ scenario before it happens. What will the plan be if you suddenly lose a person in a role and the hole that is left is not filled by someone prepped to take it over? Consider it business continuity planning – put some contingencies in place even if its just enough to keep “business as usual” on track till someone can be found

Training Tweak’d: Session Summary Time

As trainers we know that at the end of a session their should be time allocated for summing things up. This usually involves:

  • Restating learning outcomes
  • Providing (and hopefully also asking for) feedback
  • Linking to what happens next

Depending on how strapped for time you end up being this may be 5-15 minutes of the session (although I have seen this done in under 60 seconds when time has escaped some trainers!)

When we invest so much time and effort into creating an engaging and effective session at the introduction and the middle, why don’t we invest just as much at the end? Is there no further learning gain to be had here???

How about tweaking the summary of learning at the end, based on the following Information Processing Approach to thinking and learning:

The ability for a learner to share what the session has covered (as opposed to the trainer reading off a list of outcomes) shows how learners have understood information. You can help this happen at 3 levels:


“We covered basic anatomy of the respiratory system”

Recall is pre-requisite to understanding, but it doesn’t really demonstrate it. It is just a memory. If you ask learners to share what you have covered in the session, it is likely you will get a list of topics or outcomes. Not high order thinking, but at least if they share it instead of you it’s making them think back and strengthen links to what was covered.

Verdict: Better than nothing, good option for when you left just 60 seconds to sum things up.


“The airway includes the nose, mouth, trachea, lungs and some muscles. It all works together to take in oxygen and get rid of CO2”

Asking learners to summarise activities in their own words moves beyond recall and demonstrates comprehension. This is great for you as a trainer – you can check and make sure everyone is on the right page. There are a bunch of different yet quick activities you can use to end a session that will achieve this and all of them can guarantee participation of every learner. Tweak your session and try including something like:

  • Pass the ball – Have everyone stand up and throw a ball (or whatever) around the group. Each person summarises one thing learnt during the session. If done successfully they can sit down. No repeating ideas! Increase challenge level by asking them to share things it in order from the start of the session.
  • Rally robin – in small groups everyone takes turns to verbally summarise what was learnt during the session. Alternatively take the team rally robin approach – ask each group to take turns summarise something learnt in order. They can talk among themselves to come up with the answer.
  • Writing relay race – have teams line up with one pen and piece of paper. Each person runs to the paper, adds their summary point before racing back to hand the pen over to the next person. No repeats count. Compare summary lists of teams at end to see who has summarised points from session – either most number or most accurately

Verdict: Takes more time but worth it as uses higher level thinking skills. Good way to end session with high energy. Can include writing or be just verbal depending on group and available time.



Symbolising  is to represent experience usually in non verbal ways. It requires learners to really think about and interpret what was covered. Activities that you can tweak your session to include as a summary includes:

  • Team mind map – Have everyone work in groups. Grab a texta and help summarise all the big ideas covered during the session using just pictures. People can add to other people’s drawings to show more detail as they recall it. If you want to break it down a bit more, pair it up with a recall summary – once the key parts of the session have been stated, divide up the topics so each group focuses on a different part.
  • Hashtag generator– admittedly it uses words not pictures, but having to come up with a word or phrase that shares the concept is still symbolisation in a more modern social media form… and results can be quite hilarious! Depending on your organization’s social media set up and policies, groups can always take a photo and caption it to visually represent a key concept covered at training. You can then also add a common tag for the group/course.

Verdict: Definitely not a 60 second strategy. It does produce some hard copy results you can review and evaluate later. High engagement, potential for some laughs and fun. Plan your session timing accordingly and check out any policies that may effect what you can/can’t do.





Same-same… but still different

In the public safety sector we frequently use standardised, unit of competency based training and assessment activities. At the big picture level across the agencies there is a lot of sameness – but yet there is multiple layers of difference that need to be considered.

Units of competency include a range statement to account for differences in workplaces and organisations, but further to this as trainers, assessors and learning designers we are expected to customise things further to suit our group of learners.  This doesn’t just mean at an individual level, but for those of us helping to create the “standard” course it also means looking at a bigger picture of organisational learner characteristics, or even characteristics across multiple organisations.

Let’s look at some considerations for each of these.

Individual learner characteristics

When faced with a group of individuals that should have their learning needs catered to, it is possible to determine individual learner characteristics such as:

  • Previous experience in work, life and training
  • Age, gender, cultural requirements
  • Motivation
  • Location and access to resources
  • Language, Literacy, Numeracy and technology levels
  • Other identified needs requiring adjustment to learning
  • Learning styles

Depending on how well we complete this process, we can then adapt our training style and focus to best meet the need of this group of individuals, while still working within the requirements of the course and organisation requirements.

Organisational learner characteristics

What about when you are designing training or assessment at a higher and wider level?

If you are developing material to meet an organisation full of learners, how do you consider and address characteristics then? Is there a generic profile of what a learner or learners are typically like to help guide your design?

Luckily annual reports, workforce planning, research and literature, as well as surveys can help build a picture of learner trends across an organisation. The information may require some digging and extrapolating, but you should be able to find statistics or anecdotal evidence that will give you organisation wide learner profiling including:

  • Average length of experience with the organisation
  • Average age ranges and gender
  • Location and access to resources (including computers and internet connection type)
  • Previous education, as well as language, literacy, numeracy levels (For some emergency services this is tested as part of the employment process. For other organisations, especially those heavily involved with volunteers, there has been some great generic research on education and foundation skill levels across communities, which could be applied to organisations that are a reflection of the communities they serve)
  •  Previous implementation and success of learning initiatives dependent on delivery method and learning approaches

By considering these factors, it is possible to design something that will hopefully meet the requirements of learners across the organisation.

Sector wide learner characteristics

One level higher again – if you are trying to engage multiple organisations or agencies in training together or encouraging use of common resources (because often the content is the same in many ways!) how do you consider characteristics and needs of learners across different organisations? This is something we should have been thinking about for a few years now, especially with the push for multi-agency training programs gaining momentum in several states.

To a certain extent, the learner needs identified at an organisational level will provide the key information. It will need to be compared across the different organisations involved, especially in areas where there are differing minimum levels of skills and LLN needs.

Consideration should be given to the differing language and slightly unique processes used by different organisations – always looking for commonality and helping to ensure learning is understandable and meaningful for all learners. In particular, look at:

  • Scenario choice – some emergency situations and events are more generic and inclusive than other emergencies
  • Graphics choice – especially anything that denotes uniform, ranks or positions during an emergency
  • Audio choice – especially applicable to online learning! This includes any music and choice of characters for voice overs. This may also include clips from radio chatter
  • Word choice – Jargon, jargon, more jargon, acronyms, lots more acronyms, some mnemonics… this is all especially hard when different organisations call the same thing different things!

This awesome logo is from

The Shift to Digital Learning

We were recently asked to explain to a client the benefits in shifting to digital learning. Realising that this is obviously a trend that is increasingly hard to buck while staying comparative with other organisations in the Public Safety sector, they wanted to  have some good reasons to promote to members and encourage them to embrace the digital option.

Benefits to highlight

  1. Personalising learning – the ability to access desired content at the time and location that meets the needs of individual learners, and to move through the content at their own pace, focusing on what is most relevant to them.
  2. More opportunities – learners can access content previously not available in their area, or use content from other organisations/locations around the world that meet their learning needs. Heaven’s above, some is even free!
  3. Engagement of new generations – for the learners who have grown up with technology and internet connection, digital learning and strategies such as game based learning and interactive activities online increases engagement and motivation. It may also appeal to other generations who have also embraced this type of interaction.
  4. Tracking progress – for trainers, assessors and organisations, digital learning makes it possible to see how learners progress through materials and where their strengths and needs lie by tracking completions and responses. For learners, things like Experience API (TinCan) mean learning in a broader sense can also be recorded and recognised by their organisation.
  5. Opportunities for social and collaborative learning across the organisation – helping to break down silos of organizational structure and geographical locations, digital learning can include social media platforms (such as the really great Facebook Workplace platform recently implemented by Ambulance Victoria).
  6. Preparing learners in our organisations for larger digital trends – opportunities for learners to gain confidence and skills in navigating digital devices and interfaces will support them with other tasks that are increasingly more digital – easily seen as more pictures of Incident Management Teams, Control Centres, response vehicles/equipment and the focus of AFAC and groups such as Bush Fire CRC  are circulated online and in the media. An interesting article on some of this is available from The Australian  if you want a quick read. A Day in Your Life 2020 is also an older but still eye opening video (although maybe still slightly ahead of the general times!) There are lots of other videos that show other technology that will be changing our sector, such as this look at Firefighting in the Future.

We hear you say BUT! What about…

These benefits above don’t eliminate the challenges that digital learning also presents to our organisations. Lots of members will be quick to highlight these when you start talking about a digital shift. Change is rarely easy, cheap, well implemented or the solution to all problems…

  • Issues of cost and infrastructure are common, but organisations are slowly overcoming these, as has happened with other changes through history in the sector.
  • Challenges of interoperability, security and authenticity are being increasingly addressed by developers.

The challenge you should be talking about

If we are going to focus on and talk about any of the challenges, lets work out ways to address the risk of organisations developing “More of the same”. There is minimum benefit gained by layering technology on top of the same old way we have done things. Let’s face the challenge of developing new paradigms and models and finding ways to shift people’s training and assessment practices at the same time we shift to digital learning.



New Buzz Word Alert: LXD

It wouldn’t be the training industry without the introduction of new buzz words every year! Here is a new one if you haven’t heard it yet:

LXD: Learner Experience Design

What is it?

LXD is about applying principles of User Experience Design (often referred to as UX Design) to the learning process.

UX.jpgUX is a term that has been used for a while to explain an approach to design where diverse fields such as psychology, service design and graphic design are brought together to understand a user, their context and what they want to achieve. This helps put them at the centre of design in order to create the best overall user experience – making things work for the user, and not the other way around. I always thought this picture helped explain the potential mismatch of not doing UX well.

So LXD takes things one step further and applies the same ideas to the learning environment. We need to ask ourselves “how do learners best reach the desired learning outcomes?” And this is not just about online learning – it should be applied to every context that is being used including face to face training and any social learning.

How do I use it?

As is often the case with new buzz words, you may already be doing this (and now you know what it is currently being called). You are using LXD if you are:

  • Considering the target learner group for any training: background experience and previous training, demographics, preferences, motivations, needs
  • Putting yourself in the learner’s shoes and experiencing the training from their perspective
  • Mapping out progression of learners through different training and through this particular training – seeing how the parts and the whole fit together and support each other
  • Including some learners, some subject matter experts and other trainers in the design process. Too often we end up designing in a vacuum and fill in any gaps with what we assume to be right or think will work.
  •  Testing training ideas by observing learners complete the training to see what sticks, then refining or changing things based on the learner’s experiences of completing the training. Real user testing is crucial!
  • When creating online learning or print materials considering not just content, but also the visual design and using brain supporting strategies such as colours, grouping, white space, images and learner interactions
  • Allowing learners freedom to determine what they complete or what they skip, based on their own assessment of their abilities… (as long as they can do it, does it matter how they learnt it?)
  • Focusing on what creates behaviour change and skills development rather than content (I love this diagram below! It really explains what needs to be included in training and what we can live without/put elsewhere). Click on the picture to go to a great presentation by Julie Dirksen from Usable Learning that explains it more.




Taking Risks as a Trainer

Risk taking is becoming a core skill for the 21st Century. If we are a ‘risk society’ that focuses on the future and dealing with uncertainty and insecurity, then the Public Safety Sector that faces this daily should provide some great examples of risk takers!

We are in an industry where we can see historically how research, trial and error and innovation has led to changes in the way we do things. We all love finding out about innovative equipment, technology and ways to train and learn in the emergency services with endless conference sessions dedicated to sharing the ideas of others.

It is often said that if you keep doing what you have always done… you will get what you have always gotten. Our society has developed an understanding that risk is integral to innovation and that advances are dependent on experimentation. It is acknowledged that taking risks can be demanding on resources and effort, but the rewards can be great when it leads to success.

So when it comes to actually making the leap, why are so many of us trainers reluctant to take more risks and try new things?  (Hint: probably similar to why our learners are also nervous about trying new things!!)

Why don’t we?

Research would suggest that maybe one or more of the following is influencing our decision to try:

  1. As humans we don’t want to fail, and we want to avoid criticism.
    A feature built into our brains! Elbert Hubbard said, “To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” Yet this is obviously not the way to discover innovative or improved ways to train and work. This is the way to be stale, boring and complacent. If we are encouraging the right culture in our training and organisation, then we should not be afraid of trying something.
  2. We like to think we are “masters” of what we already do… and maybe we haven’t yet embraced a growth mindset.
    When we try something new, high probability is we will not be perfect and things will go wrong. This is a bit of a hit to our self-image. Maybe we need to remember what Kim Collins said – “Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection.” In a growth mindset, challenges are exciting rather than threatening. Rather than thinking about revealing a weakness, you embrace a chance to grow.
  3. We lack confidence in ourselves – we don’t think we have the skills or knowledge to do something new or innovative.
    Yet as Carl Jung said, “Knowledge rests not upon truth alone, but upon error also.” Talking with anyone who has ever made a discovery or developed an innovative technique or piece of equipment will tell you about how they used partial ideas, guesses, trial and error to eventually develop their knowledge and skills to create something that worked. You just have to get started and try… multiple times.

How could we?

Here are some suggestions that may encourage you to try and take a little bit more risk:

  • Make a conscious effort to change your attitude
    Override your natural instinct to stay quiet or just do what you have always done. Try delivering a different topic or course. Look for opportunities where you can try an activity a little bit differently, or put into action that idea you have been brewing in the back of your mind. If it doesn’t work out, reflect and try again.
  • Observe and reflect – when you are not the trainer
    Anybody who pays attention can see things that can be improved. A little tweak to a process or a change to the way we explain things could improve things for everyone. Watching other people train or do tasks on the job or at an assessment is a great opportunity to gather data and consider changes to your training.
  • Ask others
    Just because you are the trainer does not mean new ideas need to come from you. Maybe one of your learners or another person in your organisation has an idea or a possible innovation. You can help support it and test it. As a start to taking more risks, try including questions in your training such as ‘How else can we do this?’ or ‘Today we are going to do this but what will happen if we change this one thing?’

Remember that this type of risk-taking is a chosen and often learned behavior. (It is not something to be managed and minimalized or avoided.)  We can find the balance between working outside our comfort zones and still retain good judgment about what is safe and best for our learners.


Technology Skills Resource for Those With a ZERO Budget

If you work in an organisation where there is a large enough budget to support external delivery of material or online subscription databases such as that support independent learning, lucky you!

If you (like me) work with a more restricted budget… say anything from $0 to even $100 a person per year for Professional Development, you will likely have experienced frustrations with trying to source external support, or gotten exceedingly good at the skill of pleading, bargaining, bartering and sharing.

While all of these methods are often necessary and usually effective, it’s also nice to occasionally come across an external resource that is:

  1. Focusing on an area where you have no or limited internal resources
  2. High quality and user friendly
  3. Free!!!!

When gems such as these are found, they should be shared with your fellow L&D community and enthusiastic learners. So, let me share with you my latest find.

Who will this help

Working in the Emergency Service Sector, we have an abundance of experts for technical and rescue skills. We also have a lot of ‘field’ people who’s role now includes documenting, budgeting, tracking and a heap of other office based tasks (usually involving computer programs). Techno-literacy is becoming an increasing issue across organisations, especially as more work and learning becomes device based. There isn’t usually time or suitable resources for one-on-one training, or a lot of cash for a course.

Where do you need to go

logo  Check out The Global Community Foundation International

All learning opportunities (tutorials, classes, articles, videos modules, and interactive lessons) are completely free to all users. If you register for a free account they will also track your progress and give you a transcript for work completed.

The focus is mainly on technology skills, with straightforward bite size sessions, accompanied by step by step instructions, practice documents, supporting videos and adequate screen shots to explain everything.

One quote on the site summed it up for me:

I have paid money for classes that were not nearly as well organised or as helpful.

Note: Brio has no affiliation with GCFI and there are no kick-backs for us. This is just a community service announcement 🙂

Training Tweak: Better Reflections

As trainers and assessors, we recognise that powerful learning comes not from doing something, but from learners reflecting on what they did, why they did it and how it worked out. Great trainers include reflection activities and debriefs as key parts of any training sessions. Just like a mirror – we ask learners to look at themselves and share what they see.

mirrorHowever, ask any number of people and they will tell you that some mirrors are better than others. Even excluding weird and wonderful versions you find at the Fun Parks,  ‘normal’ mirrors can give you different views of yourself. (And of course there is the magic mirrors that are happy to tell you that you are the fairest in all the land.)

So what happens when one of our learner seems to be staring into a mirror that isn’t giving a very honest reflection of themselves, or who only takes a quick glance?

You may get one of those learners who either can’t seem to see any deficiencies with their performance or, just as awfully, can’t see any of the positive things that they have done. Maybe they try and rush through a reflection with a one word answer. Maybe they are expecting you to tell them what you see and think (unfortunately a bad habit of many trainers and assessors, especially those short on time!)

A few choice questions and phrases might just tweak that reflection process.

Note: The tweak below is going to work best if you have dutifully watched the learner and thought about some key learning points to guide the reflection. Also, it works from the idea that the learning comes from the learner doing the thinking helped by your questioning – NOT by you doing the talking and stating. Have your question list handy with your note pad.

Guiding questions for effective reflections

Getting started – use a question break the ice!
  • How do you think that went?
  • How are you feeling now? Why?
  • How do you think you performed?
  • What do you think went well? What did you find tricky about this situation?

    Any of these are great open questions that allows the learner to share their thoughts without influence from you. For learners who reflect well it may be all you need. For everyone else, it gives you an indication of what personality type and skill level you are dealing with, and breaks the ice for what comes next.

Follow up questions – tunnel down to reach the points you want learners to reflect on
  • I saw….
  • I heard…

These two are all about your observations. They are non judgemental. They are not arguable. They may also highlight something the learner doesn’t remember or even realise happened. Starting with a statement is a great way to introduce something (positive or negative) to guide the learner in their reflection – particularly when followed up with questions that makes them explain things from their view and think through the consequences. for example:

  • When xxx happened, what were you thinking about?
  • Why did you decide to do xxx?
  • What do you think might have happened as a result of that?
  • What other options did you consider/could you have considered?
Make sure the learning points are clear – summarise reflection or give further guidance
  • So if you had to do this task again, what would you do differently?
  • What are a couple of key things you are going to focus on more next time?
  • What’s the best take away/lesson you have gained from this activity?
  • What do you think you need to practice more of?

Sometimes discussions can go for a while – a lot is discussed and the key points may get lost in the mix. Taking a minute to have learners summarise their main learning points is essential. Creating an action plan helps make sure the reflection time is most useful.

You may have a couple of extra points from things you observed. You can share with the learner anything they didn’t cover if you think it will really add to their learning experience (Don’t get too picky!) Your favourite line to the learner should hopefully be “During your reflection you covered off all the key things I had noticed. We are on the same page, so I don’t have much more to add except well done!”

For learners who just didn’t get to key learning points through honest reflection – even after your careful questioning, here is your chance to just give it to them straight. Give feedback in a simple way – including a couple of things you thought went OK, before telling them a couple of things  you want to see happen differently and why.

If you are short on time, rather than falling back into the habit of telling, just keep the reflection focused on one or two learning points.


Training a Wider Membership Spectrum

volunteering-reimagined-banner_1366x500.jpgAs part of the AFAC 2017 conference held in Sydney last month, I saw a presentation by NSW SES about their new vision for membership types – aptly named Volunteering Reimagined. For further information check out:

Many Emergency Services in Australia already have different types of members for which they need to manage training, assessment and currency:

  • Full time
  • Part time
  • Retained/Casual
  • Volunteer

NSW SES now highlights the further variety of volunteers that can support the organisation during emergencies, including:

  • Spontaneous Volunteers (as also highlighted by recent Australasian research)
  • Corporate Volunteers
  • Community Action Teams (casual volunteers)

While there is much to be appreciated about their reasons and goals for this new vision, as a trainer I immediately had a ton of questions about the practicalities of managing a new spectrum of members. In particular I wondered:

What is the impact at the local and regional levels?
  • How will trainers and assessors need to adapt training calendars and general availability of training to meet all the needs?
  • Will there be a need for more trainers and assessors (is there increased workload)?
  • Will some of these new volunteers actually not need “offical” trainers or assessors to complete their training? Is there new roles for some keen and experienced members to take the lead?
What is the impact at the State level?
    • Do existing training materials need to be recreated in different ways to meet the needs of new volunteer types?
    • What role (if any) does nationally accredited training play in any new training that needs to be developed?
    • What training and assessment records need to be maintained for new volunteer types, and will the current system manage this?

Some other ideas that excitedly started running around my brain included:

  • What a great chance to develop some training that really focuses on the ‘need to know’ rather than the ‘nice to know’
  • What a great chance to roll out training in a way that is accessible for the ‘just in time’ rather than the ‘just in case’
  • What a great chance to utilise all the buddy trainers that currently exist inside an organisation – because quite a few of these new volunteers could potentially be learning on the job
  • Here’s a good chance to see how brave members inside an organisation can be: how will everyone respond to this change? There will definitely be some real change champions and case studies to come out of this! (Maybe next AFAC Conference??)

I’m sure there will be many aside from myself who look forward to seeing how NSW SES Volunteering Reimagined becomes reality! Hopefully there are highlights and lessons learned to help others consider how things could look in their own organisation.