I just sat through a good webinar on incident response and management. The panel consisted of fire and law enforcement personnel. A law enforcement official was rather honest in saying that one of their identified deficiencies from an AAR was poor implementation of ICS. He said that while all police personnel had received ICS training back during the NIMS push of the mid-2000s, most officers had done little with it since. We see so many endless lists of training that people have taken on their CVs, resumes, LinkedIn, etc., but how much of that do they still know? Take an honest look at your own resume of training and I bet you will see some of the same.
In public safety we love to get training. A lot of the training is good. Some less so. Much of the training we take is awareness-level training, providing us with knowledge. It’s fairly easy to flex those muscles after the training by reading about, writing about, teaching, or doing other things with that information. Still, some of that acquired knowledge stagnates. Some of the training we take is more operations-based – it’s hands on or procedural. Most certainly, without using the knowledge and skills acquired in operations-based training, those skills atropy.
So what should we do to protect our loss of these valuable knowledge and skills acquired? Obviously application is the best means of preserving what we have learned. Even if you are using it, though, it’s good to stay on top of best practices, new practices, and updated training; not only as a means of staying current on the latest and greatest, but also to hedge against bad habits as well as certain nuggets of that original training we might not regularly perform. Apply and practice skills, either on the job or in exercises. For things that are more knowledge-based, talk about it, read about it, write about, or present on it. This repetition will keep the subject matter familiar and quicken your recall of facts and increase your ability to analyze it. Writing can be in any form, up to and including developing or updating plans and procedures. A special shout out goes to presentations and training (if you are qualified), though. Training and presentations often require the instructor/presenter to have a depth of knowledge beyond the learning domain of what they are teaching or presenting on. This is often required to answer questions, support implementation, and address the many what-ifs related to the subject matter.
I’d argue that your organization also has a role (and responsibility) in preserving these gained knowledge and skills as well. First, sharing of the experience is important. Since not everyone in your organization can attend every training opportunity, it’s a best practice for those who receive training to tell others about their experience, what they learned, and the relevance they see to their work. Simpler subject matter can be provided in an email or printed handout, while more complex subject matter might be better conveyed through a presentation. Unless your training was received to help you support an existing plan or procedure, your organization should also support implementation of what you have learned, if appropriate. Keeping knowledge and skills fresh should also be endorsed through opportunities for refresher training and other related training which may expand the knowledge and skills or hone specific application. Organizations should also identify what knowledge and skills they need and must maintain, and ensure that they identify staff that need the opportunities for training and development, as well as how to maintain what is learned.
With the personal and organizational costs of training, we reap the greatest benefit by maintaining or advancing the knowledge and proficiency gained. While the quest for knowledge is endless and admirable, and I’d generally never block an opportunity for someone to gain more, we should be assessing what the benefit is to learner and to the organization. Part of that is determining what commitments the organization and the learner must make to preserve what is gained. I believe that employee development plans can be a big part of this, as they should be informed by what the employee needs to improve upon, what we want them to excel at, and what future roles we may have planned for them. These factors drive the goals and objectives of the employee development plan which should also lead to what training opportunities are ideal to support these goals and objectives. Even if your organization doesn’t do any formal employee development plans, you can develop one for yourself.
What’s your take on keeping current with what you’ve learned?
© 2021 Timothy Riecker, CEDP