Don’t Let These Common Issues Derail Your Training Exercises

With the emerging threats of cyber threats, pandemics and terrorism – plus all the risks you’re already planning for – emergency preparedness training is critical for all businesses. But organizations often run into problems with their training, lessening the effectiveness of their efforts.

We'll identify the common issues companies face, and offer suggestions to prevent them. The key training issues are:

  • Lack of engagement/interest. Employees will likely roll their eyes at the thought of a day-long tabletop, walkthrough or live event. Some might have deadlines or quotas to reach, and others can just be tough to inspire.

You can address this issue by making the training more exciting. For example, planning for a zombie attack – which may sound silly at first – can be customized for certain business continuity issues. It immediately sounds more appealing than having to walk down the stairs or endure a presentation filled with graphs and charts. It also forces participants to get creative with their answers.

  • Lack of planning. Even if you have a creative way to engage employees, you cannot improvise it. You must be organized in your presentation because constantly consulting a booklet or making too many “I don't know what's next”-type comments will cause the enthusiasm to wane.
  • Lack of knowledge about top risks. Failing to perform a risk assessment is a common pitfall that goes hand-in-hand with lack of planning. As the emergency preparedness manager, you're expected to have a basic knowledge of top risks. But if you are not an expert, contact one.

Collaborating with an outside consultant is a surefire way to educate yourself on the risk and on the ways to draft an effective script for the training.

  • Poorly-designed exercises. Remember that holding interest is the root of training issues so be sure the exercise leaves no stone unturned. Similar to the way a lack of planning can hinder progress, an exercise with improperly marked exits and entrances, for example, can derail your training. Consider doing a dry run with a few key members of your training team before putting on a full-scale live event.

During a recent AlertFind webinar, business continuity expert Bob Clark said reviewing and addressing each aforementioned training issue is critical and can determine whether you're ready to hold a live event.

“Go through the walkthrough and a table talk exercise, and then think about the live event only if the previous two activities have not presented some concerns about the plan,” Clark said. “But do not, under any circumstances, just start with a live event.”

And if the training is still failing or too many participants are unprepared, Clark said it's advisable to stop the exercise altogether.

“I expect people to arrive knowing the plan, because otherwise it's a waste of time,” he said. “I have had situations where participants did not read the plan and were completely unprepared. We stopped and I had us reconvene.”

The Importance of Being Earnest (In Feedback)

Feedback from participants is also critical. To elicit the best feedback, Clark advocates for a two-part process – a hot and cold debrief. A hot debrief happens immediately after the training and aims simply for direct feedback. Follow up with a cold debrief about two weeks later, he suggested, so that participants can more clearly reflect.

“People may wish to add ideas because sometimes they were heated and emotional during the training,” Clark said. “You need to give people the opportunity to cool off and determine if they see things in a different way afterward.”

From there, he added, you can review their comments (as well as from the trainers and third-party participants) and feed it back into the training process, making it even more efficient and impactful for the next time.

“As far as the plan is concerned, the author should be prepared for feedback from any source or person within the organization,” he said. “And be sure to get it in writing – have the person email you. Even if they are reluctant, be persistent. You need documentation to improve the plan.”

The feedback can expose risks that if it is indeed a risk it can be added to your organization's risk register, he said, adding: “It's all about identifying situations that are potentially life threatening.”

For more information on how to implement emergency preparedness training programs, visit here for AlertFind's recent “zombie training” webinar with business continuity expert Bob Clark.

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