Last month's column was the first in a series about establishing a post-commissioning training program that provides ongoing "second-generation" training to help maintain optimum, long-term system performance and realize the full value of the commissioning process.

This month's column focuses on the factors that influence the decision to design and implement a training program, or to redesign an existing program that better serves the current and future training needs of the O&M staff. This "go/no go" decision is based on the perceived value of training and the expected ROI, of which are determined by examining the potential costs and benefits of training.

Training in the Right Way

Organizations and institutions that provide value training do so in some fashion, but many training programs are loosely structured, informal, and lack well-defined objectives. In such cases, training is ineffective, inefficient, and fails to achieve the expected results. Additionally, training is too often reactionary and conducted in response to a crisis that might have been avoided in the first place if training had been planned for and based on identified training needs that support operational goals and objectives.

Organizational cultures that don't support a comprehensive and effective training program are common and they virtually guarantee higher training costs and a lower ROT - the fatal flaw in many training programs. Whether viewed as a investment in human capital or as a line-item expense in the budget, training has a cost that warrants some assurance of a "payoff" or measurable return on each training dollar spent.

The Cost of Ineffective Training

Irrespective of the real or perceived value of training, reducing costs will increase the ROI. Costs associated with training can be categorized as direct costs and indirect costs. Other certain opportunities may be lost without such training.

Direct costs are the actual costs of conducting training, including the cost of acquiring or developing instructional materials, purchasing training aids and equipment, and paying for the trainer's and trainees' time.

Indirect costs are the costs that result from inadequate training or no training at all. Indirect costs include:

  • Higher operating costs associated with reduced efficiency.
  • System repair and maintenance costs associated with equipment casualties and inadequate preventive maintenance.
  • Additional labor costs and medical expenses associated with lost-time accidents and worker's compensation claims.
  • Fines for noncompliance with regulatory agency requirements.
  • Personal injury, property damage, and other liability lawsuits arising from system malfunctions and poor IAQ.

Lost opportunities are more difficult to quantify, but nevertheless represent real costs and/or savings. Examples of potential benefits include:

  • Less reliance on equipment vendors and engineering consultants to solve problems.
  • Reduced systems and equipment downtime and more efficient maintenance.
  • Increased job satisfaction and reduced employee turnover.

In other words, these potential benefits represent the "lost opportunities" associated with underdeveloped intellectual capital. Post-commissioning training can improve overall O&M staff expertise and facilitate the transfer of knowledge and skills from expert to novice staff members, thereby maximizing the benefits of training.

Getting Beyond Acceptance

However, accepting the value of a post-commissioning training program is simply the first step. The decision to go ahead must be followed up with an approach to training program design and implementation that will guarantee some measure of success in terms of realizing the potential benefits of training and minimizing associated costs. Unstructured, ad hoc training will likely waste precious time and resources and could be counterproductive. A systematic approach to training, based on sound instructional design principles, reduces training costs and helps ensure that valid training requirements are met effectively and efficiently.

In the months to come, we'll examine the process of instructional systems design from a commissioning perspective, beginning with the identification of valid and specific training needs. ES